Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

School zone cameras have returned to New York City schools. After the program lapsed over the summer, the school camera program is now planning to expand its operations. Under the law just signed by Gov. Cuomo, the number of cameras in school zones will sharply increase from 140 to 750 schools across the city. In all, approximately 2,250 speed cameras will be installed in school zones across the five boroughs. The Department of Transportation says the program will roll-out over a three-year period. The Democratic Governor says school zones with the worst traffic accidents will be given priority.

The expanded program will largely operate under the same parameters – any driver going more than 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit will receive a $50 summons. The bill did stipulate two small changes to the program. First, the school zone cameras will now be “active” all day – from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Previously, the school zone cameras only operated from one hour before school starts to one hour after school ends. Second, signage must be posted alerting the driver of the school zone and warning the driver of the traffic cameras.

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In response to a tragic limousine accident that left 20 dead in October, the legislature is proposing a slew of measures meant to regulate the industry and protect New Yorkers. According to The New York Post, the state Senate passed several proposals in the hopes of preventing another fatal limo accident in the state. As previously reported, federal regulations barely touch on the limousine industry – despite its heavy hand in the broader automobile industry. Therefore, according to New York Democrats in Albany, the burden falls on the state to prevent the kinds of tragedies that occurred in October.

Last October, a stretch limo with faulty brakes ran through several red lights and stop signs before eventually hitting a parked vehicle. All 18 passengers in the limo, all family members, and two pedestrians were killed. Just two weeks prior, the limo was taken off the roads for safety violations. Despite being “cleared” to operate again, the limo was clearly still unsafe.

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An estimated 161,000 Americans die each year because of preventable medical errors, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University. The study, which was published by Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit which ranks hospital safety, shows that fatalities by preventable medical errors are trending downward. Three years ago, the number of preventable deaths stood at 206,000.

“We are cautiously optimistic we are going to see real change and that is good news from this report,” Leah Binder, President and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, told Modern Healthcare. “But 161,000 is still a lot of people it’s a terrible problem. We have a long way to go.” Binder continued to explain that the number of preventable deaths is likely an underestimate since the study only looked at 16 safety categories and the “subset of each safety issue” in each category. According to Leapfrog Group, 15 of the 16 measures used to judge patient safety are the same used by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to judge nursing home quality.

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As the legislative session draws to a close, politicians are making last-minute efforts to pass their bills into law. One bill introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice would create a new criminal law for intoxicated drivers who get behind the wheel with a child in their vehicle. The Prevent Impaired Driving Child Endangerment Act would nationalize ‘Leandra’s Law’ which made driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol a felony crime punishable by four years in prison. Drivers convicted under Leandra’s Law must also attend substance abuse treatment and install an ignition interlock system in their vehicle. If passed into law, states would be required to enact Leandra’s Law or lose federal highway funding beginning in 2021. New York already passed a version of Leandra’s Law.

Rep. Rice also introduced a second piece of legislation aimed at automobile safety. Introduced last month by the New York Democrat, The End Drunk Driving Act would require automobile manufacturers to introduce technology that could detect if a driver is impaired or under the influence. Newsday said that two technologies have emerged that could detect an impaired driver and disable their ability to start a vehicle. One system uses an infrared fingerprint scanner to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content before allowing the vehicle to start. The other system passively measures the breath of the person in the driver’s seat. Traffic safety advocates say the fingerprint method is more precise but the air monitoring system is less intrusive and could monitor the driver’s impairment level during the drive. Unfortunately, the technology is currently inaccurate and prone to misjudgments. Perhaps more problematic, neither option can determine whether the driver is impaired from any other substance. With rates of opioid and marijuana use rising across the country, testing exclusively for alcohol-impaired drivers seems shortsighted.

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Amid a long-running construction boom in New York, the Department of Buildings (DOB) sent a message to construction companies and contractors by cracking down on habitual offenders with a round of “surprise inspections.” The DOB’s new commissioner took action against the construction industry during his first few days on the job. “Every worker should be thinking about safety first,” Acting Buildings Commissioner Thomas Fariello told WNYC, “It’s not just a saying, it’s real.”

The DOB has been roundly criticized for failing to protect the workers in New York’s most dangerous industry. In April, three construction workers died while on the job. In the same month, the DOB delayed implementing new safety regulations for the second time since the law passed City Council in 2017. The city-run agency said it had insufficient resources to draft and enforce the regulations.

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Barely touched upon in drivers education courses, driving around large trucks or 18-wheelers can provide drivers with unique challenges and severe consequences. Given their limited visibility and difficulty maneuvering, it is unsurprising that 72 percent of all trucking accidents involving 18-wheelers are their own fault. 

Regardless, there are still several tips that drivers can use to avoid being injured in an accident with a large truck, according to Drive Safely.

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The United States stands alone in the developed world for its high rate of maternal deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 700 women die each year during childbirth. According to NBC News, the number of maternal deaths is even more disturbing because they seem to be isolated to racial minorities, particularly black women. In New York, which has been fruitlessly trying to reduce its maternal mortality rate, the number of deaths is still increasing and the race gap is growing larger each year. Last year, a black woman was 12 percent more likely to die during child birth in New York. 

“It’s extremely alarming,” Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, an NYU professor and author of a recent study on the subject, told NBC News. “We actually learned that most of the women who died had received no prenatal care. These women who are under-served in the city are not seeing their physicians.” 

The study analyzed New York’s maternal death rate over the last two decades and focused on the effect of several initiatives – some at the hospital level and some at a government level – to reduce the rate. “What we found was that hospitals are doing some programs to reduce maternal mortality, and there are programs being done in the community as well, but they’re not linked up.” According to Dr. Shirazian, this lack of coordination means minority mothers and low-income mothers are unable to reap the “maximum benefits” of the program.

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A new study suggests that doctors are more likely to skip screenings and otherwise make mistakes with patients later in the day. According to a JAMA Network Open study, doctors ordered fewer breast and colon cancer screenings for patients with an afternoon appointment – despite the fact that all patients were due for a screening. According to the study, the doctor was most likely to order a medical screening for his patient with an 8 AM appointment. By 4 PM, the likelihood that the doctor would order screens for their patient had dropped by 10 to 15 percent.

Other studies have confirmed that poorer outcomes for patients are more likely in the afternoon. A 2014 study, cited by The New York Times, found that doctors were more likely to dole out unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions in the afternoon. In fact, the likelihood of an unnecessary antibiotic is 26 times higher for a 4 PM appointment compared to an 8 AM appointment.  Other studies located by the New York Times found that patients were less likely to receive the flu vaccine and more likely to receive prescription opioids for back pain. Even the amount of hand washing by doctors fell during the afternoon hours.

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Last month, an Ohio doctor was charged with killing at least 25 of his patients administering lethal levels of the powerful opioid fentanyl. After four years of intentionally drugging his patients, murderous doctor’s killing spree finally ended late last year when a pharmacist finally alert hospital authorities. After an internal inquiry, the hospital deemed the deaths of 35 Dr. William Husel’s patient’s “suspicious.” Now, patients told that their loved ones died of natural causes are furious at the doctor and the hospital for allowing the doctor’s murder spree to continue for so long.

According to The New York Times, Dr. Husel began prescribing lethal amounts of fentanyl to patients at least four years ago. Typically, the doctor would prescribe these deadly doses to patients unlikely to survive anyway. As an acute care doctor who worked the overnight shift, prosecutors say he frequently worked with “new nurses” who may have lacked the experience or bravery to challenge the doctor’s prescribing habits. According to interviews with hospital authorities, the pharmacists also proved complicit in the overdoses by overriding hospital protocols which specifically warned about the likelihood of death caused by a massive fentanyl dose. Amazingly, prosecutors say they will not charge any other hospital staffers in the deaths although some have lost their jobs and nursing licenses.

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Sprain Brook Manor Rehab in Scarsdale, New York received 40 citations for violations of public health laws between October 2015 and September 2019, according to the New York State Department of Health records accessed on November 4, 2019. The citations resulted from eight inspections by the Department of Health, the public entity tasked with overseeing health and safety standards in nursing home facilities; the statewide average is 32 citations. The violations described by the Department’s citations include the following:

1. The nursing home did not ensure the competency of its nursing staff. Section 483.35 of the Federal Code requires nursing home facilities to employ “sufficient nursing staff with the appropriate competencies and skills sets” to care for residents. A May 2019 citation found that Sprain Brook Rehab did not ensure that its Certified Nursing Assistants “demonstrated competency to provide safe care and respond to individual needs” for one of three residents reviewed. An inspector specifically found that the resident, who was unable to stand and needed assistance to transfer with the aid of a mechanical device, was transferred by nursing assistants when that device was not functioning, but that the assistants did not inform the nurse or seek “guidance for how to safely transfer the resident.” The inspector noted that the resident described feeling pain when she was being transferred.

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