Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

New York City spent approximately $1 billion settling tort lawsuits last year. According to the Wall Street Journal, this hefty sum actually represents an 8 percent decrease from the previous year. Tort claims include most personal injury lawsuits, such as slip-and-fall accidents, motor-vehicle damages, and medical malpractice lawsuits.

The decrease is largely driven by a small number of settlements against the New York Police Department. The newspaper reports that settlements against the NYPD reached only $230 million. Last year, settlements against the police were approximately $336 million. Despite the almost one-third decrease, the NYPD is still the most expensive city agency when it comes to settling lawsuits. According to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office, the Department of Transportation, Department of Correction, Department of Sanitation, and the Department of Education round out the top five most expensive agencies when it comes to personal injury and tort lawsuits.

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A distracted driver is almost 30 times more likely to crash in a highway work zone. In a recent study reported on by Science Daily, researchers at the University of Missouri found that drivers who answered a phone call, texted, or reported being distracted by a passenger were 29 times more likely to be in a collision at or near a federal highway work zone. Given the decade-long increase in the number of car accidents on American roadways, state and federal transportation agencies will use the study to implement “countermeasures” to reduce the number of distracted drivers.

Traffic safety experts say the results of the study are not entirely surprising. Distracted driving is dangerous and substantially increases the risk of a car accident or pedestrian accident. Further, work zones typically have riskier road conditions such as poor signage, narrower lanes, and reduced visibility. The study, which included only data from federal highways, also pointed out that the high speed limit on highways – generally, 55 mph – meant that collisions would be harder to prevent and any resulting injuries more severe. The data included more than 3,000 drivers and covered more than 50 million miles.

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Pedestrian deaths are set to hit a 30-year high in America and government regulators are blaming SUVs and distracted driving for the record-setting number. According to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian deaths in 2018 increased by 250 people – bringing the total to a tragic 6,227 pedestrian deaths in America last year. According to the federal agency, the number of pedestrian deaths increased a whopping 51.5 percent since 2009. Less than a decade ago, America’s pedestrian death rate hit an all-time low of 4,109 following decades of declining pedestrian deaths caused by increases in safety technology and stricter enforcement of traffic safety laws.

Despite the continued innovations of safety technology, America’s pedestrian death rate has increased every year in the last decade. Traffic safety experts say that SUVs are a large part of the problem, noting that SUVs, which have outsold passenger cars since 2014, are more likely to kill pedestrians because of their larger size. A report by The Free Detroit Press bears out this theory finding that passenger deaths caused by passenger vehicles have increased only 30 percent since 2013, while deaths caused by SUVs have increased 50 percent during the same time period. Like other parts of American life, cell phones have also changed America’s driving habits and, unsurprisingly, contributed to more pedestrian deaths. According to AAA, wireless data usage increased by 4,000 percent between 2010 and 2017. The same report found that 49 percent of Americans talk on the phone while driving and 35 percent say they send emails and text. The final contributing factor, according to traffic safety experts, involves the higher percentage of Americans walking to work.

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A stunning and heartbreaking story about the unnecessary deaths of 28 emergency room patients caused by lethal doses of opiates prescribed by a single emergency room doctor has left families with two questions: Was the doctor woefully incompetent or intentionally murdering his patients? And, just as shockingly, how did a hospital allow the doctor to prescribe and administer a deadly dose of fentanyl to so many patients?

According to NBC News, Dr. William Husel, an intensive care doctor, is responsible for the deaths of 34 patients between 2015 and 2018. According to a hospital investigation, 28 of these patients died after receiving a dose of fentanyl 10 times higher than normal. In some circumstances, pain medication was unnecessary and administered without the patient’s permission. Dr. Husel’s medical license was suspended permanently last week without a hearing, a rare action depicting the gravity of his barbarous actions. Before the Ohio Medical Board’s action, the attorney general for the state called Dr. Husel “a serial killer on the loose with a medical license and access to fentanyl.” A criminal investigation is currently underway, but no homicide charges have been filed against the deadly doctor.

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America is one of only two countries in the world where the rate of deaths during pregnancy increased between 1990 and 2018. In an exhaustive expose in National Geographic, the news magazine details the causes of the country’s high rate of death for pregnant women, the widening racial disparity, and the progress meant to help alleviate the unnecessary and tragic problem. Given the increased attention to the issue in recent years, public health advocates are hopeful the trend will begin reversing itself in the next few years.

Overall, 700 women die each year giving birth in the United States – a rate of approximately 14 deaths per 100,000 births. However, this data does not show the wide racial disparities in the maternal death rate. For black Americans, the likelihood of dying during birth is more than three times higher than the average at 47 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. Native Americans also have a higher maternal death rate at almost 39 per 100,000. Comparatively, Hispanic and Asian American women have a lower-than-average rate of maternal deaths at 12.2 and 11.6, respectively. Researchers and public health advocates say the high maternal death rates are directly linked to a woman’s ability to access adequate prenatal healthcare – with almost 9 percent of black Americans receiving no prenatal care before giving birth. The research found a full 60 percent of the maternal deaths last year were fully preventable. Continue reading

The rate of bedsores, or pressure injuries, declined 23 percent between 2010 and 2014. However, the decline in bedsores across the country is mostly caused by a reduction in early-stage sores, according to a new report by Health Affairs. According to the study, early-stage bedsores comprised 96 percent of the nationwide reduction in bedsore rates. The rate of late-stage bedsores, which are more harmful and expensive, has mostly remained constant over the past decade, according to the published research.

Bedsores are one of the most common and preventable medical errors occurring in hospitals across the country. Bedsores, also called pressure injuries or pressure sores, can be excruciatingly painful and may not heal for months or years. In many cases, this preventable medical error does not heal – an estimated 60,000 Americans die each year from bedsores, according to Health Affairs. For these reasons, federal and state governments across the country have cracked down on hospitals and nursing homes with high rates of pressure ulcers. Beginning in 2008, Medicare began paying less to hospitals with high rates of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers. States across the country have also heightened enforcement by tracking the rates of pressure ulcers at hospitals across the state and imposing various penalties for hospitals with above-average rates of pressure ulcers.

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Concerned over the growing rate of construction accidents, Mayor de Blasio and City Hall passed a new set of safety regulations on the construction industry last year. However, according to a news report this law is being ignored by the construction industry. As the rate of accidents and deaths in the construction industry reach a record high this year, safety advocates hope that the government steps up enforcement of the law or pursues further legislation to protect construction workers.

Under the safety legislation passed by the city, construction workers must undergo additional training – a 10-hour class should have been completed by March 1 of this year, with an additional 30-hours of safety training required by December 1. Upon completion of the training, construction workers will receive a “Site Safety Training” card that must be brought with them to their construction site each day. However, despite the city’s noble efforts to address a real problem in New York, injuries and deaths in the construction industry have only grown this year.

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As America blazes its path towards marijuana legalization, federal agencies and traffic safety experts are worried that the full ramifications of legalizing the once-illicit drug remain unknown. The latest smoke signal that states should study the matter further came out last week when the federal government reported a 6 percent increase in highway crashes across states that legalized the drug. The previous study, which focused on the first three states to legalize the drug for recreational purposes, found a 5.2 percent increase in highway crashes.

Unlike alcohol, where a breathalyzer can easily and objectively determine whether a person is too intoxicated to drive, the push for an objective sobriety measurement for cannabis remains elusive. Currently, the police are able to perform a blood test and locate THC in the blood of the driver, however, because THC can stay in a person’s system for days or even weeks, the test lacks the ability to measure whether the driver was intoxicated while behind the wheel.

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Across the United States, women giving birth are now almost three times more likely to die than they were just three decades ago. In a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States now leads the developed world in maternity mortality. Tragically, the majority of these deaths fall upon poor women and women of color. Perhaps even worse, the study shows that the majority of these deaths are completely preventable. With the increased attention on infant mortality rates in recent years, it appears medical professionals and researchers need to focus their efforts on improving the health of both the pregnant mother and the infant.

The wide-ranging report published by the government agency surveyed nine states to identify the characteristics and causes of maternal deaths, and consequently provide recommendations for reducing the nation’s shamefully high mortality rate. After collecting data from the states, the CDC reports that almost 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable. The most common causes of death among all Americans were hemorrhaging, cardiovascular and coronary conditions, and infections.

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After a tragic limo crash killed 20 in upstate New York, Senator Chuck Schumer is renewing his call for stronger government regulations and oversight. Similar to other limousine offerings across the country, the Ford Expedition involved in the accident was modified into a limousine by cutting the SUV into two parts and then extended. Safety advocates have long warned that this process requires removing necessary safety features from the vehicle, including airbags and side rollover pillars, and imperils limo passengers. Now the cause of the deadliest traffic accident in a decade, according to The New York Times, transportation safety advocates and politicians are hoping their pleas for oversight will no longer remain unanswered.

According to New York politicians, the stretched Ford Expedition should not have been used on the night of the crash. The limo had repeatedly failed state inspections, including one just last month. The numerous violations included a faulty braking system, which had taken the twenty-passenger Ford Expedition off the road twice. Further, the driver of the limousine, Scott Lisinicchia, did not possess a valid license to operate the limo. Lisinicchia also died in the crash, which killed all seventeen passengers and two individuals parked on the side of the road. Authorities have charged the owner of the limo business with negligent homicide. The business owner pled not guilty and said the DOT deemed the limo roadworthy only a week before the crash and described the Lisinicchia as a “reliable employee” to CNN.

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