Archive for March, 2014

Do I Have a Case for Medical Malpractice?

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

For many people, it is difficult to decide to pursue a medical malpractice action.  For one thing, the process of selecting a doctor is a difficult one and there is a trust relationship that is developed once a person finally has selected his doctor.  It is tough to think about this professional having made a mistake that led to serious injuries.  In addition, the doctor and other medical personnel often sit an individual down and describe a series of potential risks.  When the patient decides to move forward with a particular treatment or procedure, he may believe that he signed up for any of the consequences.  However, it is important to realize that a person harmed by the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional does have rights.  Below are some of the questions to consider.

What should the doctor have disclosed to the patient before undertaking a treatment or procedure?

  • The details about the condition from which the patient is suffering;
  • The specifics of the treatment or surgery that the doctor is recommending;
  • The reasonably foreseeable risks of the recommended surgical procedure or treatment; and
  • Any therapeutic alternatives to the recommended treatment or surgery – these alternatives are determined by what other doctors with the same training and knowledge would consider reasonable under similar circumstances.

If a patient suffers serious harm, how does he know it was doctor error?

When a person suffers adverse consequences during a surgery or other procedure, it is important to gather all the evidence of what happened and have another doctor evaluate it.  Although some negative health effects are unavoidable, many times a doctor was negligent in some manner that led to the injury.  Experienced medical malpractice attorneys have expert medical consultants who can review the procedure and the negative consequences and provide an assessment of the likelihood of doctor error.  Further physical examinations may then be necessary depending on the facts of the case.

Did the doctor disclose the risks?

A patient can be harmed as a result of not understanding what risks he was facing.  Although a doctor does not have to discuss every possible risk, he does need to disclose those risks that a person could reasonably want to consider before making a decision between different treatment options.  Although this sounds a little confusing, many medical malpractice cases are based on establishing what other doctors would have done under the same or similar circumstances.  Preparing a list of the disclosed risks will allow an experienced medical malpractice attorney to compare it with what other doctors would have disclosed.

Did the doctor need to get informed consent?

Although informed consent usually is required, there are times when a doctor may proceed with treatment or surgery without it.  Usually, this happens in an emergency room situation where life-saving action needs to be taken immediately.  With limited exceptions, a patient would have difficulty maintaining a medical malpractice action under these circumstances, even if he would not have chosen the treatment if provided with a choice.  Of course, mistakes made under these conditions still form the basis of a legal malpractice action.  In very limited cases, a doctor may be justified in not disclosing certain risks based on the psychological state of the patient.

Medical malpractice cases are complicated endeavors that require skilled attorneys who understand how to arrive at the truth despite the obstacles put in place by the medical community.  If you or a loved one was injured after undergoing surgery or medical treatment, the knowledgeable and dedicated Missouri Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, L.L.P. are prepared to devise a compelling legal strategy to get you the compensation that you deserve.  To schedule a time to meet with us, call us at (877) 535-1163.



Wrong-way Drivers Cause Serious Accidents in Missouri

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

In the last few weeks, two serious wrong-way crashes in Missouri have claimed the lives of several people.  The first one happened on Highway 65, near the intersection of James River Freeway in Springfield, Missouri early on the morning of March 17, 2014.  The wrong-way driver was traveling in a yellow GMC Canyon pick-up.  Other drivers reported the wrong-way driver and state troopers attempted to divert the vehicle, which swerved around them before colliding with two other vehicles, seriously injuring the driver of one of the vehicles that he impacted in a head-on crash.  The driver of the wrong-way vehicle was killed.

The second accident occurred on March 25, 2014 in the middle of the day, when an 82-year-old woman drove the wrong way on Missouri Highway 21 in Jefferson County.  The woman crashed into a vehicle driven by a recent police academy graduate who was about to start work as a sheriff’s deputy in Jefferson County.  Both drivers were killed.

These two tragic accidents demonstrate the dangers of wrong-way drivers.  There are many different reasons why a wrong-way accident happens.  Drivers who get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol often are the cause of wrong-way accidents, which usually involve head-on or offset collisions that cause serious damage to both vehicles and severe harm to the occupants.  In addition, elderly drivers who have become confused by the highway signs and entered a divided roadway going in the wrong direction also cause many wrong-way crashes.  According to the new story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Al Northum stated that there are many reports of senior drivers who ended up going the wrong way because of a mistake.

A wrong-way collision occurs any time one of the drivers is traveling in the lane of oncoming traffic, regardless of whether it is being on the wrong side of a divided highway or crossing into oncoming traffic to pass another vehicle traveling in the same direction.  These accidents lead to severe injuries because of the high rate of speed with which the two vehicles are approaching each other.  Even when one of the drivers attempts to swerve out of the way, the offset frontal crash can lead to extensive damage.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 45% of fatal traffic events are the result of frontal crashes.  Approximately 350 people are killed each year in wrong-way collisions, according to the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) maintained by the NHTSA.  Although the two recent accidents in Missouri happened during daylight hours, most wrong-way crashes happen at night, due to the fact that there is an increased chance of drunk drivers being on the road and the darkness contributes to the confusion experienced by some drivers.

There are times when the signs leading onto the highway contribute to the highway contribute to the likelihood of a wrong-way accident, especially if there is construction on the road and the entrance ramp has been moved or made smaller during the road work.  Sharp turns and confusing entrances to the cloverleaf that leads to the highway may propel a driver onto the wrong side of the roadway.  Based on traffic conditions, he may not be able to get out of the way before a crash has happened.   Regardless of the reason for the wrong-way crash, the resulting harm suffered by the victims usually is horrific.

A serious accident can leave you or a loved one with devastating medical consequences.  The injuries may require years of extensive treatment and rehabilitation.  If a loved one has died as a result of the accident, coping with the emotional and financial impact can be debilitating.  The compassionate and experienced Missouri Personal Injury Attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, L.L.P. will work with you to take over some of the burden so that you can focus on recovery.  To schedule a consultation so that we can learn about what happened to you, please call us at (877) 535-1163.



What Does the Medical Malpractice Cap Mean for My Case?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

On March 5, 2014, the Missouri House passed a bill limiting non-economic damages in a medical malpractice action to $350,000.  This is not the first time Missouri has attempted to limit the damages that a victim of medical malpractice can recover.  From 2005 through 2012, there was a limit on non-economic damages.  In 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that this cap was unconstitutional.  A subsequent attempt to reinstate it failed in the Senate.  The proponents of the current law believe that the present bill corrects the issues with unconstitutionality.

Medical malpractice damages reform, also known as tort reform, has been an issue for many years.  Doctors claim that the lack of a cap makes malpractice insurance prohibitively expensive for many practitioners.  Some claim that if Missouri does not reinstate an enforceable cap, then doctors will flee to nearby Kansas, which does have a cap.  Opponents of the bill reflect our position, which is the manifest unfairness that exists when you try to limit the value that is placed on the destruction of quality of life.

The damages at issue in tort reform are non-economic damages.  In a legal action against a doctor who has caused serious harm, there are a number of types of economic harm that will be compensated, including:

  • Lost wages;
  • Medical costs and expenses;
  • Costs for necessary accommodations to the home and vehicles, based on the nature of the victim’s injuries;
  • Living expenses incurred as a result of the injury – this may include the hiring of a nursing aide or other personal attendant; and
  • Other miscellaneous expenses directly attributable to the injury.

What the legislators seek to limit is the damages award for pain and suffering.  However, this also places a limit on the doctor’s accountability for his negligence.  Proponents of the new bill argue that these non-economic awards are arbitrary and subjective.  When a person really considers what the limit does, it is easy to see how unjust it is.

Consider a young, married father of two who discovers he has an inguinal hernia.  He goes to the doctor, who discusses his options and recommends surgery without disclosing all of the potential risks.  During the surgery, the doctor perforates the small intestine of the patient and does not repair it.  The patient then develops a severe infection and requires several surgeries to repair at least some of the damage.  However, he is left with debilitating pain and limited mobility.  Before the accident, he coached his kids’ soccer teams and played in a softball league.  After the doctor’s negligence, he is unable to even make it to watch his children’s games.  His life has been permanently altered and the Missouri House deems $350,000 sufficient to compensate him for his pain and suffering, which will last a lifetime.

Tort reforms are driven by insurance companies that want to minimize the payouts that are made while maximizing profit.  The victims of doctor negligence, and even the doctors themselves, are hurt by the efforts of these insurers to prioritize their financial well-being against the suffering of the injured.  While the enactment of this cap is not certain and constitutional challenges are likely if it does pass the Senate, this is a very important development in medical malpractice actions in Missouri.

A person who has been injured by the negligence of a doctor deserves compensation for all of the harm that he suffered as a result of that error, including economic and non-economic damages.  The skilled and hardworking Missouri Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, L.L.P. are committed to getting our clients all of the compensation to which they are entitled.  We strive to fight for your rights while you focus on recovering for the harm that was done to you.  To schedule an initial consultation, call us at (877) 535-1163.