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Ann Arbor Motor Vehicle Accidents Blog

EHRs add to personal injury claims against health providers

An emerging nationwide trend to be seen in Michigan and elsewhere will be the addition of companies that produce electronic health records (EHRs) as defendants and third party defendants in medical malpractice lawsuits. As EHRs become the predominant standard for the keeping and sharing of patients' medical records between health care providers, the incidence of critical errors caused in the use and interpretation of the records is growing. Whenever  an error in the use of the patient's EHR leads to the patient's personal injury or death, a legal claim may arise against the producers of the digital records.

There are several reasons for potential problems. One is faulty voice recognition software, which can create false entries. The records also are not always accurate or updated, thus giving a false picture of the patient's status and prior treatment. The records may also be incomplete, with critical items or test results missing from the data base.

Young and so very, very irresponsible

Youth is wasted on the young, so the old saying goes. Sadly, it is often tragically true. The saying suggests that it is only after a lifetime of learning and experience that we reach the point where we could truly enjoy the benefits of being young.

But the world doesn't work that way, and youth are often irresponsible and reckless, engaging in conduct that would appall adults, but that they often find irresistible. Young males, motor vehicles and alcohol are an inseparable mix that all too frequently results in terrible tragedies. And that youth is not only wasted, it is often taken away.

Patient's catastrophic injuries result in $35.4 million verdict

urrent health care practices in Michigan and nationwide stress the development of a single patient chart, preserved digitally, that contains everything about a patient's prior health problems and treatment history. This greatly improves the level of care for the patient and makes the physician's job much easier when new medical problems or conditions must be treated. If a doctor or hospital fails to enter the required treatment or test results into the patient's electronic file, the provider may be liable for damages, including catastrophic injuries, resulting from that failed duty. That is what happened in a case in another state where a jury rendered a $35.4 million award in favor of a patient who became permanently paralyzed due to the failure of the defendant doctor to put vital information into the patient's electronic database. The woman, a former teacher who sought treatment in 2004 for dizzy spells, was diagnosed at that time with brain wave abnormalities, a finding that was required to go into her electronic file. The defendant doctor failed to do it. Several years later, the woman was pregnant and went to a hospital to have the baby delivered. The nature of the woman's brain irregularities made it necessary for her to have a Cesarean section instead of a natural delivery. Entering into labor for a prolonged period was considered to be a danger for someone with her diagnoses. She was not given a Cesarean but was allowed to have natural birth because the medical providers were not privy to the vital medical information about the patient. She consequently suffered a massive stroke within hours of the delivery and remained in a medically-induced coma for the next two months. She is now unable to function on her own and requires 24 hour care. The verdict seeks to compensate her for these catastrophic injuries, including for past medical expenses, future medical expenses, home care services, permanent lost earning capacity and pain and suffering. The same negligence principles apply in Michigan and would govern the outcome of this case.

Recall limitation ignores millions of vehicles

One problem with safety issues is that you have to recognize you have a problem before you can fix it. With millions of cars on the road, it can be difficult to pick up trends and differentiate between truly random accidents or those caused by human error, like drunk driving, and those that result from defective designs or manufacturing processes.

One element of the General Motors ignition switch defect that has been linked to 90 deaths was that the internal management structures at GM were so convoluted and many departments operated in such "silos," that the company was incapable of recognizing that there was a deadly defect in their ignition switches. 

Wearable biometrics could help prevent distracted driving

Distracted driving is likely to continue to grow as a problem. Smartphones like the iPhone have been available for less than a decade. Texting as an activity only entered the mainstream somewhat before that, and yet thousands of deaths on the road nationwide are attributed to distraction caused by these devices.

We know that this type of distraction can leave a driver as incapacitated with regard to control of his or her vehicle as if they had been intoxicated with alcohol. Most states have passed various regulations and traffic laws in an attempt to prevent accidents related to texting and the use electronic devices, but they often seem weak and poorly enforced.

Jury awards $14.4 million for catastrophic injuries from surgery

Doctors in Michigan and elsewhere must obtain a full medical history of the patient prior to engaging in surgery that could be problematic without all of the necessary information. For example, it is necessary to know what medications that the patient is taking prior to going ahead with invasive surgery. The wrong anesthesia, for example, could be life-threatening and result in catastrophic injuries or death if it will conflict with another drug that the patient is taking. In one case, a woman in a neighboring state was awarded more than $14 million by a federal jury after a trial against two doctors who allegedly caused her catastrophic injuries, including severe brain damage. It was alleged that the two doctors were negligent in performing the patient's bariatric surgery, and the substandard treatment resulted in the permanent and devastating injuries. Specifically, they were accused of giving the patient an anti-coagulation medication despite the fact that the patient was already taking a blood thinner. This created extensive bleeding during the gastric bypass surgery and led to loss of blood flow to the brain. The plaintiff's lawyer said the money will be used to take care of the client on a daily basis for the rest of her life. She reportedly cannot walk, is wheelchair bound and has cognitive losses from the brain damage. An analysis of the foregoing facts appears to reveal a simple case of negligence that caused the complained of personal injuries. Thus, if the physicians had done a full work-up, or had read the actual medical records of the patient, they would have learned that she took a blood thinner for another condition. This would have revealed the need to be extremely careful before giving her an anti-coagulation medication which, along with the blood thinner, would create a danger of catastrophic injuries, such as too much bleeding and a stroke or other brain damage. These basic rules of negligence would apply equally as well in Michigan.

Brake line failures; no recall, but wash your car

Anyone who lives in an area like Michigan, where snow and ice on the roads is a common winter occurs, likely exposes their vehicle to salt-covered roads. While this road salt is essential to keep the streets and highways free of ice and allow vehicle to move about with a reduced risk of crashes, we all know the consequence of that salt.


You never expect it to happen

Michigan has a unique system of handling catastrophic medical claims caused by motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, politicians are interested in getting their hands on money that is reserved for those who have been injured in devastating accidents, and if they do, it would be catastrophic for everyone one in Michigan.

Insurance is for those "unexpected" events. Or for those devastating incidents that are difficult to predict. And while you may be able to save enough money to cover routine maintenance to your home or car, you probably are unable to save enough that you could afford to replace your home if it were totally destroyed in a tornado or flood.

As speed limits rise, will more truck accidents follow?

With more speed comes more danger in a motor vehicle. Speed exacerbates everything when something goes wrong, from the ability of the driver to maintain control of their vehicle to the physical forces at work when two vehicles collide or strike objects like trees and utility poles. A crash that would cause minor injuries at 35 miles per hour could very well be deadly at 70 mph.

Speed also places greater stress on the vehicles systems, like the tires, brakes and suspension. Tires have maximum speed ratings and driving a vehicle above that speed greatly increases the risk blowout or other type of tire failure. Recent numbers suggest that truck crashes caused by tire failure are increasing and it is not the tires fault.

Motorcycle crashes lead to two deaths in Michigan

With the snow gone, we hope, until next December, many motorcycle riders in Michigan will be taking their bikes out of the garage and getting back on the road. From commuters looking to save a little gas to those who love to feel the wind on their face as the move down scenic drives on the weekend, thousands of motorcycles throughout the state will again be on the streets and highways.

And those bikers need to reacquaint themselves with the feel of their cycle and the very different handling characteristic it has from their car or truck. They also need to be aware of the hazards of the road this time of year, including potholes and sand leftover from last winter. Striking either one unawares on a bike can lead to a potentially catastrophic loss of control.