Legal Matters

A ‘minor’ accident can cause a major pain in the neck (or back, or joints…)

Jeff Dobbelmann was a big, likable stockbroker – he stood 6’5? and was 270 pounds. And he seemed to be completely unharmed when another car rear-ended him. He had no apparent injuries, and the damage to his car was nothing more than a dented bumper.

But in the weeks and months that followed, Dobbelmann began experiencing pain – neck pain, back pain, and frequent headaches. Could this pain possibly be the result of his “minor” fender-bender?

Yes, it could. Dobbelmann suffered what’s known as a “soft tissue” injury. A soft tissue injury means damage to a muscle, ligament or tendon in the body.

These injuries are not always easy to see or diagnose. There is often no obvious bleeding or bruising. And unlike damage to bones or organs, soft tissue injuries usually don’t show up clearly on an x-ray or an MRI.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. They can cause persistent pain in the neck, back, shoulders, or joints, as well as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating or swallowing.

Many people don’t realize that these symptoms are the result of a car crash or other accident. For one thing, the symptoms often don’t develop until some time has passed after the crash. Because the symptoms don’t show up right away, people don’t necessarily make the connection.

Many people also find it hard to believe that a “minor” rear-ender can cause serious pain. But just because there was little or no damage to your car doesn’t mean there was little or no damage to your body. Your metal bumper is specifically designed to absorb sudden, jolting movements, but your joints and tendons don’t have the same kind of protection.

Even a low-speed “bump” can potentially cause muscle strains and tears, ligament sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, deep muscle bruises or contusions, joint dislocations, or nerve damage.

Car accidents are not the only causes of soft-tissue injury. These injuries can also happen as the result of slipping and falling, a sports injury, an assault, a work accident, or even just repetitive motions at work over time.

If you have this type of pain, it’s good to talk with an attorney. An attorney – perhaps working with an orthopedist, neurologist, or physical therapist – may be able to pinpoint the cause of the problem, and seek compensation if appropriate.

In Jeff Dobbelmann’s case, a Minnesota jury found in his favor and awarded him compensation for all his medical expenses, plus a substantial award for his pain and suffering.

Here’s another reason why trusts in a will are smart

In a recent case, a Texas man inherited $400,000 in cash from his aunt. The man’s ex-wife went to court and claimed that as a result, his child support payments should be increased.

The Texas Court of Appeals agreed with the ex-wife. It said that even though the $400,000 wasn’t wages or earnings, it was still a “resource” that had to be considered in determining how much the father had to pay for his two children.

A trust in a will lets you decide how your assets wil be used after death … so they don’t end up under the control of a beneficiary’s creditor or an ex-spouse.

Now, we don’t know what the aunt’s feelings were. It’s entirely possible that she was happy to use her money to take care of her nephew’s children. However, she probably never considered that after her death, a large portion of her assets would end up under the direct control of her nephew’s ex-wife.

It’s a good bet that the aunt might have been happier if she had put the $400,000 into a trust that would benefit the nephew and his children. In that way, she would have had control over how the money was spent for their benefit – rather than the ex-wife.

In addition, the nephew wouldn’t have had to go to court to fight over who got the money.

Trusts can be an excellent way to protect assets if you’re considering leaving an inheritance to someone who might otherwise lose the property for any number of reasons, including divorce, lawsuits, business problems, addiction, or simply a lack of investment acumen.

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New problem for seniors who move from a hospital to a nursing home

A growing number of Medicare beneficiaries who are transferred from a hospital to a nursing home are discovering that Medicare won’t pay for the first 20 days of their nursing home stay.

Ordinarily, Medicare covers nursing home stays entirely for the first 20 days as long as the patient was first admitted to a hospital as an inpatient for at least three days. But here’s the problem: A lot of people are discovering that there were never actually “admitted” to the hospital for three days, but rather were in the hospital only under “observation.”

Often, hospital patients often have no idea that they haven’t actually been “admitted” to the hospital. They are given a bed and a wristband, nurses and doctors come to see them, they get treatment and tests, and they fill out a meal chart just as if they had been formally admitted.

Increasingly, hospitals are choosing not to admit patients but rather to place them under observation to determine whether they should be admitted. This is in part due to pressure from Medicare to reduce costly inpatient stays.

Medicare guidelines say that it should take no more than 24 to 48 hours of observation to decide whether a patient should be admitted, but in reality hospitals can keep patients under observation for much longer.

The consequence is that if a patient moves to a nursing home, and later discovers that he or she wasn’t formally admitted to the hospital for three days, the patient must pick up the tab for the entire nursing home stay.

Medicare doesn’t require that patients be notified as to whether and when they have officially been admitted – so it’s a very good idea to ask. If you haven’t been admitted, and if a nursing home stay is likely, you should discuss this with your doctor.

Company is sued for ‘pressuring’ employee who was on medical leave

A company can be sued if it “pressures” an employee who is on medical leave by repeatedly calling to find out when the employee plans to return to work.

That’s the message of a new case from a federal court in Arkansas.

In that case, a woman took leave from her housekeeping job at a hospital to recover from back surgery. She claimed that while she was out, her immediate supervisor called her every week to ask when she was coming back. In one conversation, she asked if her job was in jeopardy, and the supervisor responded by telling her that she should return as soon as she could.

The court said that the employer could be sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act if its repeated phone calls had a “chilling” effect on the employee’s ability to exercise her rights.

This is a tough situation, because employers have to plan to get work done and need to know when employees will return, and employees are also required to return to work as soon as they no longer need time off for a legitimate reason. In general, both sides should be very careful how they communicate with each other over the extent of medical leave.

Facebook may be involved in 20% of all divorces

Facebook is playing a role in as many as a fifth of all divorces in the U.S., according to a study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Facebook can come up in a divorce case in several ways. One is that marriages sometimes end because people have affairs with people they met – or re-connected with – over the social networking site.

One of the most common uses of Facebook is getting in touch with old friends. But if a marriage is in some trouble already, and a spouse gets back in touch with an old friend (or an old flame) who is emotionally available, a simple “hello” could turn into something much more complicated.

But Facebook can also come up in a divorce case because it can provide evidence of a spouse’s misconduct. Because people put so much of their lives onto the site, it can be a rich source of evidence of adultery. Facebook evidence can also be used to show that someone has questionable parenting skills, or might be misrepresenting their financial circumstances.

People who are involved in the divorce process, or even just contemplating a divorce, should be very careful about what they put online through social media and what they allow others to put online about them. Once things are on the Internet, they can almost never be completely deleted…and something that seems fun to a person at the time could come back later to haunt them.

Cash plays a big role now when buying or selling a home

Cash is playing a more significant role in residential real estate sales right now than at any time in recent memory.

Across the U.S., the median down payment on houses was 22% last year, according to a study by Zillow.com of sales involving conventional mortgages in nine major U.S. cities. That’s the highest figure ever since the data started being kept back in 1997.

By comparison, just three years ago the figure was 11%. And back in late 2006, it was only 4%.

The main reason for the change is that banks are tightening their standards and demanding larger down payments to qualify for mortgages. Banks are figuring that borrowers who can afford a larger down payment are less likely to default.

Many people who don’t have a large enough down payment to qualify for a conventional bank mortgage have been looking into alternative mortgages, such as those backed by the Federal Housing Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Another startling statistic is that 28% of home sales last year were all-cash transactions, according to the National Association of Realtors.

When that organization first began tracking all-cash sales, back in late 2008, the figure was only 14%.

In some markets, the percentage is much higher. In the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, more than half of all home sales last year were all-cash deals, according to Zillow. In Phoenix, the figure was 42%.

The numbers are another reflection of the fact that banks have tightened their lending rules – the proportion of all-cash deals is higher because the number of people who can qualify for a typical mortgage is lower.

However, the extremely high percentage of all-cash sales also suggests that a growing proportion of homes are being purchased not by families, but by investors and speculators who believe that the housing market has hit bottom and is poised for a rebound.

If they’re right, then this could be an excellent time for people who can afford to buy a new home to do so.

Can landlords limit the number of people who live in an apartment?

Do landlords have a right to limit the number of people who can occupy an apartment?

The answer, as often happens in the law, is, “It depends.”

In general, landlords own the property and they can decide how many people can live there. However, under federal law, a landlord is not allowed to discriminate against families with children. So if a family with seven children wants to rent an apartment, the landlord can’t say “no” based on that fact alone.

On the other hand, a landlord doesn’t have to allow a family with seven children to occupy a tiny studio apartment. Refusing to allow such an arrangement wouldn’t be discrimination; it would be common sense.

So where do you draw the line between a legal occupancy requirement and illegal discrimination?

It’s not always easy, but in general, the federal government says that it’s okay to limit occupancy to two people per bedroom. Thus, a family of four could live in a two-bedroom apartment, but not in a one-bedroom apartment.

However, many cities and towns have different rules, and some require landlords to allow “two plus one” occupancy. That means two people per bedroom, plus one extra person in the unit. This is more common in areas where apartments typically have large rooms or extra rooms such as a den.

Also, “senior living” communities designed for people age 55 or older may have their own sets of rules.

Employment Law

Once again, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it easier for workers to go to court and claim that they were fired in retaliation for asserting their rights.

In recent years, the Court has decided a number of cases that made it easier for workers to sue if they were fired for complaining about discrimination.

But what if a worker was fired for complaining about something else? What if a worker was fired (or otherwise punished) after making a comment about the way the employer allocates tips? Or about unsafe equipment? Or overtime practices?

In the case before the Court, a Wisconsin factory worker was fired after he complained about where the company’s time clocks were located in the building. The time clocks were located such that workers had to punch in afterthey had put on their mandatory protective equipment, and punch out before they took the equipment off. As a result, the workers didn’t get paid for the time they spent putting on and taking off their gear.

The worker sued under a federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs wages and hours. This law requires that hourly employees be paid for all the time they spend at work, that they get overtime pay for extra hours, and so on.

The law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who has “filed any complaint” about possible wage-and-hour violations.

The company argued that this rule didn’t apply here because the worker never “filed” anything with anyone – he just made a verbal complaint.

But the Court said that didn’t matter. It said a verbal complaint is good enough, as long as a reasonable employer could understand that the worker thought his rights were being violated.

That means that even a “water cooler” comment could qualify, as long as management was aware of it and the comment was about an alleged violation of the law.

The case is important because a number of other federal laws also protect workers who have “filed” a complaint. For instance, OSHA – which governs workplace safety – protects workers who “file” a complaint, so it’s likely that workers can no longer be retaliated against for making verbal complaints about equipment and safety issues.

This is a huge benefit for employees. The workers who are protected by these laws tend to be hourly employees, workers who handle dangerous equipment, and others who might be upset about their pay or conditions but have no idea how or where to file a written grievance about them.

The Court’s ruling will also benefit workers whose English is limited, and who would have particular difficulty producing a written complaint.

The decision is a warning to employers to take worker complaints seriously, no matter how informal they may seem, and if possible to document them in writing along with any steps taken in response. And of course, employers shouldn’t take disciplinary steps against a worker who has made a complaint without first speaking with an employment attorney.

Employers might be required to tell workers they can form a union

The National Labor Relations Board recently proposed a rule that would require employers to post a notice in the workplace informing employees of their right to form a union.

The rule hasn’t been adopted yet, but if it is, employers who fail to comply could be fined or sued for unfair labor practices.

Such a notice could conceivably have an effect in smaller workplaces – such as those with 10 or 15 workers – where a union could form quickly if a majority of employees agree to organize.

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We value all our clients. And while we’re a busy firm, we welcome all referrals. If you refer someone to us, we promise to answer their questions and provide them with first-rate, attentive service. And if you’ve already referred someone to our firm, thank you!

Company is sued for ‘pressuring’ employee who was on medical leave

A company can be sued if it “pressures” an employee who is on medical leave by repeatedly calling to find out when the employee plans to return to work.

That’s the message of a new case from a federal court in Arkansas.

In that case, a woman took leave from her housekeeping job at a hospital to recover from back surgery. She claimed that while she was out, her immediate supervisor called her every week to ask when she was coming back. In one conversation, she asked if her job was in jeopardy, and the supervisor responded by telling her that she should return as soon as she could.

The court said that the employer could be sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act if its repeated phone calls had a “chilling” effect on the employee’s ability to exercise her rights.

This is a tough situation, because employers have to plan to get work done and need to know when employees will return, and employees are also required to return to work as soon as they no longer need time off for a legitimate reason. In general, both sides should be very careful how they communicate with each other over the extent of medical leave.

Workers can sue for ‘cat’s paw’ discrimination

In an old French fable, a sneaky monkey talks an unwary cat into grabbing roasting chestnuts from a fire. The cat burns its paw and drops the chestnuts, and the monkey walks off with them.

From this fable comes the phrase “cat’s paw,” meaning an innocent person who’s used as a tool for someone else’s dirty work.

In the employment world, a “cat’s paw” situation is one where a supervisor is prejudiced against a worker, but rather than firing the worker for an illegal reason, he or she persuades a higher-up manager to fire the worker for some trumped-up but legitimate-sounding reason.

This raises the question of whether a worker who is the victim of such a scheme can sue the company for discrimination…even though the person who actually made the firing decision had no intent to discriminate.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently allowed such a claim.

In that case, a hospital terminated an Army reservist for a series of minor infractions. The reservist claimed that his immediate supervisors, who resented his military service, drummed up and fabricated these infractions to persuade the hospital management to fire him.

The Court ruled that the hospital could be held liable for discrimination.

The Court was applying a law that covers discrimination against the military, but it seems likely that the same idea would apply to any other type of discrimination.

For instance, a federal appeals court in Chicago recently allowed a white city worker who was fired by a white upper-level manager to sue. The worker claimed that her black direct supervisor was prejudiced against whites, and had used the white upper-level manager as a “cat’s paw” to get rid of her.

In general, employers should make sure that all supervisors receive training about discrimination laws, and should never simply sign off on a manager’s report about a worker without investigating the facts and considering the possibility that a supervisor may have other motives.

Medical marijuana law doesn’t prevent a company from banning drug use

Many states have passed laws in recent years allowing people to use marijuana for medical reasons.

But while these laws may protect users against the police, they won’t necessarily protect them against their employers.

For example, a Wal-Mart employee in Michigan recently sued the company for firing him under its drug-use policy when he tested positive for marijuana. The employee claimed he was wrongfully fired because he used marijuana after work for medical reasons.

But a federal judge ruled that Michigan’s medical marijuana law didn’t prevent a company from disciplining a worker under its drug policy. The law doesn’t require companies to accommodate medical marijuana users, the judge said.

Every state’s law is different, though. Undoubtedly this issue will keep coming up in other states.

Employer could require a doctor’s note after sick leave

A city didn’t violate its employees’ right to medical confidentiality by making them provide a doctor’s note when coming back from sick leave, a federal appeals court ruled recently.

The city of Columbus, Ohio had adopted a policy demanding that police department employees who took sick leave give supervisors a physician’s note stating the “nature of the illness” and whether the worker could return to regular duty.

Several employees sued, arguing that the policy violated patient confidentiality rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But the court said a request for a general diagnosis or a statement about the “nature” of an illness was okay, and didn’t create the same sort of confidentiality concerns as asking about specific prescription medications, past illnesses, or other disabilities.

This is a very tricky area. Employers should generally speak with an employment law attorney before adopting such a policy, and employees should also talk with an attorney if they feel they’re being compelled to disclose medical data that could be embarrassing or hurtful.

New mothers might be exempt from physical ability tests

A woman who had recently had a baby and who was denied a job as a security guard after failing a physical-fitness test could sue the company for pregnancy discrimination, a federal judge in Alabama recently ruled.

The test required job applicants to perform 29 sit-ups in two minutes.

The woman claimed she was unable to complete enough sit-ups because her stomach muscles were weak from childbirth several months earlier. She sued the employer under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The employer argued that because the woman’s doctor had cleared her to take the test, she couldn’t claim that she had a childbirth-related condition that exempted her.

But the court said the doctor’s note merely indicated that the woman could safely take the test. It didn’t mean that she didn’t have a physical condition related to childbirth, or that she wasn’t protected by the law.

Company’s ‘one strike’ drug-testing policy is okay

An employer can have a “one-strike” drug-testing policy that permanently disqualifies applicants who have previously flunked a drug test, according to a federal appeals court in California.

In this case, an employer rejected an applicant for a longshoreman job when he failed a pre-employment drug screening.

Some time afterward, the man allegedly stopped using drugs, but when he reapplied, the employer rejected him again under its one-strike rule.

He sued, claiming that the one-strike policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. That law prohibits employers from discriminating against rehabilitated drug users.

But the court said that while the law would prohibit a company from discriminating against a new applicant simply because the person was a recovered drug addict, it didn’t prohibit a company from discriminating against someone who was a current drug user when he first applied for a job.

It’s okay to disqualify such people permanently, the court said.

Consumer Safety

A ‘minor’ accident can cause a major pain in the neck (or back, or joints…)

Jeff Dobbelmann was a big, likable stockbroker – he stood 6′5″ and was 270 pounds. And he seemed to be completely unharmed when another car rear-ended him. He had no apparent injuries, and the damage to his car was nothing more than a dented bumper.

But in the weeks and months that followed, Dobbelmann began experiencing pain – neck pain, back pain, and frequent headaches. Could this pain possibly be the result of his “minor” fender-bender?

Yes, it could. Dobbelmann suffered what’s known as a “soft tissue” injury. A soft tissue injury means damage to a muscle, ligament or tendon in the body.

These injuries are not always easy to see or diagnose. There is often no obvious bleeding or bruising. And unlike damage to bones or organs, soft tissue injuries usually don’t show up clearly on an x-ray or an MRI.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. They can cause persistent pain in the neck, back, shoulders, or joints, as well as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating or swallowing.

Many people don’t realize that these symptoms are the result of a car crash or other accident. For one thing, the symptoms often don’t develop until some time has passed after the crash. Because the symptoms don’t show up right away, people don’t necessarily make the connection.

Many people also find it hard to believe that a “minor” rear-ender can cause serious pain. But just because there was little or no damage to your car doesn’t mean there was little or no damage to your body. Your metal bumper is specifically designed to absorb sudden, jolting movements, but your joints and tendons don’t have the same kind of protection.

Even a low-speed “bump” can potentially cause muscle strains and tears, ligament sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, deep muscle bruises or contusions, joint dislocations, or nerve damage.

Car accidents are not the only causes of soft-tissue injury. These injuries can also happen as the result of slipping and falling, a sports injury, an assault, a work accident, or even just repetitive motions at work over time.

If you have this type of pain, it’s good to talk with an attorney. An attorney – perhaps working with an orthopedist, neurologist, or physical therapist – may be able to pinpoint the cause of the problem, and seek compensation if appropriate.

In Jeff Dobbelmann’s case, a Minnesota jury found in his favor and awarded him compensation for all his medical expenses, plus a substantial award for his pain and suffering.

Care facilities are held liable for bedsores

When residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities aren’t turned regularly in their beds, they can develop bedsores. And if these bedsores aren’t noticed and promptly treated, they can cause serious complications – and even death.

In fact, a Georgia jury recently found a private-care home responsible after Charlotte Dean, a 51-year-old patient, died after developing bedsores. The agency that sent nurses to the home to care for Dean was also held liable.

Dean, who suffered from cerebral palsy and couldn’t speak, had lived in the home for more than four years. In late 2006, she developed a bedsore on her tailbone, but it was treated.

However, several months later she was rushed to the emergency room and died the next day. The emergency room doctor reported – and the autopsy confirmed – multiple severe bedsores, including particularly severe ones on her ears. The care facility’s records, however, indicated only the single bedsore that had been treated.

Family members testified at trial that when they visited Dean, her ears were either bandaged or covered by a toboggan cap.

Dean’s family claimed the facility was understaffed, provided too little supervision, and had a high turnover of employees, leading to the terrible care that Dean received.

Bedsores are not just an issue in long-term care facilities. A Nevada man recently received a significant jury award after developing bedsores at a hospital during a week-long stay following hip surgery.

Don’t assume that you can’t be compensated because ‘it’s your fault’

When an injury occurs, many people blame themselves or assume that their injured family member was at fault. This is natural…and sometimes you or a loved one really is partly at fault. But you should never assume that this means you can’t be compensated for your loss. Only an attorney can thoroughly investigate a case and determine if the person who appears to be at fault is entirely to blame.

For instance, some years ago a student in Boston died after he fell down a set of stairs at a bar. The student had been drinking heavily, and after his death his alcohol level was found to be more than twice the legal limit.

No one saw how the student fell. But you might naturally assume that the accident was his fault.

Sometimes the person who appears to be to blame for an accident actually isn’t at fault.

However, attorneys investigated and found that the accident might very well not have been his fault. It turned out that the stairway violated the building code. It was narrow and steep, wasn’t properly lit, and didn’t have railings. What’s more, it was hidden at the top by dark vinyl strips rather than a proper door, so it wasn’t obvious that there were stairs there at all. The student could easily have leaned against the strips and fallen.

A kitchen manager at the bar was interviewed and revealed that she had fallen down the steps herself in exactly the same way, and had seen a liquor company representative fall down them as well.

A judge determined that the bar owners hadn’t obtained a building permit for the stairs, and had avoided having them checked by a building inspector for many years.

As a result, the judge found that the bar was responsible for the student’s death, and awarded compensation to his family.

Restaurant responsible for shooting on premises

We all know that a business can be held responsible when dangerous conditions on the premises – such as icy sidewalks or slippery floors – cause a customer to get hurt.

But a business can also sometimes be held responsible when the danger is a fellow customer.

For example, a jury recently awarded money to three people who were injured by a fellow patron at a 24-hour Denny’s restaurant near Seattle.

The man had been tossed from a nearby bar for arguing with customers. He came into the Denny’s, where he insulted customers, threw dishes on the floor, picked a fight, threatened to “smoke someone” and briefly left before returning with a handgun.

When he returned, he fired the gun, seriously wounding one customer and causing minor injuries to two others.

Denny’s argued that it wasn’t responsible for the attack because it was a random act on the part of the shooter that nobody could have predicted.

But the jury found that violence at the location was foreseeable, given the history of rowdy late-night crowds there. Police reports detailed numerous violent incidents at the restaurant around the time that the local bars closed. Denny’s employees testified that they were scared to come to work at that hour, and that there was no security plan in place despite the frequent dangerous incidents.

As a result, the jury decided that the restaurant should be held responsible for the injuries because it failed to provide a reasonable level of security for its customers.

Migraine drug Topamax could lead to birth defects

Topamax is a drug that has been effective in treating people for epilepsy and migraine headaches. But the FDA recently warned that women who take Topamax during pregnancy have an increased risk of having a child born with a cleft lip and/or a cleft palate.

The news comes less than a year after Johnson & Johnson, which owns the maker of Topamax, paid a $6.14 million fine for promoting the drug’s use for purposes that hadn’t been approved by the FDA, such as weight loss, alcohol dependence, eating disorders and anxiety.

It’s hard to predict how many people could be affected by the birth-defect problem,

because so many people used Topamax and its generic versions for unapproved uses in addition to migraines and epilepsy.

We welcome your referrals

We value all our clients. And while we’re a busy firm, we welcome all referrals. If you refer someone to us, we promise to answer their questions and provide them with first-rate, attentive service. And if you’ve already referred someone to our firm, thank you!

Landlord is sued for injury caused by tenant’s pit bull

Dog owners can be held responsible for injuries caused by their dangerous pets…and in some instances, their landlords can be held accountable as well.

For example, in Maryland, a 10-year-old boy was attacked and severely injured by a pit bull that escaped from a nearby duplex.

The tenants who owned the dog declared bankruptcy, so the boy’s parents sued the landlord who owned the duplex, claiming that she shouldn’t have allowed the dangerous dog on the property.

The landlord claimed she wasn’t responsible because she didn’t know about the dog’s vicious nature.

But a court found that she did know the dog was dangerous. Specifically, the court pointed to a provision in the tenants’ lease stating that the landlord wasn’t responsible for any harm caused by the dog – which the landlord presumably wouldn’t have added if she didn’t think the dog might be a problem.

(Although the lease said the landlord wasn’t responsible, she could still be sued by the boy’s parents because they never signed the lease.)

Hospital errors are 10 times more common than was previously thought

Medical errors in hospitals happen much more frequently than most of us thought.

A new study published in the journal Health Affairs found that the previous methods of determining hospital error rates undercounted actual mistakes by as much as 90 percent.

Overall, the study suggested that as many as one out of three hospital visits results in an “adverse” medical error.

Of course, some of these mistakes are minor, and only a relatively small number lead to a serious injury. But the findings are nonetheless surprising and disturbing.

If you or a loved one is being treated in a hospital, it’s important to pay attention to the care that’s being provided, ask plenty of questions, and follow up on anything that just doesn’t seem right.

Injured person didn’t have to repay Medicaid in full

When a person is injured in an accident, Medicaid will sometimes cover the medical expenses. If the person later receives compensation in a lawsuit or a settlement, he or she is generally expected to pay Medicaid back.

But depending on the circumstances, the injured person might not have to pay Medicaid back in full.

For instance, an Arizona woman who settled a personal injury lawsuit for $843,000 didn’t have to reimburse Medicaid for the entire $268,000 in medical expenses it had paid, the Arizona Court of Appeals recently decided.

The reason? The woman’s total damages in her accident were $4 million. Because the settlement only covered a fraction of her damages, it would be unfair to make her pay Medicaid back in full out of the settlement proceeds.

However, you should be aware that Medicaid reimbursement law is very complicated, and can vary a great deal from state to state.

Improving Workplace Safety

Work is a place where people should expect to go and do their jobs safely. In short, they should be protected from hazards by their employers so they can execute their work to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, workplace safety is often put in the hands of the individual workers, where the employee is blamed if there is an accident.

The AFL-CIO recently released its annual “Death on the Job” report. In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, the association reports that 4,340 people were killed at work during that year, an average of 12 fatalities a day.

In an effort to reduce injuries and workplace fatalities, many companies have implemented training programs to educate employees on safe behavior. But too often, in a drive to raise production, lower costs and cut budget corners, many companies lose sight of keeping their employees safe. Increased workloads and chronic short-staffing to keep costs low puts too much stress on employees. This contributes to increased fatigue, leading directly to potential increase for workplace accidents.

Workers need to be aware of hazards that surround them on a daily basis, but the burden of workplace safety should not sit solely on the shoulders of a company’s employees. According to Smart Business Magazine, employers also have a role in preventing workplace accidents and have a hand in reducing opportunities for those to occur by:

  • Using consistent safety procedures and enforce them in the workplace
  • Properly training employees about safety policies
  • Making sure that proper safety equipment is available for employees use
  • Having an employee review a safety checklist periodically
  • Using warning signs to note hazardous areas and remind employees about safety practices
  • Gather employees input when developing safety policies and procedures

Despite regulations and laws designed to keep employees safe, accidents occur in the workplace with alarming frequency. If you have been injured on the job, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your options.

Multiple Moves Dangerous to Senior Health

You think moving your elderly parents to an assisted living facility is a good idea, that it will get them some help taking care of day-to-day tasks and place them near medical assistance if the need should arise. However, this isn’t always the case. It’s not uncommon for seniors to move several times in a short period after a medical issue arises.

Multiple Moves, Multiple Health Problems

Such frequent moves are not only disruptive and confusing to the people involved, but they increase the risk of vital health information not being relayed properly to the new facility.

In a New York Times report, Dr. Malaz Boustani, a geriatrician at the Healthy Aging Brain Center in Indianapolis, says that he regularly sees older patients that have made three or four unnecessary moves within a six-month period. Boustani compares the patients’ medical information moving from one facility to the next to the children’s’ game of telephone, a game where the end result is barely recognizable compared to the original phrase. Unfortunately, many older patients are not in the mental condition to correct any errors in their medical information after a move.

What Can Be Done?

Boustani suggests families hire or appoint one family member as a transition coach, a person that will oversee the transmittal of vital medical information and make sure that all prescriptions are communicated to a new health facility. He also recommends that families become familiar with their area’s aging services and be willing to use them if and when a need arises.

Families are also encouraged to start planning long in advance and make sure that any prospective home can adequately meet the needs of their family member. As Dr. Philip Sloane, associate chairman of the family medicine department at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine notes in the Times report, multiple moves are often the result of one facility’s inability to meet the individual’s needs.

Working With an Attorney

While health concerns often arise when elderly people move from one facility to another, falls, bedsores and other injuries occur too often in long-term care homes. If your loved one has been hurt while staying in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it is important to contact an attorney to review your case.