September 24, 2012

Medical Mistakes are On the Rise

According to a survey done by Wolters Kluwer Health, almost 75 percent of Americans say they are concerned about medical errors and almost half say they are “very concerned.” The concern is not unjustified considering 30 percent of the people surveyed reported that they, or a loved one, have been a victim of a medical error and 20 percent report that have been misdiagnosed by their doctors.

Doctors, nurses, hospitals and emergency room staff make errors and those errors can have a catastrophic effect on their patients. Medical mistakes include prescribing the wrong medication or treatment, prescribing a medication that adversely reacts to another medication, providing the wrong dosage of medication and misdiagnosing illnesses.

When medical mistakes happen patient safety is at risk.

Causes of Medical Mistakes

The Wolters Klewyer Health survey asked 1,000 participants about their experiences with medical mistakes, why they think medical mistakes occur and what patients can do to help prevent medical errors. The participants identified many of the common causes of medical errors such as:

  • Miscommunication between hospital staff
  • Hospital understaffing
  • Work overload
  • Hospital staff fatigue
  • Lack of proper sanitation

The survey also revealed that the majority of Americans have attempted to prevent medical errors by taking action. Those actions include validating a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan by doing independent research or getting a second opinion.

While taking steps to validate a course of treatment or diagnosis may prevent some medical errors, it will not stop them all. If a medical error or misdiagnosis has caused you to suffer serious injuries or caused the wrongful death of someone you love, an attorney can help you protect your rights.

Source:, “Survey: Nearly One in Three Americans Report Experiencing Medical Mistakes, Either Themselves or Among Family and Friends,” August 15, 2012

Our firm handles cases like the one mentioned in this article. For more information, please visit our hospital negligence page.

August 20, 2012

Basics of Pain and Suffering Awards

If you are considering a personal injury claim, you might have heard about compensation for pain and suffering and may be curious about whether you might qualify to receive those damages.

Not all injuries justify pain and suffering awards. Generally, a victim can receive recompense for past, present and future physical anguish. A jury usually considers many different issues when making its decision. Some of those issues are:

· The type of injury sustained. Injuries that produce constant and continuing pain as well as brain injuries often receive large amounts.

· The age of the victim. A younger victim who will have to endure a lifetime of pain can get a larger award.

· The effect of the injury on the victim, such as the certainty of pain in the past, present or future.

Juries who deliberate on pain and suffering issues are instructed to “reasonably compensate” a victim, yet those determinations can vary widely depending on the facts of each case and the instructions to the jury. Further, there may also be additional state and local conditions that must be met to receive pain and suffering damages as well as limits on how much money can be given.

If a jury awards pain and suffering damages, the award can be later modified. The typical reasons that pain and suffering awards are modified are because of procedural reasons or because the judge deems that the award is too excessive.

As proving and determining damages can be tricky for this type of award, it is always best to keep detailed records and seek out expert advice when considering pursing pain and suffering damages.

Source:, “How Much Pain and Suffering is Enough to Sue?,” Andrew Chow, 6/08/2012

August 6, 2012

Traumatic Brain Injuries – VA Funds Development of Self-Care Assessment Tool

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced high numbers of traumatic brain injuries from the intense nature of explosive warfare in those conflicts. The Indiana University School of Medicine reports about 180,000 such vets received “mild to moderate brain injury” and continue to suffer from:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Attention deficits
  • Reliving trauma

Other mild TBI symptoms can include memory loss, balance problems and light sensitivity.

Dr. Jacob Kean at IU says that perceptions of brain injuries are changing in that it really is a chronic, degenerative and lifelong problem. To improve ongoing TBI treatment and patient support, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs awarded a “telehealth” research grant to Dr. Kean that began July 1.

The project seeks to develop information technology that can assess how well veterans are taking care of their mild TBI conditions at home. As it is difficult for some vets to travel regularly to VA medical facilities, TBI self-management is important and logical.

The new assessment tool could help doctors better instruct their TBI patients in individualized self-care plans and ultimately improve remote treatment. This research expands the practice of telehealth from remote measurement of objective symptoms like blood pressure or pulse into remote assessment of “symptoms related to symptoms and emotions,” according to Dr. Kean.

Five VA hospitals will be used for system testing.

Source: FierceHealthIT, “VA, Indiana University to study telehealth impact on brain injuries,” Dan Bowman, June 29, 2012

July 11, 2012

Amid Accidents, FMCSA Balks at Upped Inspection Process

In the last few years, three high-profile bus crashes in Illinois, Mississippi and Texas caused the death of 40 passengers. In the wake of these tragic bus accidents, new light has been shown on the oversight, or lack thereof, of states’ inspection processes of buses and other commercial vehicles that carry passengers. However, the cry for tighter safety regulation has fallen on deaf ears as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, has not taken action.

The Associated Press reports that federal regulations require passenger buses to be inspected on a yearly basis, but who conducts the inspections and what to look for and inspect are not specified and these details are left up to the states to decide. Often inspections are conducted by private businesses, state inspectors and even the motor carriers themselves. Further, the AP reports that over half of the states have not issued specific inspection requirements and let the motor carriers determine the scope of the inspections.

Amid cacophony for the FMCSA to strengthen its oversight of the businesses and organizations that inspect buses after the three bus accidents, has yet to step up its oversight. In fact, the AP reports that the agency has stated that increased oversight of state programs is “unnecessary.”

In early 2012, as part of the highway funding bill, the United States Senate passed a provision requiring bus and motor carrier programs on the state level to be evaluated by the federal government, according to the AP; however, the measure ran out of gas in the House.

As of now bus inspections are amid a menagerie of differing state rules. Until the time the FMCSA increases its oversight of how states conduct bus inspections, it is up to injured individuals to hold bus companies responsible for negligent inspections through personal injury lawsuits.

Source“More oversight of bus safety called for,” Boston Globe, April 2, 2012

May 14, 2012

Tax Issues Common for Divorced Couples

Divorce is a difficult time for most for many different reasons. A common issue facing couples during divorce is tax issues, and if taxes are not handled properly by both sides it can lead to an IRS audit. Tax time can be stressful and confusing for anyone. Add on the issue of divorce and it can lead to a whole new host of problems, especially if both parties wait until the last minute, and one or the other is not willing to hand over tax information.

One question that comes up during the process is how to file; one can choose to file either married jointly or file separately. This can have important implications either way. If parties file jointly, they are responsible for the other person when it comes to taxes. On the other hand, it can get expensive to file separately if parties pay a CPA or private party to do their taxes for them.

Other issues that come up in tax filings are who may claim head of household and who gets the deduction for any children a couple may have. Generally, the head of household claim goes to the parent who has the children more than half of the year. However, parties have to be careful because they both cannot claim head of household on their taxes.

One major issue that divorced taxpayers generally face is when and where to file taxes, particularly with more complex arrangements. Since divorced couples rarely file or prepare their taxes together, this can get very tricky. This can be especially difficult if the IRS decides to conduct an audit of the parties. Family law attorneys recommend a specific and important strategy: file first and force the other person to react.

Source: “Divorced Couples Are Walking Right Into These Tax Traps,” Mandi Woodruff, Business Insider, Apr. 3, 2012

April 16, 2012

New Virginia Ignition Interlock Law Sparks Debate

Virginia’s recently-passed ignition interlock law has set off a debate between groups battling drunk driving and those that represent offenders about whether the new law goes too far.

An ignition interlock system works by disabling the car if the driver has been drinking. A car with an installed ignition interlock will not start if the driver blows into an attached Breathalyzer and registers a certain level of alcohol on his or her breath. To discourage a friend from taking the test for the driver, the system requires that the driver blow into the device at random times while the vehicle is in motion.

The new law, which takes effect in July, will require virtually all first time DUI offenders-whether they were highly intoxicated or just slightly over the legal limit-to install ignition interlocks in their cars. The former law only required repeat offenders and those with a blood alcohol level above .14 to install ignition interlocks.

As a result of the new law, about four times the number of people will be required to install ignition interlocks. Each offender will have to pay for the installation, which is not cheap-about $480 for a six-month installation.

Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving contend that ignition interlocks reduce repeat offenses. Such groups say that the 274 alcohol-related motorist deaths and 5,500 injures during 2010 warrant the tough measures.

However, public defenders and some lawyers say that the law goes too far. They contend that the new law will encourage more cases to go to trial, taxing an already overburdened court system. In addition, they say that the interlock installation and maintenance fees will disproportionately affect low-income drivers.

Source: “Is Va.’s ignition-interlock rule for first-time DUI offenders too tough?” Justin Jouvenal, The Washington Post, 4/8/12

March 16, 2012

Dividing Military Retirement Benefits During a Virginia Divorce

As war, conflicts and deployments weary our nation’s Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force, military families here in Virginia and throughout the United States are shouldering the burden as well. And that burden is taking its toll – over the last ten years, military divorce rates have risen to 3.7%, more than a whole percentage from 2001.

The number may seem small at first glance, but military divorces are even more common than in families not tied to one of the services. As with many divorces, the division of assets including the division of a retirement pension in a military divorce is a common source of conflict.

If one or both spouses is or was in the military, upon divorce, the military pension is one of the assets that must be divided if it is considered marital property. And, like other marital property, up to 50 percent of a military pension may be awarded to your spouse.

Dividing and Receiving A Military Pension

What part of a military pension is considered marital property depends on the overlap of the marriage with military service. If you were married for the service member’s entire military career, then his or her pension would like be divided in half, with a 50 percent portion be awarded to each spouse. However, if you were married for only 10 years during the service member’s career, only the amount of the pension accrued during the marriage would be marital property and subject to division.

For couples who’ve been married for 10 or more years, upon divorce, the U.S. government will send the ex-spouse’s share directly to him or her. If your marriage was under 10 years, the government expects that the former military personnel will send you a portion on a monthly basis. Whether relying on a former spouse to send you a monthly amount is a good option or not is something that should be discussed with your Virginia military divorce attorney.

Don’t Forget About Survivor Benefits

An important part of a military divorce is ensuring that the non-military spouse applies for survivor benefits, if eligible. Failing to do so may mean the loss of the share of a military pension awarded in divorce upon the death of the service member.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Divorce: Splitting Up a Rich Military Pension,” Ellen E. Schultz, March 9, 2012

February 28, 2012

Virginia Steps Closer to Ignition Interlock for 1st Time DUI

First-time driving under the influence (DUI) offenders could soon be forced to install an ignition interlock system on their cars. The Senate recently passed House Bill 279, which extends current ignition interlock requirements to those who’ve been convicted of only one DUI.

Virginia requires an ignition interlock device for repeat DUI offenders — those who’ve been convicted two or more times. But that may soon change. Based on statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), an ignition interlock system could affect nearly 30,000 people in Virginia, at least that was the number of convicted DUI offenders in 2010.

An ignition interlock system essentially disables a car if the driver has been drinking. A car equipped with ignition interlock will not start if the driver blows into the attached Breathalyzer and registers above a 0.02 BAC. The driver will also be required to blow into the device at random intervals while the car is in motion.

If the interlock system does detect alcohol in the driver’s system, after a retest to confirm, the car’s horn will sound and the lights will flash. The ignition interlock system is intended to notify law enforcement that someone is getting behind the wheel despite being impaired.

This is the sixth year in a row that an ignition interlock law has come up in the Virginia legislature. The bill was modified to apply to first-time DUI offenders only if their blood-alcohol concentration was 0.12 or greater. The Senate rejected the change and the bill, as-is, has now passed both the House and the Senate and is headed to Governor McDonnell’s desk.

Source: Loudoun Times, “Senate requires ignition interlocks for drunken drivers” Brian Hill, February 26, 2012

January 31, 2012

Is the Court of Public Opinion Too Quick to ‘Convict’ Those Accused of Sex Crimes?

By now most have heard about the allegations of sex crimes against former Penn State defensive coach Jerry Sandusky. Many may also be thinking twice about how they judged whether Joe Paterno was also to blame, at least in part, for not doing more to stop the alleged sex abuse.

Sandusky himself faces 40 counts of child sex abuse, stemming from incidents between 1994 to 2009. But Paterno, who passed away from cancer during the course of the release of information and subsequent investigation, was never criminally charged. But, he did lose his job, one that he’d held for over 40 years, as the football coach at Penn State.

As a reminder, it’s a cornerstone of our criminal justice system that one is innocent until proven guilty, something that criminal defense lawyers across the country fight for daily.

Unless you are tried in the court of public opinion, that is. Paterno was considered just as guilty, by many, as if he’d committed the alleged sex crimes himself.

Whenever a sex crime is alleged — including child pornography, rape, incest, statutory rape or an internet-related sex crime — the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney cannot be understated. Many are quick to condemn those accused of sex crimes, particularly those involving children, before all the facts are laid out in a court of law.

It is true that children need and deserve to be protected. But it is also true that people need and deserve to be protected from false or overstated accusations. And a civilized society has no room for an intolerance of both the criminal justice system and the presumption of innocence.

December 20, 2011

Factors Courts Consider When Awarding Virginia Alimony (Spousal Support)

There are two support issues that are dealt with in Virginia divorce proceeding: child support and spousal support. Spousal support is commonly known as alimony, but may also be referred to as maintenance. Several factors are considered by the courts when determining whether an award of spousal support is appropriate.

Both spouses in a marriage may be eligible for spousal support once a divorce is filed with the appropriate Virginia court. A pendente lite order for spousal support may be issued to require one spouse to make support payments, including continuing to provide healthcare coverage, while the divorce is pending.

A full disclosure and discussion of your financial situation, both during your marriage as well as what you expect it to be after the marriage ends, with your Richmond spousal support lawyer can help you understand whether you meet basic criteria for the court to award spousal support as well as answer any questions you may have about the amount or duration of any award.

In deciding whether to order spousal support, the court will consider a variety of factors as defined by Virginia statute, including:

  1. The standard of living during the marriage and each spouse’s ability to maintain that standard upon divorce
  2. The age, physical condition and mental condition of the divorcing spouses
  3. The effect the age, physical condition or mental condition of any children will have on the ability for one spouse to work outside the home
  4. The distribution of marital property
  5. The earning capacity of both spouses
  6. The time that may be necessary for one spouse to receive the training and education to become self-sufficient
  7. Contributions by one spouse to the education or career of the other
  8. The choice for one parent to remain in the home and parent any children while the other spouse worked

These are just a few of the many factors that are written out specifically in the Virginia Code that a court must consider before awarding spousal support.

Virginia family law attorney can address any questions you have about qualifying for spousal support. There are additional considerations to be made regarding the length or duration of an award of spousal support as well as whether any awarded amount should be distributed as periodic payments or as a lump sum.

4 Locations    |    804-330-9220    |    540-246-0684

Skip to content