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Common Medical Errors and the Law

Anyone who has been in a hospital for any length of time knows that there are a lot of opportunities for mistakes. The medical services industry puts tremendous pressures on the professionals who work within it. Long hours, chaotic environments, a constant stream of new patients, and a challenging regulatory regime together present a constant challenge for doctors, nurses, and other caregivers. The fact that problems are common is little comfort for patients who are injured as a consequence of mistakes. Efforts to quantify and mitigate medical errors have been ongoing for many decades. There are numerous challenges to coming to grips with them, beginning with constant change in the medical industry. Simply defining what an “error” is has been challenging for the industry as a whole. Some of the most common sources of errors include:
  • Problems with diagnosis: Interpreting a patient’s symptoms incorrectly can lead to improper administration of unnecessary treatments, while leaving the real problem unresolved. Or a patient’s condition may be correctly diagnosed but its severity underestimated.
  • Drug mistakes. Medications are linked to a wide variety of healthcare mistakes. Over- or underdosages, severe reactions, incorrect administration, and unmanaged drug interactivity are just a few examples of drug-related mistakes that happen regularly.
  • Infections. Hospitals work hard to keep their environments clean, but in a context where many people are ill an infection can be difficult to avoid.
  • Inadequate clinical care. Bed sores, blood clots, and other forms of preventable illness associated with long bed stays are examples of errors caused by an inadequate patient-care process.
Applicable legal standards sometimes leave considerable room for interpretation about what an error is. Many types of error will fall within the scope of professional negligence. Professional negligence applies to licensed medical professionals, like doctors, nurses, and dentists. To be liable for professional negligence the defendant must have failed to use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge in treating the patient. The challenge is that “reasonable care” can be a moving target. The patient’s age and health, the specific facts of the patient’s condition, and the defendant’s subjective qualifications (years of experience, training, and so forth) are all factors that define what reasonable care is in the circumstances. Importantly, the plaintiff must provide a sworn affidavit signed by a qualified professional that confirms the signatory’s opinion that the defendant failed to provide reasonable care. The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented Nevada clients in medical malpractice cases for over 45 years. If you have been injured by a medical error contact us today to learn about our legal options. For a free attorney consultation call 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

A Restaurant’s Responsibility to Respond to Allergic Reactions

People with severe food allergies know that they need to take care when they eat at restaurants. Especially if an allergic reaction can be life-threatening, knowing what’s in the food is essential to avoiding injury. But if a restaurant’s patron has a significant allergic reaction, the restaurant has some responsibilities to respond appropriately.

Nevada requires restaurants to account for food allergies

Nevada’s laws and regulations governing restaurant food safety include a number of obligations related to preventing injuries to patrons that have food allergies. Restaurants must foster an awareness of food-related allergies among their employees.  NAC 446.053(12). “Awareness” should at a minimum include a sensitivity to the importance of a patron’s request related to allergens, so that an employee can track down information the patron needs to make a safe choice. Restaurants must also provide appropriate labels for packaged or repackaged food, such as to-go sandwiches or salads. Some restaurants may go further, by including specific warnings about the presence of common allergens in their dishes. Like every establishment that is open to the public, a restaurant has a general obligation to take reasonable care to ensure that its premises are safe and that visitors are not harmed while they are present. In this respect, a patron who suffers an allergic reaction and requires medical attention is no different from a patron who chokes on food or happens to suffer a heart attack while at the restaurant. The reasonable steps a restaurant might take include calling 911. Restaurants are not legally required to stock specific antidotes to allergic reactions, like single-use injectable medication.

A restaurant’s negligent response to an allergic reaction may create liability

When a patron suffers an allergic reaction there may not be much time for medical intervention. A restaurant can be liable for negligence if its staff fails to take reasonable steps to respond to the emergency, or if it makes the problem worse by doing things that hurt the patron further. Negligence might apply in cases such as these:
  • The staff does nothing to assist.
  • If the patron indicates that he or she is carrying an injectable medication to relieve the reaction, restaurant staff may have an obligation to assist with the injection.
  • If the patron notifies staff about the allergy but the restaurant serves food with the allergen anyway.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. Our attorneys are available for free consultations to discuss your case. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Proving Causation in Challenging Personal Injury Cases

In every personal injury case the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant’s actions (or inactions) was the legal (or “proximate”) cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Causation is always an issue, even if it is relatively simple. Not every case is as straightforward as “A struck B and B was hurt.” When connecting the dots from the defendant’s negligence to the plaintiff’s injury is not easy, the plaintiff’s attorneys must focus on establishing a strong case for causation. Tracing the consequences of a defendant’s negligence can be difficult for a number of reasons. That is because causation is complicated by a number of related factors:
  • Time. When time passes between a defendant’s negligent action and the resulting injury, showing causation can be more difficult. This is partly because important evidence can be lost to time, as physical evidence can be destroyed, memories can fade, and important witnesses cease to be available (for example, if a key employee of a business defendant is no longer working there).
  • Intervening causes. For a defendant to be held liable for an injury there must not be an intervening act of negligence that could also have caused the injury. Sometimes the plaintiff’s own negligence may have contributed to some or all of the damages suffered by the plaintiff. Other times another person’s wrongful actions were the real cause of the injury, but that person hasn’t been identified. The more time that has passed, the more likely the defendant will argue for intervening causes.
  • Scientific proof. Causation can require a highly technical analysis. The analysis may be of mechanical evidence, such as the failure of a product’s components. Or it may be medical, as in cases involving cancer or other illnesses that are slow to develop. When specialized knowledge is required to prove causation, the plaintiff’s team must make provision for it in their case if they hope to prevail.
Plaintiffs faced with complex causation challenges can overcome them using several approaches. The first is simply the process of uncovering evidence through discovery. In discovery both sides in the litigation ask for documents and conduct interviews (depositions) of individuals with knowledge about the facts of the case. Discovery often uncovers important facts that can be useful for establishing causation where it might otherwise remain hidden. In many cases an expert witness can help the plaintiff provide technical analysis of the causal elements related to an injury. Experts are often invaluable in assisting judges and juries as they examine issues that require more than a commonsense understanding of the facts. Experts are hired by the plaintiff’s attorneys and their fees are typically taken out of the final award, but because their input can be decisive, they are often worth the expense. Proving causation is at the core of a personal injury attorney’s practice. Experienced attorneys know how to use the tools at their disposal to craft winning arguments. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our site.

Who Bears Responsibility for Prescription Drug Overdoses

A drug overdose can cause severe injuries and even death. The National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that deaths from opioid-based prescription pain medications are by far the leading cause of drug-related overdose deaths in the United States. Opioids are not the only class of prescription medication that can lead to abuse and overdose. Medications to treat anxiety and depression, sleep disorders, behavioral problems, and others can also be misused. The specific effects of overdose vary by drug, but can include severe consequences like coma, tremors, or long-term injuries to the brain and other organs. Prescription drug overdoses are a complex problem with many different causes. The individual who suffers an overdose may be a habitual abuser, but overdoses can also happen due to a mistake, such as if someone forgets that they’ve already taken a dose and they keep taking more. An overdose may also result from errors made by the prescribing doctor or the pharmacy supplying the medication.
  • Doctors. Under Nevada law a doctor must exercise reasonable care, skill, or knowledge while treating a patient. Failing to do so is grounds for a professional negligence lawsuit against the doctor. Doctors have many legitimate reasons for prescribing drugs that can have severe negative effects if taken in large doses. Professional negligence can come into play if a doctor fails to act on signs that the patient is abusing the drug or is likely to misuse it.
  • Pharmacies. The role of dispensing pharmacies in the opioid epidemic has received a great deal of attention. Pharmacies follow procedures to ensure that the prescriptions they fill are lawful and accurate. If a pharmacist fails to follow these procedures he or she may be committing a crime as well as placing the patient in danger. In rare cases the pharmacist may also make a mistake, like supplying the wrong dosage, that could lead to overdose.
  • Caregivers. If someone other than the patient is administering medications that person may bear legal responsibility for ensuring that the dosage is correct. Patients who receive home care or who live in residential care facilities may be given incorrect dosages and suffer harm as a consequence.
  • The drug’s manufacturer. In some cases the manufacturer of a drug may bear liability for a patient’s overdose. Among other things, a manufacturer must warn patients about potential side effects of using its products. If a warning label fails to disclose important risks the labeling may be inadequate. The manufacturer may bear responsibility in other ways as well.
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served clients in the Las Vegas area in cases involving personal injury and professional negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered a drug overdose and you have questions about your legal options, please reach out to us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our website.

Suing for Fires Caused by Electric Utility Equipment

Investigations into the cause of last year’s devastating Camp Fire in and around Paradise, California, have focused on equipment owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), a large utility company. The fire, the deadliest in California’s history, may have been started after the failure of a hook supporting components of a 100-year old transposition tower. The hook may have broken due to unusually high winds. In previous wind events, PG&E had shut off power to lines that it believed were at risk of wind damage, but in this case they chose leave the power running. Although the Camp Fire took place in California, it carries important lessons for residents of Nevada who could face a similar disaster. When human error causes a major disaster, litigation often follows. Claims for property damage, loss of life, and impacts to health are all common. Litigation relating to a large fire caused by a utility’s equipment invariably involves a complex mix of parties: the utility itself, its insurers, government, individuals, and businesses of every size may all take part. In the midst of the flurry of legal activity that goes on, an individual who has suffered losses needs to focus on protecting his or her best interests against the competing voices. The fact that electrical lines can cause fires is well understood. Depending on local conditions, a fire can have widespread, severe effects. As a consequence, utilities have an obligation to continuously inspect and maintain their lines. Lines need to be built and maintained to account for foreseeable weather conditions, like high winds or ice storms. Every utility expends significant effort to inspect its lines for potential problems. Despite those efforts, problems can go undetected or, worse, detected problems can be left unaddressed until it’s too late. A lawsuit against a utility for fire-related damages typically asserts that the utility has committed one or more acts of negligence by failing to comply with its obligation to keep its equipment in reasonably safe condition. There are a number of challenges that such a suit will need to overcome:
  • Establishing that the utility’s negligence was the legal cause of the fire itself.
  • Proving that the damages claimed in the lawsuit were the result of the negligence and not due to an intervening cause, such as a lack of adequate fire exits in a building.
  • Collecting on a successful judgement or settlement award against a large number of competing claimants.
An individual who has suffered significant losses in a fire caused by a utility’s negligence should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. The utility will likely offer quick settlement payments to individuals in the hopes that they will accept the quick cash instead of pursuing the full amount of what they are owed. Whether this first offer should be accepted needs to be weighed in light of the case’s full potential. For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented clients in personal injury, wrongful death, and other similar cases. If you or a loved one has suffered significant injuries in a fire, call today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

Admissions of Fault After an Accident in Nevada

Although it isn’t necessarily enough to build an entire case upon, a defendant’s admission of fault can be a powerful piece of evidence in litigation following an accident. An admission of fault might be as simple as an apology, or as detailed as a description of exactly how the fault took place. After an accident if the at-fault driver says something like, “I wasn’t looking where I was going and ran into you!” that statement will be a key part of making sure the defendant is held responsible for paying for the plaintiff’s damages. An admission of fault can come in several forms. Any of these could be used as an admission of fault:
  • Apologizing after an accident. Although many states have what are called “apology laws” that prevent a simple “I’m sorry,” from being used to prove fault, Nevada is not one of them. That means that an apology can be used to help show fault.
  • Posting about an accident on social media. After accidents many defendants make the mistake of admitting fault to their friends and family in emails or social media. Such admissions are discoverable by plaintiffs in litigation, and can undermine the defendant’s contrary arguments in court or in depositions.
  • Admitting fault outside privileged contexts. Beyond electronic communications, admitting fault in a conversation that isn’t covered by a legal privilege—a discussion with an attorney, for example—can serve as evidence just as effectively as a social media post. OF course, the plaintiff needs to know about the conversation to use it.
Just because the defendant admitted fault doesn’t mean that the plaintiff has a slam dunk case. A defendant can always provide countervailing evidence that explains the alleged admission in a variety of ways. A reflexive “I’m sorry” may have little evidentiary value once examined in the context of other facts. The admission may have been made before the individual had a chance to fully understand all the facts of the accident. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation for injuries suffered in auto accidents. If you have questions about your legal options following a serious accident, we are happy to examine your case. Please call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Should You Join a Class Action Lawsuit?

We’ve all encountered plenty of advertising by law firms looking for potential plaintiffs in a wide variety of class action lawsuits. Asbestos-related illnesses, defective medical implants, and questionable auto brakes have all had their day in the advertising limelight. These lawsuits bring together many plaintiffs who have suffered similar injuries into a “class” that collectively pursues its claims against a defendant. The aim is to take advantage of scale to go after defendants that have sophisticated legal defenses at their disposal. For the individuals who are the targets of this advertising the question is often whether joining the firm’s class action lawsuit is the right course of action. Unfortunately, many firms aren’t going to give potential clients a complete picture of their options.

Why you might want to join a class action suit

Despite the problems that we examine below, there are plenty of advantages to clients who are part of a class action. Each client needs to examine their own interests with care, because the general rule doesn’t always apply to the specific case. But for many clients, advantages like these are enough to warrant giving the class action route a serious look:
  • The possibility of recovering compensation for a claim that might otherwise be too small to litigate on its own.
  • Economies of scale achievable by grouping claims together. For example, each client’s recovery may be a bit greater thanks to shared costs (but be careful).
  • Having a seat at the table when the defendant dishes out compensation to the class may be the one opportunity for taking part, as defendants who are found liable in class actions can end up in bankruptcy or spinning off their troubled assets to make future litigation more difficult.
  • A cookie-cutter approach to members of the class may mean less investment of time on the part of each individual client, who typically fills out forms and may only have a small number of personal contacts with the firm handling the litigation.
The downsides of class action suits shouldn’t be ignored. By joining the class action an individual usually waives the right to sue on an individual basis, so the choice should be made only after some careful thought. Here are a few common problems for clients in class actions:
  • The individual client has no control over how the litigation is handled, including how it is resolved.
  • Class action suits can take a long time to resolve.
  • Members of a class rarely recover for any unique circumstances that distinguish them from other members of the class. For example, the case probably won’t compensate someone who has endured especially serious pain.
  • The law firm handling the class action may treat its clients like numbers.
Someone who is considering joining a class action lawsuit should think about consulting with an attorney other than the firm running the solicitation ads. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you have questions about joining a class action suit related to an injury you’ve suffered, contact us today for a free attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

How Attorney-Client Privilege Works in Nevada

Attorney-client privilege is a key component of the American legal system. By ensuring that many kinds of conversations and other interactions between an attorney and client are protected from being subjected to subpoenas and evidence requests, the privilege ensures that clients can have frank, open discussions with attorneys without concern that an opponent might use them in litigation. Like a fortress under siege by an attacking army, attorney-client privilege can come under assault during the course of a case, as opponents look for ways to draw out information that doesn’t qualify for protection. Therefore attorneys and clients need to take care to preserve the privilege wherever possible. Nevada law provides that a client has broad authority to refuse to disclose and prevent others from disclosing confidential communications that fall within three categories:
  1. Communications between the client and the client’s lawyer.
  2. Communications between the client’s lawyer and the lawyer’s representative, such as a paralegal.
  3. Communications made for purposes of facilitating the rendition of professional legal services to the client, such as if the client’s attorney has a discussion with the attorney of a third party about a shared issue.
The attorney-client privilege applies to conversations between an attorney and client even at the very beginning of their relationship, before an engagement letter is signed and even if the client decides to not hire the lawyer. This means, for example, that a preliminary consultation about a potential case would be covered. This allows individuals to seek out advice and evaluate attorneys with an open and honest discussion of their questions. There are several important limits on attorney-client privilege. Some of these limits prevent communications from ever being protected by the privilege, while others simply eliminate it.
  • The client may waive privilege. Waivers can be intentional or accidental. In general, talking about a privileged communication in a nonconfidential context can threaten to destroy its protections, or prevent the privilege from applying.
  • The privilege does not apply to communications by a client who is knowingly seeking advice in connection with planning criminal activity.
  • In certain cases the privilege doesn’t apply where the communications themselves are of central importance to the case. For example, if the attorney helped a deceased client prepare a will, the communications between the client and attorney won’t be privileged if there’s a dispute about the client’s intent. Another example is if the communications pertain to claims of wrongdoing by the attorney.
  • Attorneys are required to disclose information that the attorney believes will prevent a crime that could lead to serious injury or death.
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in cases involving personal injury, workers’ compensation, and other disputes. Contact us today for a free attorney consultation about your case. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

The Role of Jury Selection in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Most personal injury lawsuits end with an out-of-court settlement. Settlements are often preferred by both sides, because they’re cheaper and faster than a full trial, among other things. When a case does go to trial it’s often because the stakes are high and the parties in the dispute are far apart on important legal or factual questions that frustrate their efforts to negotiate a settlement deal. In cases that go in front of a jury, the choice of jurors can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case.

The role of the jury in personal injury cases

The legal profession refers to judges and juries as the triers of fact. Their job is to evaluate the evidence each side in the case presents to reach decisions about the merits of arguments and the questions raised during the course of the trial. Well-established legal rules govern the job of the trier of fact, whether judge or jury. Many of the rules of trials, including evidentiary standards, are designed to protect and enhance the fairness and reliability of the fact-finding process. In a jury trial the judge can be thought of as part referee, part gatekeeper, and part assistant to the jury. The jury does the real work of determining whether the plaintiff has done enough to establish that the defendant is legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, and how much the defendant should be required to pay to make the plaintiff whole. Given their importance, choosing jurors is often a delicate and involved process that attorneys for both sides in the case will take very seriously.

What is jury selection?

In a civil trial the jury selection process can be fraught with challenges. As anyone who has been summoned to jury duty can attest, no one wants to be on the hook for sitting through a long and complicated trial. Potential jurors look for any excuse they can to get out of service. For courts and litigants alike, this presents a tough preliminary challenge: finding enough people to serve. It’s not enough to fill the jury with “live bodies.” The people on the jury also need to be appropriate for the case. Many individuals need to be disqualified for reasons beyond practical problems that would prevent them from serving. Relevant personal biases, potentially distorting backgrounds, or concerns about competence can all play a role in disqualifying jurors in a case. For litigants the jury selection process can be about finding jurors who may be predisposed to look favorably on their case. Finding the “right” juror is a highly sophisticated process that takes into account a wide variety of factors, from a person’s demographics to their responses to specific questions. In every case a judge will oversee the selection process to prevent abuses and distortions that aggressive attorneys might try to introduce at the selection stage.

GGRM is an experienced Nevada personal injury law firm

When it comes to selecting jurors, experience makes all the difference. The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

What is a Personal Injury Annuity?

In a successful personal injury lawsuit, whether it settles out of court or goes all the way to trial, the defendant is ordered to pay the plaintiff compensation for the costs related to the injury. The defendant or the defendant’s insurer typically pays in a lump sum. In some cases, a plaintiff’s cash award is structured as a combination of a lump sum and an annuity, where a series of fixed payments are made over a certain period of time.

How does an annuity work?

Annuities are a kind of insurance product that guarantees a series of payments over the term of the annuity. The annuity might pay out over a beneficiary’s lifetime, or it may be tied to a certain amount of principal that continues to be paid to the beneficiary’s heirs until it is fully paid. The details of an annuity are highly flexible and can be negotiated as part of settlement discussions. The annuity’s total value, payment schedule, and many other details can be adjusted to meet the plaintiff’s needs. Annuities are managed by specialized insurance firms. Because they are complicated financial instruments, annuities often need to be crafted with the help of accountants and other experts who can advise clients on how the value of payments will change over time. A $1,000 monthly payment today will be worth substantially more than the same amount in twenty years. Understanding this principle is a key part of evaluating whether an annuity is the right choice for the plaintiff to accept.

Why an annuity?

Annuities are often a component of a structured settlement, negotiated between the parties. They may come up in contexts where the defendant’s financial resources, including insurance, can’t cover a lump sum payment for the entire amount owed to the plaintiff. During negotiations it may become clear that the defendant’s alternatives are to provide an annuity or to declare bankruptcy in hopes of escaping an unmanageable debt. An annuity can be significantly cheaper than a lump sum payment because its cost is based on the future value of current dollars. Plaintiffs may also prefer annuities to lump sums. A large lump sum payment can trigger significant tax consequences in some circumstances, resulting in a substantial loss of value. A lump sum also poses a practical and behavioral risk for the plaintiff. Someone who receives a check for $2 million may be tempted to spend the money on things other than medical care, even though medical bills are expected to continue to pile up for many years to come. By spreading out payments over a period of time the plaintiff often has an easier time managing the settlement funds. A potential downside of annuities is that if the company that provides the annuity goes out of business, the annuity will vanish.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. Our attorneys are available for free consultations to discuss your injury and your potential settlement options. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.