A Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyer Looks at the Leading Causes of Injury-Related Death

According to the Centers for Disease Control, various kinds of injuries kill about 214,000 Americans per year. There is a big difference between an “accident” and an “injury.”

Accidents are inevitable actions that would have happened no matter what anyone did or did not do. When lightning strikes a house, that’s usually an accident. In terms of personal injury, people accidentally leave the coffee maker on. They do not accidentally drive drunk and kill people.

If a death is truly accidental, there is not much a lawyer can do. But in most cases, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Legal Responsibility

Distracted driving is a good example of legal responsibility, and how it affects financial responsibility. If a driver turns to yell at kids in the back seat and crashes into another vehicle, most Crow Wing County jurors would say that the crash was accidental. But if a driver continually used a cell phone in the moments before a crash, most jurors would say the driver is legally responsible for the wreck.

The duty of care comes into play here. Generally, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers apply a duty of reasonable care to a given situation. This idea comes from the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) which children once had to memorize in school.

In some instances, however, there is a higher duty of care. The doctor-patient relationship is a good example. Doctors owe their patients an exceptionally high duty of care. What may pass for an “accident” in some contexts is an actionable injury in this context.

Liability usually attaches if the tortfeasor (negligent actor) violates the applicable duty of care. Liability also attaches if the tortfeasor violates a safety law or an industry standard. This rule is often called negligence per se. If this doctrine applies, it does not matter how careful, or how careless, the tortfeasor was.

How It Works

Even experienced Brainerd, MN injury attorneys probably got lost in that theoretical discussion. So, let’s see how these principles work regarding the leading causes of injury-related death:

  • Vehicle Collisions: Car crashes are the leading cause of accidental death in the country, and about 95 percent of these incidents involve driver error. That error is usually the violation of a safety law, like speeding or making an illegal lane change, or driver impairment, such as distraction or fatigue.
  • Drug Overdose: The opioid overdose crisis has a number of causes. Obviously, the patients took the pills themselves. But there is more. Frequently, doctors over-prescribed these pain relievers. Almost as frequently, shipping companies transported huge quantities of controlled substances and did not ask any questions. Given the high doctor-patient duty discussed above, both these things are negligent.
  • Falls: Both slip-and-fall injuries and falls from high places cost thousands of lives each year. Many times, the victim had a pre-existing condition that contributed to the death. The landowner is usually 100 percent financially responsible, because of the eggshell skull rule.

In addition to the compensatory damages mentioned above, many wrongful death claims include substantial punitive damages. There is no way to put a price on a human life. But money is the only relief available. And, these damages assuage the grief these families feel and give them the resources to move on. That’s what the deceased person would have wanted.

Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers and Third Party Liability

Frequently, the tortfeasor is not the only party responsible for damages. An owner or employer may be responsible as well. Let’s look back at the three wrongful death causes discussed above and see how third party liability may apply:

  • Car Crashes: If the tortfeasor was an Uber driver, truck driver, or another commercial operator, the employer may be responsible for damages. Similarly, if alcohol impairment caused the wreck, the bar, restaurant, or another commercial provider may be on the hook for damages.
  • Unintentional Poisoning: Clinics that employ negligent doctors may be responsible for damages in these situations. The same thing is true regarding medical misdiagnosis issues, such as cancer or heart disease misdiagnosis.
  • Serious Falls: If the landowner knew or should have known about the hazardous condition which caused the fall, the landowner may be responsible for damages. The duty of care may be slightly different as well, but that’s the subject of another blog.

These third-party liability theories give victims an added source of recovery in wrongful death claims. Many times, individual tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide complete compensation.

Team Up with Diligent Attorneys

Wrongful dearth survivors have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

Understanding Crow Wing County Wrongful Death Claims

Car crashes, falls, and other accidents almost always cause visible and invisible injuries. The visible injuries are usually easier to deal with than the invisible ones. Broken bones, internal injuries, and other such wounds usually heal in a few months, at least to a large extent. But emotional wounds often linger for decades or even longer.

An attorney cannot go back in time and prevent an accident, especially if that accident was someone else’s fault. However, a Brainerd personal injury lawyer can fight for the financial compensation a family deserves. These resources help them carry on. Furthermore, a Brainerd personal injury lawyer can also obtain justice and a sense of closure.

What Causes Wrongful Death?

All kinds of accidents often cause serious injuries. First responders at the scene and doctors at the hospital are often able to save victims, but there is only so much they can do. Some of the leading causes of wrongful death in Minnesota are:

  • Poisonings: Several years ago, unintentional poisonings (usually drug overdoses) overtook motor vehicle collisions and became the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. These deaths include prescription drug-induced incidents as well as heroin overdoses. That illegal drug is usually the next step up for opioid addicts.
  • Motor Vehicle Crashes: Most vehicles are much more crash-resistant today than they were in the 1990s. But prompt medical attention is essential. Many times, especially in rural areas like Brainerd, emergency responders simply cannot get to the scene quickly enough.
  • Falls: These fatal incidents are especially common among victims over 65. Many of these falls occur in area nursing homes. Falls from a height, particularly among construction workers, are a serious problem as well.
  • Suffocations: Smoke inhalation causes most suffocation-related deaths. Many times, these fires are not “accidental.” Sometimes people intentionally cause these fires, and other times, there are not enough working smoke detectors in a building or dwelling.
  • Drownings: Unintentional drowning is the leading cause of death, and not just injury-related death, among children under 4. Especially in situations like these, the brain can only survive without oxygen for a few minutes.

Substantial compensation is usually available in situations like these, as outlined below. A Brainerd personal injury lawyer can review your situation and explain your legal options.

Significantly, many of these types of wrongful death involve third-party liability. For example, in a suffocation death, a landlord might not have provided sufficient safety equipment for tenants. Vicarious liability is very important in wrongful death cases, because the individual tortfeasor (negligent actor) may not have sufficient insurance coverage to provide fair compensation.

Your Claim for Damages

There is an old saying among Brainerd personal injury lawyers that wherever there is a wrong, there is a remedy. That saying is not always accurate, but it is true in this context. Several different approaches might be available, and poisoning deaths are a good illustration. Different responsible parties may trigger different theories of liability:

  • Manufacturer and Defective Product: Opioid manufacturers already face over 1,000 lawsuits which allege that they deceptively marketed pain pills and/or the manufacturers knew these pills were dangerous. Typically, manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries that their defective products cause.
  • Opioid Distributors and Negligence Per Se: The companies which delivered pain pills to Brainerd pharmacies are not just shipping companies. Under federal law, these firms must not put dangerous drugs in the hands of ordinary people. Arguably, that is exactly what happened. If a tortfeasor violated a safety law, and that violation substantially caused injury, the tortfeasor is responsible for damages as a matter of law.
  • Physicians and Negligence: Negligence is basically a lack of ordinary care. Treating physicians who prescribe powerful opioids when something weaker would suffice arguably violate their duty of care. The same thing applies to doctors who write opioid prescriptions and do not ask questions. These claims are normally easy for Brainerd personal injury lawyers to establish in court, because the doctor-patient duty is extremely high.

Wrongful death victims may be entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages. Additional punitive damages are available if the tortfeasor behaved recklessly or intentionally disregarded a known risk. Doctors and corporations that place profits before people certainly fit that mold.

Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers and Procedural Issues

In most cases, survivors who were related to the deceased person by blood or marriage may file a wrongful death action in Minnesota. If the survivors are from out of state or otherwise unable to pursue a claim, they may ask a Crow Wing County judge to appoint a trustee. These individuals are generally entitled to pecuniary losses. Such losses include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses,
  • Medical bills related to the deceased’s final illness or injury,
  • Loss of future emotional and financial support, and
  • Their own grief and suffering.

Minnesota’s wrongful death statute is more victim-friendly than the laws in some other states. Many other jurisdictions sharply limit the compensation that wrongful death survivors may obtain.

Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys

Wrongful death wounds cut very deeply. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers and Physician Negligence

When doctors become doctors, they swear that even if they can do no good, they must do no harm. Unfortunately, not all physicians live up to that commitment later in their careers.

Generally, doctors are morally and personally responsible for their own mistakes, just like the rest of us. But legal responsibility is different. Typically, the hospital, clinic, or other entity which employs the doctor is liable for damages in physician-related wrongful death claims. That’s true in negligence cases and some intentional tort claims as well.

Mistakes like the ones outlined below often inflict significant economic and noneconomic damages on Minnesota families. A Brainerd personal injury lawyer may be able to obtain compensation for these losses.

Prescription/Medication Errors

Some physicians prescribe incredibly powerful opioid pain relievers, like Fentanyl, for relatively mild injuries, such as a broken leg. Fentanyl is fifty times stronger than heroin, so patients easily become addicted. In fact, many Fentanyl patients develop opioid addictions even if they take the drug exactly as directed.

To continue taking painkillers after their original doctors cut them off, many patients seek out doctors at “pill mills.” These physicians write prescriptions and do not ask too many questions. Failure to examine the patient’s medical history in these cases is clear evidence of negligence. Consulting the patient’s history, ignoring it, and writing a prescription anyway is even worse.

On a related note, Brainerd personal injury lawyers sometimes become involved in nursing home medication error cases. At a busy care facility, it’s very easy to give the wrong patient the wrong kind of medicine. Alternatively, it’s also easy to misplace a decimal point or transpose two numbers and give a resident the incorrect dose. These explanations do not excuse negligence, and the care facility is still liable for damages.

Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers and Birth Injuries

Nothing turns utter joy into utter heartbreak like a serious birth injury. Furthermore, even if the victim survives, the family often faces a lifetime of further heartache and mounting medical bills.

Shoulder dystocia is one of the most common causes of birth injuries in Minnesota. If the baby is too large to move down the mother’s birth canal, the umbilical cord continues dropping. In a matter of minutes, it will cut off oxygen to the baby’s brain. Since doctors know that the clock is ticking, they often get desperate and turn to dangerous delivery aids, such as:

  • Vacuum Extractor: The doctor places a metal cap on the baby’s head and uses a surgical vacuum to literally suck the child out of the mother’s womb. The excessive force often causes fatal injuries to the fragile newborn. Additionally, if not fitted exactly right, the metal cap will cause a permanent brain injury.
  • Forceps: This mechanical delivery instrument resembles a pair of giant salad tongs. The doctor uses forceps to pull the baby out of the womb. Much like a vacuum extractor, forceps often cause several types of fatal injuries.
  • Episiotomy: Once upon a time, doctors routinely made incisions on the mother’s perineum to widen the birth canal. Doctors now know that these incisions often cause uncontrollable maternal bleeding. But when the pressure is on, some doctors fall back on what they once knew.

Other infants and mothers develop serious or fatal hospital infections, perhaps due to something like the Bair Hugger Warming Blanket. This gadget sucks dirty air from the floor, heats it so bacteria grows even faster, and uses it to warm the patient’s blanket.

Misdiagnosis

On average, doctors listen to their patients for eleven seconds before they redirect or interrupt them. After such brief interaction, it’s impossible to know anything meaningful about a patient’s symptoms. So, misdiagnosis is a serious problem, especially with regard to:

  • Cancer: Most doctors see cancer as a lifestyle or genetic disease. So for example, they hardly ever diagnose lung cancer in nonsmokers, breast cancer in men, or bladder cancer in young people.
  • Head Injuries: Many head injury victims are either young children or older adults. When these individuals complain about symptoms like confusion or disorientation, doctors often assign the symptoms to shock from the accident or early-onset dementia. The longer head injuries go undiagnosed, the more difficult they are to treat.
  • Heart Attacks: In many cases, heart attacks lack signature symptoms. For example, many female heart attack victims do not have severe chest pains. Moreover, like cancer, many doctors see heart attacks as lifestyle or genetic conditions.

Making matters worse, many doctors do not order a full battery of tests. They are afraid that the insurance company will not pay for the procedures.

Surgical Errors

It is hard to believe that a doctor could operate on the wrong patient, remove the wrong limb, leave a surgical object inside a patient’s body, or make other such mistakes. However, errors like these are not unheard of, especially in very busy emergency or operating rooms.

Sometimes, a Brainerd personal injury lawyer may be able to obtain higher damages in surgical error cases than in other kinds of medical negligence claims. Mistakes like the ones mentioned above are shockingly negligent. Additionally, some courts consider these claims to be battery, which is an intentional tort.

Contact Aggressive Attorneys

Medical negligence often leads to wrongful death. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

BRAIN-EATING AMOEBAS: A WRONGFUL DEATH YOU CAN AVOID

If you are planning to head out of state to go to a water park, you may want to know about the risk of brain-eating amoebas. The amoebas have been in the news several times before, but in June 2017, it cost a young woman her life after she visited a water park in North Carolina. She was only 18. Her family now plans to sue the water park for her wrongful and preventable death.

Situations like this are difficult for anyone to deal with. In this case, the young woman had been whitewater rafting when the boat overturned and she went into the water at the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s attraction. Just a few days later, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with an infection from Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba. It took her life in 11 days.

If you plan to go to a waterpark, you can avoid this amoeba with a little bit of education. It’s most common in warm freshwater and soil, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It doesn’t live in salt water, so it’s safer to go to pools or parks that use salt water in their systems. It enters the body through the nose where it has quick access to the brain, so wearing nose plugs and keeping your head above water can help you avoid an infection.

Incidents like this may be avoidable with the proper management of water systems. If you lose a loved one due to this infection, you may also have a claim for compensation.

Source: CNN, “Family of teen who died from brain-eating amoeba sues water park,” Amanda Watts, accessed July 18, 2017

MAN PINNED BETWEEN TOOL BOX AND TRUCK DIES

There are times when accidents happen between family members or friends. While no one wants to sue or to seek compensation from someone they’re close to, it’s a good idea to seek compensation after an accident. If you are hurt financially because of an accident caused by someone, even if that person is related to you or a friend, you deserve to be compensated.

This is a case that could present that difficulty. A man from Western Minnesota was killed when a truck being driven by his friend and sometimes coworker accelerated into him inside an auto shop. According to the news from Oct. 16, the man died after a pickup truck pinned him against a tool chest.

The man was working in the auto shop when his friend pulled the vehicle onto a lift. He pushed the brake down as far as it would go, but he accidentally hit the acceleration pedal with his heel. At that point, the truck rolled back over the safety bump on the lift and hit the 55-year-old man. There was nowhere for the tool chest behind the man to go, since it was against a brick wall. He suffered crushing injuries. Right now, the investigators believe this was an accident. The investigation is ongoing.

This is a sad event for the family of the man who died and his friend as well. In cases like this, it’s still important to file a claim for a loved one’s wrongful death. It isn’t personal; instead, look at the case as a financial decision. There is no reason you should have to suffer financially as a result of an error.

Source: TwinCities.com, “Western Minnesota man killed as truck accidentally accelerates in auto shop,” Oct. 16, 2017

ELDERLY WOMAN DIES FROM LISTERIA MONOCYTOGENES SEPSIS

When a company sells a food item, it’s important that it makes sure the item is safe. As long as it is within its appropriate dates, the vendor may not be aware of issues with the product. However, manufacturers and producers should be testing their products for safety. If a batch turns up with listeria or other serious bacterial contamination, it’s vital that no one eats the food.

Listeria caused a death in this case involving an elderly woman. Now, a woman from Rochester is suing Kwik Trip for her mother’s death. According to the Nov. 3 story, the woman’s mother died after eating a caramel apple in 2014. That apple contained listeria, which caused her to develop Listeria monocytogenes sepsis, a potentially fatal infection from a foodborne pathogen.

The woman fell ill on Nov. 22, 2014 and died just five days later. She was 83.

Her daughter, who is also her trustee, is seeking a minimum of $50,000 for the wrongful death of her mother. She has filed a claim against Excellence, Kwik Trip, PureFresh Sales, H. Brooks Co. and Bidart Bros.

The senior director of food regulations at Kwik Trip stated that the company doesn’t process, grow or manufacture the caramel apples, so he doesn’t believe that the company will be held liable for the death.

While not everyone in a case like this may be held accountable for a person’s death, it’s true that at least one company or manufacturer could be. Your attorney can help you file a claim against anyone who could be held responsible, so you have the highest chance of obtaining compensation for your losses.

Source: TwinCities.com, “Rochester woman sues Kwik Trip, others after mother died of tainted caramel apple in 2014,” S.M. Chavey, Nov. 03, 2017

BILL PAXTON’S FAMILY FILES LAWSUIT ALLEGING MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

When a surgeon takes risks that he or she doesn’t need to take, it could put a patient’s life at risk. It’s important for people who operate on patients to understand the full risks of procedures and to choose to perform only those they’re confident in.

Patients need to know the full truth about operations and treatments before they decide to get them. If they’re misled, it’s a good reason to file a claim for medical malpractice.

That’s what’s happening in this case involving the family of Bill Paxton. If you follow celebrity news, then you may remember the death of Bill Paxton. The actor had to have heart surgery, but something went wrong and he passed away.

A new lawsuit from his family states that the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center allowed its surgeon to use an unconventional surgery technique that was extremely high risk. The family believes that the technique was not the right one for the job and was unnecessary. They claim the surgeon did not have the experience to perform the procedure and didn’t make clear the risks before getting Paxton to agree to the surgery.

The family’s lawsuit claims that the surgeon previously showed poor judgment regarding a patient’s needs. During Paxton’s surgery, the treatment resulted in excessive bleeding, a compromised coronary artery and cardiogenic shock, they claim. Paxton died 11 days following surgery from a stroke, according to his death certificate from Feb. 25, 2017.

Situations like this may come down to a patient’s individual health, but taking any risk beyond what’s necessary is negligent. Surgeons need to know better than to do something they’re not familiar with on a patient; patients rely on them to make good decisions. If you or a family member are hurt by a surgical error, remember that you can file a claim.

Source: ABC News, “Bill Paxton family sues hospital, doctor for wrongful death,” Feb. 13, 2018

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