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Texas Personal Injury News

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Years After Officer's Death, Texas County Sues His Family for Medical Expenses

Does the statute of limitations bar a county from trying to recover medical costs after waiting for five years?

In 2010, a Texas sheriff's deputy responded to a call seeking assistance with a traffic stop of a possible stolen car. With flashing lights and siren on, he sped to the scene but, en route, had to swerve to avoid soundproofing that fell off a flatbed truck. Gravely injured, he died eight days later in the hospital.

The deputy's father and son both sued the company that owned the flatbed truck and its driver. The deputy's widow settled with the company separately, out of court.

Years later, Fort Bend County has sued the widow and her two children seeking recovery of $300,000 in medical costs it paid when the officer was hospitalized before his death.

The county says it "is entitled to the first monies paid by any third party," notably the funds the trucking company to paid the victim's family.

Attorneys for the victim's family say that the county missed its chance to sue and is now barred by the statute of limitations, which, they say, expired two years after the accident. There were, say the attorneys, at least two previous opportunities for the county to try to recover the medical costs, but now, five years on, it is too late.

A local petition drive has expressed outrage that the county is seeking reimbursement from the late officer's family and has called upon Fort Bend to drop the suit. The county insists it is duty-bound to try to recover taxpayers' funds. The family of the victim, however, regards the lawsuit as "a sucker punch.” As of this writing, the case was still moving forward.

Surviving a personal tragedy emotionally is, sadly, often only part of the challenge. Often a pitched legal battle ensues over fair compensation for plaintiffs, with defendants launching unexpected defenses and counterattacks. If you have suffered from the carelessness or wrongdoing of others, it is important to have an expert personal injury law firm on your side to help you gain and keep the upper hand.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Serious Consequences, Including Cobalt Toxicity, Result from Metal Hip Implants

What are some of the dangerous complications of having metal hip replacements?

Though many recipients of metal hip implants have been completely satisfied with their medical devices, thousands of patients who have gone through the surgery have reported serious problems. It a great many cases, such dissatisfaction has resulted in recalls, lawsuits, and even government action.

While over the past many years, metal hip replacements have become increasingly common as an improvement on plastic and ceramic prosthetics for replacement of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip, promising relief from the severe pain of osteoarthritis or athletic injury, there has been a high rate of complications with these metal devices. This has been true whether the patients having metal hip replacements were over or under the age of 50. Since 285,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed each year, and since medical research has shown a failure rate as high as 50 percent within six months, we are talking about a very serious problem.

Types of Problems Reported with Metal Hip Implants

Many types of problems have arisen with metal hip implants, including:

  • Metal debris left inside the body
  • Cobalt Toxicity, when flakes of cobalt enter the body
  • Other metallosis, when metallic components in implants abrade one another

When metal hip replacements fail, they require surgical replacement.

Symptoms of Metallosis and Cobalt Toxicity

Metallosis occurs when two portions of the joint replacement rub against one another, causing metal flakes to chip off and enter adjacent tissues and blood vessels. This can result in pain around the hip joint, as well as swelling and inflammation, numbness, bone loss, tissue death, and a recurrence of mobility problems. Even more frightening, metal flakes can travel to other organs, such as the heart, leading to dangerous complications.

Cobalt Toxicity

In addition to the symptoms brought about by other types of metallosis, when cobalt has been used as the material for the hip replacement, patients may also suffer from cobalt toxicity. Elevated cobalt levels can result in fever, inflammation, and lowered thyroid hormone levels. In severe cases, patients can also experience heart failure, loss of vision, loss of hearing, and organ damage.

Recalls and Lawsuits

Because of the high rate of failure in metal hip replacements, most manufacturers no longer sell them. Not only did the various patient injuries lead to widespread negative media coverage, increased research studies, and elevated levels of government regulation, but thousands of patients filed product liability lawsuits against the manufacturers of the defective replacement hips. Some manufacturers have already settled hip replacement lawsuits. Johnson and Johnson (the parent company of DePuy Orthopedics), for example, has agreed to settle claims for $2.5 billion. Lawsuits against other metal hip replacement manufacturers are still pending.

If you have suffered personal injury or illness as a result of an artificial hip replacement or the implantation of some other medical device, be sure to contact an attorney experienced in this particular branch of law to find out whether you are entitled to monetary compensation. You may be entitled to a new replacement joint, as well as damages even if you have not yet experienced any pain or difficulty.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Texas Man Files Product Liability Lawsuit against Gun Manufacturer Following Loss of Leg

Consumer product manufacturers are under a heightened duty to ensure their goods are safe and hazard-free. If a product is dangerous, with the potential to cause injury, manufacturers design the product in the safest way possible to help minimize the risk of severe, catastrophic injuries, and must issue clear warnings as well.

With extremely dangerous items, like guns or explosives, manufacturers are under what is known as a “strict” product liability standard –- or, the product is so inherently dangerous, the plaintiff will prevail in his or her lawsuit regardless of any applicable defenses to the plaintiff’s allegations.

Relying on these principles, a Texas man recently filed a product liability lawsuit against Remington, the gun manufacturer, after losing his leg to an accidental gunshot wound. According to the allegations, a defect in the man’s hunting rifle –- known as the “Model 700” – caused the gun to discharge unexpectedly.  More specifically, the man alleges he was sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle while on a hunting trip with friends. Immediately preceding the injury, a friend handed him the rifle – muzzle side down – after which he transferred the gun from his right side to the left. In so doing, the gun went off, striking the man’s right leg, and ultimately requiring an amputation.

Remington rifles have been named in an onslaught of lawsuits, particularly pertaining to problems with the trigger—which is known to discharge the weapon without actually being pulled. More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that a bolt located near the trigger will cause the gun to discharge when simply tapped or bumped, creating an exceedingly dangerous situation for consumers.

Recently, Remington settled a series of trigger-defect lawsuits involving its previous design known as the “Walker Fire Control.” Its replacement trigger design, known as the “X-Mark Pro” has been subject to substantially fewer lawsuits, but consumers are claiming defects with the new design nonetheless.

If you are facing a recent injury with a consumer product, including an appliance, automobile or firearm, contact an experienced and skilled personal injury attorney promptly to discuss your legal options to obtain compensation.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Johnson & Johnson Negligent in Talc-Ovarian Cancer Case

Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a St. Louis jury to pay $62 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer after using the company's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for feminine hygiene. The company was found guilty of negligence, failure to warn (a key element of the case), and conspiracy to conceal risks associated with its products. Of the $72 million award, $10 million were for compensatory damages and $62 million were added for punitive damages.

The trial is the first of 1,200 ovarian cancer claims filed in the last two years against J&J and the company that supplied the talc -- the ingredient that was found to be the cause of the deceased woman's ovarian cancer. The company said in a statement that it is committed to the safety and health of consumers and reiterated its belief, "supported by decades of scientific evidence," that cosmetic talc is safe. J&J is expected to appeal the verdict.

During the trial, the company argued there was no evidence directly linking talc to ovarian cancer and without a causal connection, there was no reason to warn consumers of the risks.

The Grim Statistics of Ovarian Cancer

  • About 20,000 U.S. women annually are diagnosed with ovarian cancer
  • The disease strikes about one in 70 women
  • More than 14,000 women die each year of the disease

As it relates to this case, there are studies, refuting J&J's claims of no causal connection, indicating a higher ovarian cancer rate of 35 percent in women who use talc-based powder for feminine hygiene. Moreover, the talc powders have been used by many women for long periods of time. Talc is said to be the "softest of minerals," which is widely used in industrial and consumer products, including paints, paper, rubber, roofing and ceramic materials, a filler in capsules and pills and in cosmetics, as well as a food additive.

Warning Signs of Talc and Ovarian Cancer

The potential of a possible link between talc and ovarian cancer was first revealed by British researchers in 1971 who found talc particles embedded in 10 ovarian tumors. More than 10 years later, a study in the journal Cancer showed a "statistical link" between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. A more recent study by a co-author of that report found a 33 percent higher rate of ovarian cancer among women who used talc for feminine hygiene. Moreover, in a prior case against J&J in 2013, a jury found the company guilty of failure to warn of the ovarian cancer risks, but awarded no damages because they were not convinced of a direct link to talc use.

Based on these studies, some health advocates have been calling on talc manufacturers to warn against using the products for genital hygiene. While it remains to be seen whether J&J will prevail in its appeal, the possible link between talc and ovarian cancer, and the company's failure to warn consumers, will be the overarching issue in the 1,200 claims the company is facing. In the end, proving negligence because of a failure to warn requires the skills of a personal injury attorney who is well-versed in product liability law.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Family Sues Utility for Wrongful Death after It Cuts Off Power to Oxygen Machine


Can a power company be liable for damages when it cuts off electricity for non-payment? 

Patients who depend on oxygen machines to survive require electricity 24/7. Tragically, when the Sam Houston Electric Company cut power to one of its subscribers for non-payment of $129.62, the result proved fatal. The family of the deceased is seeking in excess of $1 million in damages for


Read more . . .


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Legislating Reduction of Health Risks from Tainted Medical Devices

Can new warning system help track negligence regarding medical products?

Tragically, many serious infections and deaths have been spread in hospital settings because of tainted medical scopes. This shocking finding, recently reported by members of Congress, federal officials and health-policy experts, has prompted intense dissatisfaction with the FDA's surveillance system for such devices, a system which is clearly inadequate, relying too heavily on manufacturer's reportage of problems with their own products.

 Being aware of the serious problem is the easy part; remedying the federal warning system to warn doctors and patients of the risk of scopes, implants and surgical tools is much more challenging, involving as it does overcoming partisan Congressional divides and involving increased government funding. Many foresee years before a more effective system can be put into place.

Patient advocates and federal auditors are not the only ones with doubts about the FDA's commitment and ability to reform the system, since there has been criticism of agency oversight of medical devices since the 1990s. As recently as January 13th of this year, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) presented evidence of an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, originating from defective duodenoscopes (used for gastrointestinal examinations and procedures) that had spread throughout the country. In addition, Senators investigating the problem cited 19 superbug outbreaks that had sickened nearly 200 patients for 2012 to 2015. Amidst concern that these outbreaks were occurring, no substantive action was taken, and 68 more patients developed serious infection.

Sen. Murray has proposed a new system for tracking medical devices that would make use of insurance claims to supplement injury forms. Such a system would be similar to the method now used to monitor prescription drugs which works in a much more timely fashion. Robert M. Califf, President Obama’s nominee for FDA commissioner, has endorsed this data-driven approach.

One aspect of the new proposal, putting bar codes on every instrument, is already underway, being phased in over the next few years. Unless such bar codes are included on insurance claim forms, however, they are unlikely to be of much help. The hope is that tracking device IDs will work as car ID numbers do, enabling patients across the country to be notified promptly in regard to a defect device so that they could be checked for signs of possible infection immediately at the nearest hospital.

If you have suffered an infection or injury as a result of a defective medical device, you should contact personal injury attorneys with specific knowledge of the law surrounding defective medical devices so that you can be appropriately compensated for your pain, suffering, and/or resulting disability.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Family Files $500 million Negligence Lawsuit After Fatal House Fire


 In an unbelievable Christmas Day tragedy, a couple was killed and a dozen more people were injured when an unexpected explosion rocketed the roof right off a San Benito, Texas home – and now, surviving loved ones want answers. According to preliminary information, the explosion was caused by a possible propane leak affecting a tank immediately adjacent to the home. And, in a Read more . . .


Friday, February 12, 2016

The Basics of Personal Injury Lawsuits


Under what circumstances, and how, do personal injury cases proceed?

Personal Injury cases are legal disputes arising from a circumstance in which one person suffers harm from an accident or injury and believes that someone else or some other entity (such as a corporation) is legally responsible for the resulting physical and emotional harm.

The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, either before a lawsuit is filed, once one has been filed, or even after the case goes to the judge or jury.

The Stages of a Personal Injury Case

The stages of a personal injury case may include some, or all, of the following: 

  • Attorney consultation to discuss details of case and to see if you two are a good fit
  • Filing initial court papers
  • Fact-finding and discovery, including getting information from the opposing team regarding physical evidence, witnesses, and medical data
  • Resolution before trial -- frequently there are Motions to Dismiss before trial
  • Settlement -- in most cases lawyers on both sides negotiate a settlement, sometimes a structured settlement
  • Trial -- if the case is not settled, it goes to trial
  • Collecting money after judgment
  • Appealing a decision or judgment

There may be a limited time frame after the injury occurs during which a personal claim may be filed.
Read more . . .


Saturday, January 30, 2016

How does the law define personal injury in terms of damage to prosthetic limbs?

Modern technology continues to force society to redefine its concepts. This is now becoming evident in the arena of personal injury. Traditionally, "personal injury" has referred to injury to the body, clearly understood to mean human tissue. All other damages were considered to affect "property." Today, however, as more and more prosthetics are coming into use, the distinction between the biological and the mechanical is becoming less and less clear.

 

A recent conference at the University of Oxford entitled "Human Enhancement and the Law: Regulating for the Future," focused on the legal ramifications of technological developments. At this conference it was postulated that "Legal responses to damage [of a prosthetic] that treat it simply as property damage may be inadequate." Many concerned professionals are working to expand the concepts of personal injury to include damage to prosthetics and other technological devices that are integrated into the human body.

Increasingly, prosthetic devices not only interface with body parts, but are fused to them, as in the case of osseointegration, a process in which a prosthetic is fused permanently to the bone marrow of an amputee. More and more, prostheses are being activated by electrical signals originating in the patient's own muscles, responsive in ways biological body parts would be. Neurotechnology is now capable of enabling users of prosthetic devices to control their bionic limbs mentally, as well as to receive sensory feedback from them.

In terms of the law, it is clear that changes will have to be made in how personal injury is defined in order to keep up with our changing world. When a prosthetic limb functions in the same way a biological limb does, it is difficult to maintain that an injury to the device is "property damage." In cases involving vehicular or workplace accident, medical malpractice or assault, it may soon become insufficient to charge those responsible with damaging property. Once damage to prosthetic devices is put into the category of personal injury, responsible parties will be subject to much harsher penalties and victims will be entitled to much greater compensation.

Though it may seem logical to include prosthetic devices under the umbrella of "body parts," there are several specific issues to be considered where law is concerned, such as:

  • Prostheses are not part of a person at birth
  • Prostheses are constructed of metal and plastic, not human tissue
  • Prostheses do not contain DNA
  • Prostheses are replaceable

Nonetheless, advocates of making changes to the definition of personal injury argue that prostheses become part of the human body, not only physically, technologically, and neurologically, but psychologically. As an adopted child becomes fully the "real" child of its adoptive parents, the prosthetic limb becomes a "real" part of the body. Its injury is nothing if not personal.

If you suffer a serious personal injury, whether to a natural or prosthetic part of your body, it is essential that you contact a skilled personal injury attorney to ensure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Problem With Teflon

Did DuPont cover-up the health risks associated with the manufacture of Teflon?

 

Teflon, a chemical commonly used in kitchen items, such as non-stick cookware, has been linked to some serious health issues. DuPont, the company that produces millions of pounds of Teflon every year, has been accused of hiding the health risks associated with the manufacturing of the chemical Perfluorooctanoic (PFOA), or C8, which is used to smooth the texture of Teflon.

 

At this time, there have been more than 3,500 private lawsuits brought against DuPont alleging that the company was negligent in it’s production of Teflon. C8 is a white powdery substance that easily mixes with the air. It has been found that most American’s have this chemical in their bloodstreams as a result of its common use in everyday items. But, residents of Ohio and West Virginia, where Teflon is manufactured, have been exposed to so much of the chemical that it has made them sick. Apparently, DuPont disposed of the product by burying it along the Ohio River, dumping it into the ocean and leaving it in so-called “non-hazardous” landfills in these states. 

 

The real problem is that it has been confirmed that the company knew of the dangers of C8 but allowed people to be exposed to it anyway. Testing in DuPont’s own labs showed evidence of the toxicity of C8 all the way back to the 1960s, but the company allowed the chemical to seep into the water and escape into the air anyway. Individuals started becoming ill and the ailments were eventually linked to exposure to this chemical.

 

So far, C8 been linked to testicular and kidney cancers, pregnancy-induced hypertension, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and thyroid disease. People began to sue in 2001 and a major class action lawsuit followed. The first of these cases has recently been decided after years of litigation and a jury found that DuPont was negligent in allowing the chemical to seep into a woman’s drinking water causing her to suffer from cancer. The EPA also sued DuPont after evidence of the widespread contamination surfaced.

 

Exposure to certain chemicals can cause serious health problems to occur. If you think that you may have been harmed due to a toxic substance, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if you are entitled to compensation.

 

 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Texas Personal Injury Laws

What are the laws specific to Texas concerning personal injury?

If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit in Texas, you should be aware of some of the Lone Star State's personal injury statutes that may affect your case. While there are relatively similar laws throughout the United States concerning personal injury, there are some differences from state to state and it is important to be aware of them.

Time Limits on Personal Injury Lawsuits

All states have statutory limits on personal injury claims, meaning that the time you have to go to court and file a lawsuit after you have suffered an injury is limited. This deadline is referred to as statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Texas is 2 years from the date of the injury. You must file a lawsuit in the state's civil court system within these 2 years or the Texas civil court will almost certainly refuse to hear your case and you will have forfeited your right to compensation.

Shared Fault Rules

In certain personal injury cases, the individual or business you are suing argues that you are fully or partially responsible for the incident that resulted in your injuries. If your opponent can prove that you share some degree of liability, the amount of your compensation will be negatively affected.

If the court rules that fault is shared, Texas applies a "modified comparative negligence rule," meaning that the amount of your compensation will be decreased by the amount equal to the percentage of your fault in the incident. If you are found to be more than 50 percent responsible, you won't be able to collect anything from the other party.

Not only will all Texas courts follow this rule, but the rule of modified comparative negligence rule also comes into play during settlement negotiations.

Owner Liability for Animal Injuries

Texas has no specific laws governing liability for dog bites or other animal-inflicted injuries

In Texas, owners are held liable for injuries caused by an animal they own only if the injured individual can demonstrate that the owner knew, or should have known, that the animal was dangerous. Known as the “one bite” rule, this law means that, if the owner has had a dog (or other animal) for 10 years and the dog has never shown aggressive tendencies during that time, the first time the dog bites someone, the owner is off the hook. Once the dog has bitten someone, however, the owner has been forewarned and will be held responsible for the second offense.

Caps on Malpractice Injury Damages

 

In Texas, caps on damages only apply to medical malpractice cases. In most medical malpractice cases, for example, damage amounts meant to compensate for pain and suffering, as opposed to financial reimbursement for medical or rehabilitation costs, are limited to $250,000 for each plaintiff and $500,000 overall. Where such cases involve a wrongful death, however, the cap is adjusted for inflation so that, although it began at $500,000 in 1977, it has now reached $1.9 million.

Claims against the Government of Texas

In Texas, as in many other states, if your injury case involves government liability, there are further complexities involved. For one thing, in such cases, you must file a formal claim of intention to sue with the government unit you believe to be responsible for causing your injury before you can file the actual lawsuit. For another, you have only 6 months to file such a claim. The claim of injury must include a description of the damage or injury, the specific time and place of the incident, and a review of the circumstances that occurred.

Though it is certainly helpful to understand the legal underpinning of personal injury law in Texas, there is no substitute for hiring a skilled personal injury attorney. If you have suffered a personal injury, seek a law firm with the experience and know-how to handle your case while you concentrate on healing.


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