Do Side Air Bags Pose a Risk to My Children?

Front air bags have been required in all passenger cars since 1998.  Since that time, automakers have capitalized on the safety of adding side-impact air bags as a selling point.  Are side impact air bags really necessary?  Side impact air bags offer protection from fast-moving chunks on metal and glass which can fly freely in a side impact.  The majority of side impact deaths are a result of head injuries from a driver or passenger striking their head against a window. Side air bags are designed to protect your head and/or chest in an automobile accident stemming from the side of your vehicle.

 The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reports side impact air bags can decrease deaths from side-impact crashes up to 45%.  Luckily, side impact airbags are designed to stay inflated longer than a front air bag, adding additional protection in a roll-over accident.  Side air bags, like front air bags, still provide a risk to small children or infants at high speeds.  Children are most vulnerable to injuries from air bags in the neck and head area.  Although many cars are now equipped with side airbags, there are no guidelines requiring them as standard equipment in new cars.  Never allow children under the age of 12 to ride in the front passenger seat of the car.  Air bags are designed to work with the lap and shoulder belt to protect an occupant in the event of a crash so all passengers age 13 and older should wear both a lap and shoulder belt when riding in the front seat.

Some side air bags are mounted from the roof of the vehicle, which position has not indicated a risk to children.  These airbags are tested by a Technical Working Group (TWG) and will have an “M” (meets requirement) in the column labeled “SAB Out of Position Testing” in your owners’ manual and are considered safe for children.  However, very few cars sold in the United States have this type of side airbag.  If you cannot determine if your side air bags have been deemed safe for children, you can call your car manufacturer for information regarding the type of air bag which comes standard in your make and model of car.

 For more information or for additional tips about air bag safety, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website.

Lexapro Effectively Treats Depression, but Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?

Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults or about 6.7 percent of the United States population, age 18 and older (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 June; 62(6): 617-27).  It’s not surprising that pharmaceutical antidepressants have become such a big business.  Unfortunately, all synthetic medications come with side effects.  Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro and Zoloft are Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which increase the extracellular level of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can alter a person’s mood.

Lexapro was first introduced by Forest Laboratories in 2002, with generic versions approved in 2012, when the drug’s patent expired.  The drug received a black-box warning from the FDA regarding the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in patients younger than 25 in 2004.  In 2006, Lexapro was given a grade C by the Food and Drug Administration for its level of safety when used during pregnancy.  Even so, the benefits of the drug sometimes outweigh the risks for some expectant mothers, therefore its use continues to gain approval.   In June of 2013, Lexapro (Escitalopram – generic version) was added to the MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program of the Food and Drug Administration.

Dangers to an unborn fetus, however, have led to birth defects including Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of Newborns (PPHN), Cleft Palette and/or Cleft Lip, heart defects, neural tube defects, limb defects, spina bifida and cranial defects.  Lawsuits stemming from the use of Lexapro allege a lack of warning about the dangers of the medication.  In 2010, Forest Laboratories was ordered to pay more than $300 million for illegally marketing Lexapro, as well as two other drugs.  The lawsuits are filed in two multidistrict litigation lawsuits in federal court in Massachusetts and Missouri.  Other lawsuits have been filed separate from the federal mass tort litigation for both increased risks of suicide and birth defects occurring after taking the drug during pregnancy.

If you or a loved one have experienced adverse reactions after taking Lexapro or Escitalopram, contact an attorney knowledgeable in mass tort litigation for an evaluation of your case.


Can I Protect My Parents from Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Negligence?

As our parents begin to age, we are reminded of our responsibility to protect them.  Elderly persons are at risk for bullying, being taken advantage of financially through scams, falls, and even neglect by those to whom we entrust their care.  We see them become more physically frail, sometimes even suffering dementia or other mental deficiencies as a result of age.  They will often lose their memory, eyesight, hearing or just not be able to think as clearly as they once did.  How do we detect elder abuse?  We try to keep in touch with our parents in order to avoid physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment or financial exploitation.

We must even be wary of healthcare fraud and abuse.  Some of the ways elderly people can be taken advantage of are by healthcare professionals not providing heathcare, but charging for it, overcharging or double billing for medical care and services, overmedicating or undermedicating, Medicaid or Medicare fraud, or even recommending fraudulent remedies for illnesses or other medical conditions.

Nursing homes are a primary location for elder abuse or nursing home neglect.  Some of the warning signs you should watch for are:

  • Unexplained signs of injury such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two side of the body
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  • Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more remaining than it should)
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames
  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone
  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

Classic examples of nursing home negligence include falls, medication errors and chronic bedsores.  If you suspect a loved one has been subjected to elder abuse or nursing home negligence, contact an attorney experienced in nursing home negligence.

A Patient’s Role in Preventing Medical Malpractice

In today’s world of health care, there are so many things that can go wrong. Unfortunately, we hear so much more about legal recourse than how to prevent medical errors. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Although physicians owe us a duty of reasonable care in their treatment, as patients, taking an active role in our own medical care can prevent costly medical errors. When a patient takes an active role in their medical care through frank and honest conversations with their physician, both the doctor and the patient are rewarded with more confidence that the patient is not only receiving an accurate diagnosis, but also developing a good strategy to improve the patient’s long-term health and medical goals.

Patient-centered care saves money and becomes a building block for both the patient and physician. The health care reform law estimates that by 2015, there will be 15,000 new primary care physicians and roughly 40 million newly insured people. Patients who stay informed and active in their own care will fare better than patients who rely solely on the medical expertise of their physicians.

Do not be afraid to search for a differential diagnosis with your doctor. One way to do this is to simply ask your doctor “What else could this be?” Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion on your condition. If you have a complicated medical condition, seeking the advice of a specialist in addition to your primary care physician can only provide you with additional information regarding your condition. Ask about possible diagnostic testing which could confirm your diagnosis. Know what your long-term prognosis is, both with treatment and without. Ask your doctor about any new medications and how long it takes the medications to work. Be sure to let your physician know of any vitamins, natural medicine or over-the-counter drugs you may be taking in order to prevent interactions with other medications.

Remember that the medical history you provide to your physician is crucial in making correct medical decisions for your own care. Prescriptions, in particular, should be reviewed with your physician at every appointment in order to analyze whether medications may be causing side effects, masked as other medical conditions. Ask your physician how your health is overall and make notes prior and subsequent to your appointments in order to keep the physician informed. Ask what you can do to not only prevent your condition from becoming worse, but also to improve your overall health.

If your physician recommends surgery, be sure to ask what the benefits, risks and potential recovery options are. Ask your physician if lifestyle changes or other natural remedies would improve your condition. Find out if your condition is temporary or permanent, and what treatment you may expect to undergo in the future as a result of your condition. Through communication and actively asking the right questions of your physician, you can help prevent medical errors which are not only costly to you, but could affect your overall future health.

Is NuvaRing a Fatal Birth Control Decision?

In 2001, the FDA approved a new birth control device, NuvaRing.  By 2007, complications started to arise from the use of NuvaRing when a 32-year old woman died from complications associated with deep vein thrombosis.  She died from a pulmonary thromboemboli.  Other complications arising from the use of NuvaRing include severe blood clotting, which can also lead to amputation of the legs.  NuvaRing produces two types of hormones and is designed to prevent production of mature eggs.  The NuvaRing is a ring which is inserted into and makes contact with the vagina.  Common side effects were breast tenderness, loss of appetite, weight loss or gain, headaches, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, bloating and vaginal bleeding during menstruation.  Other women who have used NuvaRing have reported allergic reactions, loss of menstruation, breast discharge and/or lumps, migraines, numbness and/or swelling of limbs, shortness of breath, sudden vomiting, dark urine and coughing up blood.

As of December of 2013, thousands of people had filed lawsuits against NuvaRing as a result of complications suffered from use of the devise.  Although birth control has been known to increase the risk of blood clots, some studies have shown that newer forms of birth control such as the birth control patch, the ring and Yaz, increase the risk even more.  In 2012, the British Medical Journal published a study showing the risk of blood clots was 6.5 times greater with NuvaRing than with contraceptives which did not contain hormones.  A 2011 study from Kaiser Permanente and Medicaid reported that NuvaRing carried a 56 percent higher risk of blood clots when compared to older hormonal birth control pills.  Unfortunately those results were released prior to the adjustment of the results to look at only new birth control users, which can be important in order to evaluate only the results from NuvaRing use, rather than any prior birth control side effects.  Once adjusted, there was no conclusive evidence of an increased risk of blood clots with use of NuvaRing.  The study warned there was a lot of statistical variability in the study.    Still, even with the number of deaths that have taken place after use of NuvaRing, it is still being offered as a “safe and effective” birth control option for women.

If you or a loved one has suffered complications from the use of NuvaRing, please contact an attorney who is experienced in mass tort litigation for an evaluation of your case.

2013 Brings Over 190 Fatal Accidents to Nebraska Roads

On December 20, 2013, the Nebraska Department of Roads released its monthly report for November 2013 regarding traffic fatalities.  During the month of November, twelve persons were killed in traffic crashes on Nebraska’s roadways in a total of ten crashes.  Seven of the eleven vehicle occupants were not using safety belts, with five of the fatalities age 24 or younger.  Only one of the fatalities was a motorcyclist.

During 2013, (from January to November), there were 190 fatalities from 171 fatal crashes, only slightly decreased from 2012.  The report disclosed that 81.1 % of the vehicle occupants killed were not wearing safety belts.  As we enter a new year, please remember to be safe and buckle up.