CDC Reports Fewer Children Dying in Car Crashes

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new study showing death rates of children in car crashes fell by 43 percent from 2002 to 2011.  Even more death could be prevented with use of adequate safety measures.  The study showed that one of three children who died in a car crash in 2011 was not using a seat belt or child safety seat.  More than 9,000 children age 12 and younger died in a car crash from 2002 to 2011.  A much higher proportion of black and Hispanic children were not buckled, compared with white kids, 45 percent for blacks, 46 percent for Hispanics and 26 percent for white kids.

The study reports that seat belt use increased from 88 percent in 2002 to 91 percent in 2011 with children age 7 and under.  Children age birth to 2 should be in a rear-facing car seat.  Children age 2 to 5 should be in a forward-facing car seat until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the seat.  Children age 5 and older should use a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits them properly, generally when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt lays across the chest, but not the neck.

Data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. offers 5 tips for making sure that your child is safe in their car seat.

  1. Make sure your child is in the appropriate seat. Check the label on your car seat for the manufacturer’s recommendations on age, height and weight.
  2. Make sure your child is sitting in the back seat until age at least 13.
  3. Make sure your child is facing the right direction. Infants and toddlers should be in a rear-facing car seat until age 2. Once he or she outgrows the rear-facing seat, move your child into a forward-facing booster seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.
  4. Perform the inch test. Once the car seat is installed and the harness is tightly buckled give it a good shake. A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
  5. Perform the pinch test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.

Correct use of safety seats can reduce the risk of death as much as 71 percent.


Pradaxa Complications Lead to Irreversible Damage

Pradaxa is a medication used to prevent stroke and blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation.  It has been widely prescribed since it’s release in 2010.  Unfortunately, studies in the New England Journal of Medicine have warned that the lack of an effective treatment for severe bleeding caused by Pradaxa may put patients at risk.  Unlike Warfarin (generic for Coumadin), patients who use Pradaxa cannot be given a reversal agent to halt the anticoagulant effects of the drug and stop severe bleeding.  In December of 2011, the Food and Drug Administration launched an investigation into the side effects of Pradaxa after dozens of patients experienced extensive bleeding.

In the past two years, more and more patients have demonstrated complications with the drug, often leading to serious internal bleeding or death.  Certain patients are at a higher risk for bleeding, such as patients age 75 or older, patients with pre-existing kidney problems, current stomach or intestinal bleeding due to ulcers or patients who are underweight.  The drug has also been associated with a higher risk of heart attacks and chest pains.  Critics of the Food and Drug Administration question why this dangerous drug had not been recalled.  In 2011, a limited recall of Pradaxa was conducted as some lots were improperly labeled, but the drug itself is still being prescribed to patients.  By the middle of 2012, more than 3.7 million patients in the U.S. alone filled Pradaxa prescriptions.  Thousands of lawsuits are expected and will be consolidated to a special federal court in Illinois.

In 2012, the FDA determined Pradaxa did not pose an excessive risk of bleeding, however failed to address the potential for uncontrollable bleeding and the inability to reverse it.  Instead, the FDA warned clinicians not to prescribe Pradaxa to mechanical heart valve patients.  In 2013, the manufacturer added a black box warning cautioning that discontinuing the drug could raise the risk of a stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation and recommended use of another anticoagulant if the drug was discontinued.  The black box warning also detailed a connection between Pradaxa and low blood platelet counts.

If you have suffered kidney failure, stroke, or other side effects of Pradaxa, contact a mass torts lawyer knowledgeable in these types of claims.


Johnson & Johnson: Are Patients or Profits Taking the Lead in Risperdal Lawsuits?

Over the past several years, there has been an increase in lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for various products including NuvaRing, vaginal mesh, and even a broad recall of children’s medicines.  Although each lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson has its own individual facts and considerations, what has become clear is that Johnson & Johnson has a number of dangerous products on the market leading to harmful side effects.  In 2010, the antipsychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega were added to this list.  These drugs, while marketed as antipsychotic medications, can cause serious side effects, including rapid weight gain and the growth of breasts in boys and young men.  Over the years, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed alleging the same side effects, some of which have gone to trial and been settled.

The lawsuits surrounding Risperdal allege inappropriate marketing as well as failure to warn issues.  While Johnson & Johnson alleges Risperdal helps countless people throughout the world who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses, it also has caused embarrassing side effects further contributing to the problems it claims to address.  In September of 2012, Johnson & Johnson settled one such lawsuit with a 21 year old who had taken Risperdal and grown breasts which had to be surgically removed.  The settlement was allegedly agreed to by Johnson & Johnson in order to avoid having the Judge in the trial order Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky to testify.   According to court filings, Gorsky was using the increases in Risperdal sales on his resume’.  The plaintiff sought to secure testimony regarding Gorsky’s role in getting psychiatrists to promote Risperdal for uses not approved by the FDA.

In addition to the lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson has also faced criminal charges from the federal government over allegations related to off-label marketing and payoffs to a nursing-home pharmacy company.  In November of 2013, Johnson & Johnson agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and pay $2.2 billion to settle allegations that it illegally promoted the use of its antipsychotic drugs for unapproved uses, including the marketing of Risperdal to children and the elderly.  Although Risperdal and Invega were approved mainly for the treatment of schizophrenia, Johnson & Johnson expanded the promotion of the drugs for other medical problems to increase sales and driving the cost up for everyone in the health-care system, according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Still, the most troublesome side effect of Risperdal is the embarrassing and abnormal growth of breasts in males, most significantly troublesome in young boys and young men.  These types of claims are time sensitive and require a timely evaluation of the facts of your case.  If you or a loved one has experienced this side effect and have a history of taking Risperdal or Invega, contact an attorney knowledgeable in the handling of mass tort claims.

Banged, Bumped and Bruised at Work – What are My Options?

You have a right to a safe workplace.  In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work.  The Act created a government agency to set and enforce protective workplace safety and health standards, provide information, training and assistance to workers and employers.  The purpose was to prevent and lower the number, frequency and extent of worker injuries and deaths.  However, accidents at work still occur.

In Nebraska, if you are injured at work, your exclusive remedy against your employer is workers’ compensation, unless there is an express contract between the employer and a third-party to indemnify the third-party for the loss, as was the case in in the 1988 Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Kaiser Ag. Chem. Co., 229 Neb. 160 (1988).  Railroads are governed by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act  of 1908 (FELA), rather than workers’ compensation, which falls under a different set of guidelines.

In a straight workers’ compensation case, however, the negligence of your employer does not give you a better case against your employer.  The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act eliminates an employee’s common law cause of action for an employer’s negligence.  In return for this immunity, the employer is held strictly liable for payment of workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault Ray v. School District of Lincoln, 105 Neb. 456 (1920).  This includes any actions for an employer’s intentional tort.  It is for this reason that your employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance if they have one or more employees in a regular trade, business or profession, with exceptions such as household domestic servants, employees of agricultural operations, railroad employees, executive officers under a certain threshold, volunteers and independent contractors.   Workers’ compensation insurance is intended to provide compensation for work-related injuries, regardless of negligence, provided your injury was incurred in the scope and course of your employment.

Even though workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy for the negligence of your employer, you may have other claims.  Should your injuries be the fault of a third party, you may be able to seek compensation from the third party.  In this case, the workers’ compensation carrier may still pay your bills, however they are entitled to recovery of their payments from any settlement with the negligent party.  The employer is, however, protected from the third-party defendant’s attempts to seek contribution against an injured employee’s employer or co-workers.

There is one exception to the exclusive remedy provision, however.  If an employer who is subject to the Workers’ Compensation Act fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance or an acceptable alternative, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-145(3) provides that an employee can either elect to proceed under the act’s benefits or to seek to recover damages in a common-law action against the employer.

Workers’ compensation claims have a shorter time period in which to bring your claim than a normal negligence suit in Nebraska as well.  You should consult with an attorney knowledgeable in worker injuries to evaluate all potential claims as a result of the particular facts of your injury.