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Lawton Oklahoma Personal Injury Law Blog

Misdiagnosis the leading cause of serious medical mistakes

One in every three medical malpractice cases that result in permanent disability or death in Oklahoma and elsewhere is caused by misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, according to a new study published in the journal Diagnosis. That means inaccurate diagnosis is a leading cause of serious medical mistakes.

For the study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analyzed over 55,000 malpractice claims listed in the Comparative Benchmarking System database. They found that 74.1% of the most harmful diagnostic errors were linked to just three medical categories. These categories, called "The Big Three" by the study's authors, were cancer, vascular events and infection, which were responsible for 37.8%, 22.8% and 13.5% of all serious diagnostic errors, respectively. The study also found that the top five diseases under each medical category accounted for 63.5% of serious misdiagnosis cases in The Big Three and 47.1% of serious misdiagnosis cases overall. The study further found that just over 71% of all diagnostic mistakes took place in ambulatory settings, such as emergency departments and outpatient clinics.

Trucker hour-of-service rules could be relaxed

Truck driver fatigue is a major problem on highways in Oklahoma and throughout the United States. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistics indicate that there were 4,237 fatal accidents involving large trucks in 2017, which is 10% more than the previous year. Of those fatal crashes, 60 involved truckers who were either fatigued or asleep while behind the wheel of their big rig. Despite this, the Associated Press reports that the federal government is planning to relax hours-of-service rules for truckers, potentially making it easier for them to drive longer hours.

Federal regulations mandate the number of hours that truck drivers can be on duty each day. Under current rules, truckers can only drive 11 hours during a 14-hour shift. They must also take a half-hour break sometime during the first eight hours they are on the road and clock off for a minimum of 10 consecutive hours before starting their next shift. The intention of these rules is to keep drivers fresh and alert while they are operating their vehicles.

Federal regulators are often slow to mandate safety equipment

The vast majority of car accidents in Oklahoma and around the country involve some sort of human error, but features that could prevent them, such as forward collision warning and automatic braking systems, are not standard equipment on most cars sold in the United States. While carmakers have vowed to make automatic emergency brakes standard on all of their vehicles by 2022, it is not because federal regulators have asked them to do so. According to road safety advocates, the government is often slow to act when potentially life-saving safety equipment becomes available.

A Consumer Reports journalist used the example of seat belts to make this point recently. He pointed out that seat belts were first developed in the 1950s, but it took government regulators more than 10 years to require vehicle manufacturers to fit them as standard equipment. Experts believe that seat belts have saved the lives of more than 300,000 road users since 1960.

IIHS: many unaware of limitations to driver assistance systems

Drivers in Oklahoma should be aware that the advanced driver assistance systems that are on the market do not mean that cars drive themselves. Unfortunately, many are not and overestimate the capabilities of ADAS. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a survey of more than 2,000 drivers to gauge their knowledge of ADAS.

It turns out that most of the respondents did not even know that five levels of automation exist. Level five means a car can drive itself under any conditions. Current ADAS, such as adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, put a car at level two, which means drivers must remain actively engaged and alert to their surroundings.

Advanced features make cars and roads safer

Advanced safety features in new vehicles are helping to keep roads in Oklahoma and throughout the country safer. According to a study conducted in 2018 by J.D. Power, 35% of participants said that an automatic braking system prevented an accident from occurring within the first 90 days of ownership of a new car. Furthermore, 49% said that a blind spot alert feature prevented a crash from occurring during that same time period.

These and similar features are referred to as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS. Those who are familiar with vehicle and road safety say that the systems offer the greatest potential to reduce the number of crashes in the short-term. ADAS features are available on most new cars regardless of their size or cost. This is in part because of customer demand for safety, and it is also partially because of new safety regulations that automakers must abide by.

Why truck accident cases are so complicated

More so than car accidents, truck accidents can complicate the process of determining liability. Oklahoma residents should know that there are several reasons for this, the first being that truck accidents are more likely to end in serious injuries or death. Trucks weigh more, take longer to stop and take up more space.

There is also the question of truck ownership. Some drive a truck owned by a company, in which case that company may be held liable by victims, while other truckers are owner-operators. A third difficulty arises when victims file a claim against the company: the company and its insurance provider will work hard together to either deny payment or force victims to settle for a low offer.

Many malpractice claims face the obstacle of proving causation

Among the various requirements that need to be met for a medical malpractice claim to be successful in Oklahoma, perhaps the most challenging is that of proving causation. On the one hand, it is relatively easy to show that a doctor or other medical professional failed to adhere to a standard of care. That standard must, of course, be reasonable for the circumstances in which the injury occurred. Linking that negligence to the injury is another matter.

The challenge lies in the nature of certain medical conditions and procedures. A patient may undergo surgery, for example, with the awareness that he or she may develop complications. Since these complications can develop where there is no negligence, proving that they developed because of negligence is difficult.

How drivers in Oklahoma can prevent accidents

There are many ways drivers in Oklahoma can help prevent car accidents, including following several safety tips that are known to decrease the chances of crashing. Even though most car accidents are preventable, car accidents are the leading cause of death for many people in the United States. Drivers who obey traffic laws, stay alert and avoid negligent driving actively make the roadways safer for everyone.

One way everyone can practice safe driving is adhering to traffic laws. Speeding, running red lights and failing to yield are all risky decisions that can easily lead to a car accident. Driving under the influence is another glaring example of negligent driving and results in many fatal car accidents. Drivers who have had too much to drink should consider calling a cab or ridesharing service and returning for their vehicles later. This is also true of drivers who are struggling to stay awake.

Study finds safety events largely unresolved

Patients in Oklahoma hospitals may be the victim of a health IT-related patient safety error. However, a majority of those errors are not being addressed according to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management. The study looked at 1.7 million safety events overall to find those that were related to health IT. Researchers then sorted the health IT events into four groups based on how the problems were resolved.

Of events that were resolved, 55% were resolved by recommending more training. However, training may not necessarily be the best way to prevent future errors from occurring. This is because IT and biomedical departments may not always communicate or work with each other. Hospitals have recognized this and are starting to create ways to integrate the two departments in an effort to improve patient care and outcomes.

Teens see higher risk for crashes after obtaining license

Virginia Tech University and the National Institutes for Health have conducted a study comparing the risk for crashes and near-misses among teens who just obtained their license and teens who were nearing the end of adult supervision as drivers with permits. Oklahoma residents should know that teens licensed for three months or less raised that risk eight times compared to teens who were three months away from obtaining their license.

To arrive at their conclusion, researchers monitored the driving of 90 teens, together with 131 parent participants, from the time they obtained their learner's permit to the end of their first year with a license. In-car cameras and software recording speed and braking were used to gather important data like how quickly drivers accelerated and braked.

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