Negligence: What Does it Mean?

Posted: January 20th, 2015

Lake County Personal Injury Attorney, negligence, duty of care, damages, contributory negligence, comparative negligence, modified comparative fault system, statute of limitations, negligence claimsMany actions for personal injury stem from harm caused by others. Everyday across America, victims experience injuries—many are catastrophic. If harm results because of someone else’s action or inaction, a legal claim may be made.

Elements of a Lawsuit

To successfully bring about a negligence suit, a plaintiff must show each of the following five elements:

  1. There was a duty of care owed by a defendant to a plaintiff. It needs to be shown that some type of relationship existed between both parties, whether it be fellow drivers sharing the road, or an elderly patient under the care of a nursing home;
  2. A breach of that duty occurred. In other words, if it were not for a defendant’s action (or inaction), no harm would have resulted to a plaintiff. The idea of carelessness on the part of a defendant goes towards proving negligence;
  3. There was an actual causal connection between a defendant’s conduct and the resulting harm;
  4. A proximate cause existed. Hence, the harm was actually a foreseeable consequence of a defendant’s actions and was therefore predictable and not remote; and
  5. Damages resulted because of a defendant’s conduct. Therefore, an actual physical injury occurred, such as a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, loss of a  limb in a motorcycle accident, bed sores on an elderly resident in a nursing home, or a child was bitten and mauled by a known neighborhood pet dog. Illinois has been ranked second highest in the country for dog bite attacks. If a defendant knew of children living in the neighborhood, knew his or her dog had a propensity to attack, but did not properly secure the animal or warn others and the dog escapes and bites and mauls a child, the owner could find themselves defending a personal injury action.

Conduct of the Defendant

When physical harm occurs, the courts will look at a defendant’s behavior and compare his or her actions to that of a reasonable person. If their actions deviated or fell below what would be expected of a typical adult, he or she may be held liable for the harm caused.  This is what is known as the “standard of care” evaluated in personal injury cases.

In the case of professions such as medicine and dentistry, if a doctor’s conduct with a patient falls below the standards of care of a reasonably qualified doctor in the same situation, this would equate to malpractice. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services’ Data Bank, there were 17,473 medical malpractice reports against dentists between 2002 and 2013- 539 in Illinois.

Defenses and What to Expect in Illinois

A defendant’s goal is to disprove each of the elements of a negligent action or look to a plaintiff’s behavior to determine if there was a portion of blame that can be attributed to him or her. This is what is known as contributory negligence and is where a plaintiff most likely would have avoided injuries had he or she not also been negligent.

Comparative negligence is another defense. Here, a reduction is made to a plaintiff’s recovery by the percentage in which he or she was at fault for his or her damages.

Finally, there is the assumption of risk doctrine where a plaintiff has actual, subjective knowledge of the risk involved in an particular activity, but he or she voluntarily accepts the risk involved in the activity. This would also bar a plaintiff for recovery unless the harm was not related to the activity itself. A classic example is going on an amusement park ride that malfunctions and causes injury. This would be grounds for a claim.

Illinois law follows a modified comparative fault system—a hybrid to comparative negligence outlined above. This is a specific type of comparative negligence system which assigns relief or compensation based on how much fault lies with each party. Further to this, if a court in Illinois rules that a party is 51 percent or more responsible for an accident or incident, they are NOT entitled to any damages.

Timely Filing

One final consideration when discussing negligence cases is determining when a case is in fact eligible to be filed based on when the negligent conduct or harm occurred. Therefore, discussing the statute of limitations with a knowledgable attorney, and how it applies to a case, is essential.

Consult a Knowledgeable Illinois Personal Injury Attorney

The personal injury lawyers at Noonan Perillo Ltd. understand the complicated nature of personal injury cases and the many layers, tangents, and time frames involved. If you require the assistance of an experienced Lake County personal injury attorney, contact Noonan Perillo Ltd. today.

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Parents Hosting Parties Beware: Illinois Teen Drinking Laws Toughened

Posted: January 12th, 2015

 Illinois teen drinking laws, Lake County Personal Injury Attorney, Noonan Perillo Ltd., underage drinking, zero tolerance, social host, drinking and driving, teen drinkingUnderage drinking is a major public health problem. Moreover, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, and it is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths. Lives are permanently changed as families are left forever grieving over the loss of a son or daughter. No parent wants to receive a phone call or a knock on the door with news that their teen was injured or killed.

As of January 1, new legislation in Illinois now extends the legal responsibility on parents and guardians who allow teens to drink in their homes. If a teen becomes impaired and is hurt or killed on property owned or under an adult’s control, the host could face serious legal consequences.

The Mindset of the Social Host

The motivation behind parent-hosted parties which furnish alcohol is that parents can better protect their teenager and his or her friends by providing supervision and keeping them from driving drunk. These same parents feel it is an intrusion on their privacy to be denied the ability to do so.

However, there seems to be a ‘disconnect’ with these same parents between what they think happens at parties in general and what actually goes on. Many parents swear they would not give their children alcohol. In fact, 99 percent of parents recently surveyed by the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse, say they would refrain from serving alcohol at their teen’s parties. Yet, that same survey revealed that 28 percent of teens attended parties at a home where parents were present and teens were drinking.

Unfortunately, it is not just parents who provide alcohol to minors. Friends, siblings, other extended family members—and even complete strangers—have also been known to provide liquor. For those who condone hosting with alcohol, consider the slippery slide of where it can lead and the ramifications should an accident occur.

Teens Hitting the Road

Illinois also has a zero tolerance for underage drinking. In Illinois, driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 means you are legally drunk. DMV.org notes that even with a BAC below the legal limit, you are still far more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than if you did not consume any alcohol.

A huge level of responsibility goes along with driving privileges. Drivers are responsible for themselves as well as others sharing the road. If a teen consumes liquor at a private home, and then drives, the consequences can be devastating. In addition, young drivers are notorious for being involved in dangerous scenarios due to contributing factors such as driving inexperience, traveling with other teens, using electronic devices, and driving reckless. If alcohol is consumed at a semi-supervised party hosted by parents or guardians, this can exacerbate a highly dangerous situation for a teen who then gets behind the wheel.

Legal Liability Extended

Passed in August and effective January 1st 2015, the latest amendments to the Liquor Control Act of 1934 state:

“…it is unlawful for a parent or guardian (instead of any person) to knowingly permit his or her residence, any other private property under his or her control, or any vehicle, watercraft, or conveyance to be used by an invitee of the parent’s child or the guardian’s ward (instead of only invitee) under the age of 21 in a manner that violates the prohibition against the possession and consumption of alcohol by a person under the age of 21.”

Law enforcement must deal with vehicular homicides as well as accidents occurring in hotel rooms, near beach houses, lakes, rivers and more. When investigating the background, a party hosted by friends where parents or guardians served liquor is often the causal connection leading to the accident.

The new laws send a message to parents and guardians: if a minor’s consumption of alcohol at a parent or guardian-hosted party ends in catastrophic injury or death, the parent or guardian may receive monetary fines—or worse—felony charges.

Alternatives

Underage drinking is a pervasive problem throughout the country, and hosting a house party further promotes underage drinking. In a collaboration between parents and law enforcement, it should be a priority to cut off the supply to teens. In fact, “alcohol-free” house parties can be a way to lead by example and a means to keeping kids safe.

When it comes to graduation or prom parties, communities can organize controlled, alcohol-free events for young people. If there is a change in attitude and an open mind, what may not seem to be a popular choice to a teen can still be fun and enjoyable—free from life-changing harm at the end of the evening.

Retaining Legal Counsel

Suffering a devastating loss of a child is unimaginable. If your teen attended a party where alcohol was served in the presence of hosts, and he or she was seriously injured or died, contact a compassionate Lake County personal injury attorney today. The attorneys at  Noonan Perillo Ltd. have an extensive legal background and knowledge of the ever changing legal landscape, and are dedicated to seeking justice for your family. Call 847-244-0111 to schedule your complimentary consultation.

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Patients Neglected under Hospice Care: Choosing a Reputable Provider

Posted: January 6th, 2015

hospice care, Lake County personal injury attorney, medical care, medical neglect, neglected under hospice care, patients neglected, suffering from neglectHospices are generally thought of with a sense of sadness and poignancy—although a terminally ill patient’s life is ending, hospice care is available to provide comfort, rather than aggressive treatment, throughout one’s final days.

In 2013, an estimated 1.5 to 1.6 million patients received services from hospices in the United States. And while this type of care is praised by many, there are patients, all across the country, who are suffering from neglect. They are dying without dignity due to a lack of care that prudent organizations should be providing.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of stories are surfacing from distraught families who have lost loved ones under these circumstances.

Hospice Concept

Hospice care is designed to provide routine palliative home care or inpatient care in a facility. Continuous care should be provided in the event of a medical crisis. The aim is to place a patient and family at the center with the hospice team based around them. Generally, a patient’s primary care physician is seen to be essentially ‘out of the loop’ from day to day operations while a hospice doctor and nurses take over. Some would say a hospice doctor is only very loosely involved in caring for a patient, leading to one pitfall of the whole idea of attentive care. Sick patients should not be seen as a ‘lost cause’ because they have an incurable disease, but rather as patients worthy of the appropriate standards of care—despite their circumstances.

Neglected and Suffering

The most disturbing cases of neglect, as reported by families, are occurring in instances where an emergency situation arises. Hospice care at home or in a facility needs to be monitored in a sustained manner. These are often the circumstances where patients are left suffering and die soon after. With close to 67 percent of hospice services taking place in a patient’s home, it is clear to see how many people are potentially being neglected.

Some offending hospice care providers are trying to provide only the most basic routine care as they do not want to incur the costs of ‘round the clock’ continuous care. Hence, this begs the question of costs, understaffing, and the lack of adequately trained staff. This profit-driven industry is operating at the disadvantage of terminally ill patients and vulnerable and grieving families.

Therefore, with the knowledge that under the radar people are suffering, how does a family go about choosing a safe, reputable hospice care provider?

Although there has been a surge in the numbers of organizations over the past decade—now closing in on six-thousand—governmental regulation has failed to keep up, and choosing an organization has essentially been by word of mouth.

And much like any other referral, not every person’s experience is the same. Reporting requirements and inspections occur very infrequently. How can families be assured the best of care?

According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare service (CMS) who incidentally pay for—combined—over 90 percent of hospice services, no date for the public reporting of quality data has yet been specified.

Accrediting Agencies

Until CMC releases information regarding the quality of hospice care around the nation, prospective patients and their families can consider looking to the following organizations that may provide information regarding a particular hospice care company.

If your family member has received inadequate care from a hospice provider, and his or her death came about sooner than expected, or there was prolonged suffering and the absence of the necessary palliative care, you should investigate your legal options. Although the death of your loved one may have been inevitable, the circumstances leading up to his or her passing are crucial—especially if the standard to care delivered fell below what is reasonably expected. Contact a compassionate Lake County personal injury attorney to discuss your case today.

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