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Written on behalf of Cuming & Gillespie

New Study Shows that Rapid Blood Test Can Detect Brain Injury in 15 Minutes

Acquired brain injuries impact approximately 1.5 million Canadians, and these numbers continue to rise each year.  Acquired brain injuries refer to damage to the brain occurring after birth and not related to a congenital or degenerative disease. 

According to research recently published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, a new blood protein test could detect the severity of head trauma in under 15 minutes helping physicians to diagnose and treat brain injuries more quickly.

IMPACT OF TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES

Falls and motor vehicle accidents are two of the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries (“TBI”) in Canada.  A violent bump, blow or jolt to the head causes the brain to move and hit the inside of the skull, which is covered in bony ridges.  This impact can cause bruising or bleeding in the brain.  The effects to the brain may begin immediately or increase over time.  Head injuries can range in severity and have the potential to permanently affect the accident victim’s entire life. 

Each individual who suffers from a TBI will experience a unique combination of both physical, cognitive and emotional challenges that may include the following:

  • Fatigue, sleep difficulties and change in sleep patterns;
  • Difficulty walking, sitting, bathing and performing household tasks;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Chronic pain and headaches;
  • Changes in vision;
  • Seizures, infections, damaged blood vessels in the brain or vertigo;
  • Ringing in the ears, hand-eye coordination difficulties, unpleasant tastes or smells, tingling, itching;
  • Difficulty with balance or dizziness;
  • Difficulty understanding information, making plans, organizing or beginning tasks;
  • Difficulty communicating, word finding or making conversation;
  • Difficulty writing;
  • Difficulty with concentrating or becoming easily distracted;
  • Difficulty with memory, learning, reasoning and judgment;
  • Difficulty making decisions;
  • Confusion regarding date, location or time of day;
  • Loss or changes to senses and perceptions such as smell, taste, vision, hearing;
  • Irritability, depression, anger, anxiety;
  • Impulsive behaviour or lack of a filter; and
  • Isolation or difficulty with relationships.

HOW IS A BRAIN INJURY CURRENTLY DIAGNOSED?

Typically emergency personnel and health professionals will focus on the most obvious physical injuries following an accident, such as broken bones or internal bleeding.  Sometimes brain injuries can be overlooked unless there is a brain bleed visible on a CT scan of the brain.  However, microscopic level changes to the brain may not be visible on a scan. 

The standard diagnostic protocol to screen for TBIs involves a physical examination, a series of screening questions for neurological symptoms and normally a computed tomography (“CT”) scan.  However, almost 30% of those with a normal CT scan showed signs of TBI when a follow-up MRI scan was administered.  MRI scans are expensive, slower to produce reports and not always available.  Unfortunately, a missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis can have significant consequences for victims of TBIs.

RESULTS OF THE NEW STUDY REGARDING TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES

A new study has found that TBIs could be detected quickly with a blood protein test in under 15 minutes.  The study found that patients whose concussions were not detected on CT, but were found on MRI, had an elevated level of the glial fibrillary acidic protein (“GFAP”).  Therefore, an elevated GFAP can be used as a biomarker to help physicians detect and diagnose TBIs more quickly.

The study, which began four years ago, was led by Dr. David Okonkwo, director of the Neurotrauma Clinical Trials Center at UPMC and professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.  The study included 1,497 individuals from 18 trauma centres across the United States. 

The research team showed that GFAP can correctly determine the severity of a brain injury through a blood test.  GFAP is a protein released in the bloodstream in response to specific injuries, including brain injuries.  The researchers intend for the rapid test to be included in a hand-held devise with a cartridge that would measure GFAP in a patient’s blood to determine the severity of the brain injury.

According to Dr. Okonkwo:

This would eliminate guesswork in diagnosing TBIs and learn whether a person needs further treatment.  Whether you’re testing a soldier injured in combat or testing a patient in a small rural hospital with limited resources, health care providers could have critical information they need  – in minutes – to treat each patient’s brain injury.

The study used the i-STAT Alinity device manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, which is not yet commercially available.  If the device operates as it is anticipated to and is approved by the FDA, the new test could result in earlier diagnosis and treatment for those suffering from TBIs. 

If you or a loved one have suffered a traumatic brain injury as the result of the negligence of another person, the injured victim may be entitled to compensation for the injury and the resulting disability.  Please contact the experienced and award winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers today.  It is important that you contact us promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries.  Contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 for a free initial consultation.


Rollover Accidents Can Cause Severe Injuries

Rollover accidents can occur in any vehicle, but are more common in taller, narrower, top-heavy vehicles such as SUVs, trucks and vans.  SUVs have been found to rollover three times more often than standard passenger vehicles. 

Rollover crashes often lead to serious injuries, and sometimes even death.  According to the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rollovers have a higher fatality rate than all other types of motor vehicle accidents.

There are several factors that can affect the severity of the accident, including the skill of the driver, environmental conditions and the type of vehicle. 

WHAT CAUSES ROLLOVER ACCIDENTS?

In most cases, rollover accidents are caused when the vehicle’s centre of gravity is altered.  There are also other causes of rollover accidents, which include:

  • Tripping – running over a rock, pothole or other obstruction on the roadway;
  • Taking a turn too quickly;
  • Driving off of a cliff or into a ditch;
  • Speeding; 
  • Unsafe distribution of weight;
  • Defects associated with the car’s suspension system or tires;
  • Being struck from the side or t-boned by another motor vehicle;
  • Poor driving judgement;
  • Distracted driving or impaired driving; or
  • Striking or driving up onto a guardrail, median, barrier or other roadway divider.

The majority of rollover crashes can be avoided.  Failing to pay attention to the road and surroundings is a common risk factor of rollover accidents.  Driver fatigue and driver distraction can result in swerving off the road and hitting loose gravel or rails that “trip” a vehicle.

Defective tires, brakes and suspension systems can increase the likelihood of one losing control of his/her vehicle or make a vehicle more susceptible to flipping over.  Also, the negligent maintenance of a vehicle’s brakes or suspension system can be extremely dangerous.

Many vehicles are equipped with stability control technology, which can prevent a rollover from occurring.  Vehicles manufactured after 2012 are equipped with this feature. 

Electronic stability control (“ESC”) is a computerized technology that detects loss of steering control.  It uses a sensor that works to detect loss of traction and then compensates for the loss of traction.  If a vehicle is skidding, ESC measures the direction of the skid and applies brakes to each wheel asymmetrically. 

COMMON INJURIES THAT OCCUR IN ROLLOVER ACCIDENTS

Head Injuries

Individuals involved in a rollover accident are likely to suffer a head injury.  Cuts and lacerations are two of the most common types of head injuries, although skull fractures or traumatic brain injuries can occur as well.

Neck Injuries

Individuals can suffer from whiplash, nerve damage, broken bones, slipped discs and lacerations to their neck as a result of a rollover accident.

Broken Bones

If you are involved in a rollover accident, broken arms, legs, ankles and other bones are likely to occur as the impact can crush your bones. 

Spinal Cord Injuries

A rollover accident can subject your spine to a lot of pressure and therefore result in permanent damage to the spinal cord.  A spinal cord injury may result in localized paralysis, paraplegia or quadriplegia along with painful and debilitating back injuries. 

Internal Injuries

Rollover accidents can cause injury to internal organs as they may become pierced by parts of the vehicle, objects inside the vehicle or external objects upon ejection from the vehicle.

TIPS TO PREVENT ROLLOVER ACCIDENTS

The majority of motor vehicle accidents are entirely preventable.  The legal team at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers would like to provide the following recommendations to prevent a future rollover accident:

Practice Safe Driving Habits

Driving at the posted speed limit on rural or unpaved roads can help prevent rollovers and also decrease the chance of a rollover being fatal. 

It is especially important to pay attention while driving and avoid texting, talking on the phone or eating.  Distracted driving decreases an individual’s reaction time. 

Most rollovers occur when a driver turns their steering wheel too fast in an attempt to avoid an accident or stay in their designated lane.  It is also important to ensure that you and all of your passengers wear seatbelts in order to prevent serious injuries if a crash does occur.

Properly Maintain Your Tires

Tires play an important part in preventing rollover accidents.  Tires should be checked once a month and especially before embarking on a long car trip to ensure they are properly inflated in accordance with the vehicle’s recommended standards. 

Balance Your Vehicle’s Load

Overloading a vehicle decreases the vehicle’s stability and puts it at risk for a rollover.  A vehicle’s centre of gravity is highly correlated with rollover accidents.  Thus, a top-heavy vehicle has a much greater likelihood of rolling over during an accident.  Be sure to review your owner’s manual to determine your vehicle’s recommended weight limit. 

It is also recommended that you place the heaviest cargo in the centre of the vehicle to improve the overall stability of the vehicle and decrease the chances of a rollover.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a rollover accident caused by defective products, faulty maintenance or the negligent actions of a third party and have suffered severe injuries it is important that you contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today.  Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers can help evaluate your specific case to determine whether you have a valid personal injury claim.  Please contact the experienced and award winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation to determine how we can help you recover compensation for your injuries.


Cuming & Gillespie Statement on COVID-19

Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers is committed to the health and safety of our community, and to following the suggested social distancing guidelines provided by the Canadian government and trusted health experts. Our business remains open and is operating at full capacity.

We are able to meet with clients in person with strict safety protocols in place, and we are also providing alternative arrangements for those who prefer remote meetings and consultations.

We will continue to monitor the current situation and adjust our practices as necessary, while ensuring our clients continue to receive the high level of service they’ve come to expect from Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.


Knee Injuries Suffered in a Car Accident

An individual involved in a motor vehicle accident may suffer from multiple types of injuries.  Although knee injuries are not as common as neck and back injuries, they can be quite serious consequences of an accident.  Knee injuries may require surgery and rehabilitation, which can be both expensive and time consuming.

A motor vehicle accident victim may suffer from different types of knee injuries, ranging from simple cuts and burns to severe ligament and soft tissue injuries.  Some suffer knee injuries that are more complicated than others and may require long-term treatment.

COMMON TYPES OF KNEE INJURIES

Knee injuries are often suffered by motor vehicle accident victims due to the sudden external force on the victim’s knee.  Knee injuries can occur in several ways depending upon the nature of the crash, such as a side-impact, rear-ender or rollover.  The knee can strike the dashboard, window or any interior part of the vehicle, resulting in a direct blow to the knee or an injury caused by twisting or hyper-extentsion of the leg.  Knee pain can begin at the knee itself or can be referred from problems with the lower back, hip or ankle.

The knee is made up of several bones, which include the femur, tibia, fibula and patella that come together at the knee.  There are also muscles, tendons and ligaments that provide balance and allow for movement of the knee joint.  Two pieces of cartilage called menisci sit on top of the tibia and act as shock-absorbers and fluid-filled sacs, called bursas, surround the knee and cushion it as it moves.

In order for the knee to work, all of these parts need to function properly.  Trauma or an acute injury to the knee can cause serious damage and have lifelong affects.

The following are some common types of knee injuries suffered in car accidents:

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury

A torn ACL injury occurs when the ACL tears away from the knee joint.  The severity of the injury depends on the extent of the ACL damage.  A doctor may recommend immediate surgery, depending upon the severity of the injury.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury

This type of injury is often referred to as dashboard knee.  It occurs when the knee of the driver or the passenger hits the dashboard of the car.  Symptoms often include pain, tenderness, knee joint instability and swelling.  This injury affects the ligament connecting the tibia (shinbone) to the femur (thighbone).

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injury

A torn MCL injury occurs when there is a sprain or tear to the MCL.  Symptoms include pain, stiffness and swelling and can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the knee.  This type of injury can often be treated without surgery and will involve rest, bracing and physical therapy.  If the ligament is torn in a way that makes it impossible to heal, surgery may be required. 

Meniscus Injury

This type of injury involves the discs that help prevent friction between the knee bones and provide cushioning and stability while walking.  Symptoms often include swelling, severe pain, instability, popping, locking in the knee and the inability for the knee to support the person’s weight. 

A torn meniscus injury occurs as a result of forceful twisting or hyper-flexing of the knee joint.  Treatment often includes therapy to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the knee.  If this treatment does not result in any improvement, surgery may be required. 

Knee Fracture

A kneecap fracture can occur at the top, centre or bottom and can occur in more than one area.  A fracture to the knee is usually caused by a direct blow.  Symptoms often include bruising, swelling, an inability to walk or straighten the leg.  Surgery may be required depending on the severity and the location of the injury.

Dislocations

A kneecap dislocation occurs when the kneecap slides to the outside of the leg.  Dislocation can usually be detected by looking at the knee and is associated with symptoms of being unable to straighten the leg, pain, swelling and tenderness.

CONSEQUENCES OF A KNEE INJURY

The outcomes of a knee injury vary depending upon the severity of the injury, the age of the victim, and the victim’s physical condition.  Some knee injuries heal well with time and after initial medical treatment.  Other knee injuries can result in long-lasting outcomes. 

Doctors typically take a conservative approach to treating a minor knee injury.  They rely on the RICE method, which involves rest, ice, compression and elevation.

If this approach fails to offer any improvement, a doctor may recommend physical therapy for several weeks or even months.  If the injury is more serious, surgical treatment may be a treatment option. 

CONSEQUENCES OF AN UNTREATED OR IMPROPERLY TREATED KNEE INJURY

Those that have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and have suffered an injury to their knee or knees may need weeks or months to recover resulting in a loss of income.  The injury may cause the victim to be unable to remain employed or unable to return to the job that he/she once performed resulting in a loss of earning capacity. 

If knee injuries are left untreated or improperly treated, complications may arise such as chronic pain, tendency towards a re-injury, artery or nerve damage, continued knee joint instability, knee degeneration, and increased risk of developing arthritis. 

If you or a loved one have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffer from serious injuries, it is recommended that medical attention is sought immediately.  You are entitled to fair compensation to help you recover from your injuries.  Please contact the experienced and award winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers to discuss your case today.  For a free case evaluation, please contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 to make an appointment.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.


Class Action Lawsuit Filed in Fatal Icefield Crash

On July 18, 2020, three people were killed and 14 others suffered life-threatening injuries when a tour bus carrying passengers lost control in Jasper National Park’s Columbia Icefield.  The all-terrain Ice Explorer vehicle, carrying 27 people, rolled approximately 50 metres down a moraine embankment before coming to a stop on its roof. 

The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies.  During the summer months, visitors to the natural attraction can travel onto the surface of the Athabasca Glacier in “snowcoaches”. 

A class action lawsuit has been filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench against eight defendants alleging that the defendants acted recklessly and unreasonably in the operation of an all-terrain tour bus.

CLASS ACTION ALLEGES THE ACCIDENT WAS “REASONABLY FORESEEABLE”

The lead plaintiff, Devon Ernest, was on a tour of the Icefields with his girlfriend, Dionne Durocher, and his cousin, Winnie Ernest.  Durocher died at the scene of the accident.  Devon Ernest suffered a concussion, a fractured wrist and lacerations to his head and hands.  Winnie Ernest continues to remain in the hospital.

The class action lawsuit currently includes 10 of the 27 passengers on the bus.

The claim has been commenced against the following defendants, Brewster Travel Canada Inc., Viad Corp. Glacier Park Inc., Brewster Inc., Brewster Tours, Banff-Jasper  Collection Holding Corp. ABC Corporation and the unidentified driver of the tour bus.

The lawsuit states that the “defendants knew or ought to have known that there was a significant risk to the plaintiff and class members and that the accident was a reasonably foreseeable result of failing to take adequate measures to prevent such incidents”.

According to the lawsuit, there were no seatbelts or rails on the tour bus and the claim contains allegations that the driver of the bus appeared to have lost control of the vehicle when going down a steep decline.  The lawsuit states:

The operator of the tour bus, the defendant Jane Doe, attempted to brake, but was unable to reduce the speed of the tour bus.  The tour bus lost traction with the road.  The front right tires then approached the embankment and then went over the embankment.  The tour bus went over the side of the embankment and rolled over four to six times, with at least two rotations occurring in the air, before coming to a stop on its roof.

The lawsuit also contains allegations that both the tour bus and the road were not properly maintained and that the tour bus was not in suitable mechanical condition.

None of the allegations included in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

INDEPENDENT CIVIL PROCEEDINGS MAY BE A BETTER CHOICE

Although it may seem advantageous to join a large class action lawsuit when you have suffered personal injuries as a result of a disastrous accident, such as the rollover in the Icefield, in some circumstances it may be more beneficial to opt-out of the class and bring an independent legal action.

We have previously blogged about the decision to opt-out of class action lawsuits in relation to claims involving long-term care facilities and situations where employers are liable for neglecting to protect the health and safety of their employees.

When it comes to class action lawsuits in Alberta, if an individual is covered by the definition of a class and chooses to take part in the action, there is no action to take.  However, if an individual falls under the definition of a class member in a class action lawsuit and chooses to pursue an individual civil action, he/she must opt-out of the class action by a pre-arranged date following the certification of the class action.

There are a number of advantages to proceeding with an independent legal claim rather than a class action.  One advantage is that it enables the injured party to control their own lawsuit and not be bound by any decisions that are made on behalf of the entire class.  By proceeding with a claim independently, it will be the independent plaintiff’s decision whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to trial.

In a class action, if the defendants are found liable, the payouts are spread equally across all injured parties.  Unless you have suffered exactly the same injuries and/or financial damages as other members of the class, you may not obtain the full financial advantages of a class action lawsuit.  Therefore, if you have suffered substantially more significant injuries or financial deficits than other class members it is important to opt out of a class action in order to receive greater compensation for your injuries or damages.

The biggest disadvantage to becoming a member of a class occurs if the class action proceeding is unsuccessful.  In this case, individual plaintiffs are prohibited from proceeding with individual lawsuits. 

At Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers we are committed to helping you and your loved ones.  If you or a member of your family has suffered serious injury or significant harm due to someone else’s fault or negligence, the personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers may be able to help you obtain financial compensation.  Our legal team will meet with you and evaluate your legal options to help you decide whether to pursue a claim.  Contact our knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyers today to learn what options are available at 403-571-0555 or online.


Rising Number of Opioid Overdoses in Canada

Canada, amongst other countries, is facing an opioid crisis.  According to federal data, more than 14,000 Canadians have died due to opioids in the last four years.

Pre-pandemic opioid statistics were looking promising, with the number of opioid related deaths down by almost one quarter in Alberta in 2019. Unfortunately, the opioid crisis is now worse than ever.  In British Columbia, there were 728 deaths of drug overdoses in the first six months of 2020.  Although Alberta has been slow to release information to the public regarding drug overdoses, in March there were 60 opioid-related deaths, a significant increase from the 43 deaths reported in January and 39 deaths reported in February. 

According to emergency medical call data in Alberta, there were 550 opioid-related calls in May.  This is triple the number of calls from both January and February of earlier this year.

To put some of these statistics into perspective, as of August 20, 2020, COVID-19 has killed 230 Albertans.  In just the first three months of 2020, opioids were found to have killed 142 Albertans.

WHAT ARE OPIOIDS?

Opioids are medications that can relax the body and have pain relieving properties. They can be purchased at the pharmacy to treat minor aches and pains or prescribed by a doctor to relieve medium to severe pain. 

Opioids can affect your mind, mood and mental processes, producing euphoria, or a “high” feeling, which often leads them to be used improperly.  The following are examples of opioids that can be prescribed medications:

  • Codeine;
  • Fentanyl;
  • Morphine;
  • Oxycodone;
  • Hydromorphone; and,
  • Medical heroin.

Dependency, substance use disorder and overdose are serious side effects and risks of using opioids. They have the potential for problematic use because they produce a “high” feeling.

Opioids should only be taken as prescribed, never be used by someone for whom it was not prescribed and never be taken with alcohol or other medication (except as prescribed). 

Individuals prescribed with opioids are advised never to share their medication, and are cautioned to store their medication in a safe and secure place and out of reach from children and teenagers.  Any unused opioid medication should be returned to a pharmacy for safe disposal to prevent the possibility of illegal use and protect the environment from contamination.

PHYSICIANS FACE CHALLENGES SURROUNDING THE PRESCRIPTION OF OPIOIDS

The most common reason that Canadians seek health care is due to pain, and one out of every five adults in Canada experience chronic pain.  Opioids, such as codeine, oxycodone and hydromorphone, are typically prescribed by doctors to treat pain.  When prescribed and used appropriately, opioids have a therapeutic purpose, are effective and help with pain management.  However, their challenging use cannot be overlooked.  In some cases, opioids can lead to addiction, poisoning and sometimes death.

Opioids not only help to mask physical pain, but they can also dull feelings of anxiety and depression.  Opioids work by releasing dopamine, inducing a high or feeling of euphoria.  They often offer a temporary escape for those dealing with mental health challenges. 

Many become addicted to opioids that were first prescribed by their doctor to deal with a legitimate medical issue.  Unfortunately, those that become addicted are often reluctant to seek treatment due to the stigma associated with addiction and feelings of shame.

Prescribing opioids is clearly a challenge for physicians given the crisis and increasing overdoses in our country.  It is critical that a positive doctor-patient relationship is developed and doctors take an individualized approach for each patient in order to prescribe and treat effectively.

Doctors treating patients with pain need to look for potential risk factors for substance abuse, such as a personal or family history of other types of substance abuse or psychiatric disorders.  Those patients with these red flags should not be automatically denied opioids, but should be informed of the risk of dependence and closely monitored for potential abuse. 

Medical professionals have a duty to their patients and are accountable when their negligent prescribing practices lead to patient harm or death.  If a doctor is prescribing highly addictive opioid pain medication in a manner which harms a patient or is not indicated for the patient’s symptoms or conditions, this can be considered medical malpractice.  Failing to warn a patient of the risks posed by opioids or not properly monitoring a patient’s progress while taking medication may also be considered medical malpractice.

OPIOIDS OBTAINED ILLEGALLY

Some opioids are prescribed by doctors.  However, opioids have become increasingly available through the illegal drug trade in Canada.  Fentanyl (a type of opioid) is often mixed with other street drugs, such as heroin, and packaged into fake pills. 

In Canada, the majority of those that have accidently died as a result of opioids (72%) have involved fentanyl, a highly potent and addictive opioid.  Fentanyl is considered up to 100 times stronger than morphine and is often mixed into opioids sold on the street.  Therefore, users do not know the potency of the drugs that they are ingesting. 

RISING NUMBER OF OPIOID OVERDOSES IN CANADA DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Canada continues to have an opioid crisis on its hand.  COVID-19 has not helped the situation.

As our attention focuses on the mounting death toll plaguing our country and the entire world related to COVID-19, the numbers of those overdosing from opioids in Alberta is also on the rise.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has recently brought the frightening nationwide trend to the attention of the public.  Canadians addicted to opioids are increasingly at risk, especially those isolating at home.  Feelings of stress, uncertainty, social isolation, and loss of access to services may also be contributing to the rising overdoses in Canada. 

Those individuals who were actively using drugs at the beginning of the pandemic may be increasing their consumption.  Those that were in recovery may have begun using drugs again, especially if they have encountered losses related to the pandemic or the loss of supports that they once had as a result of the pandemic.

Dr. Tam suggests that to reduce the number of opioid deaths we require increasing access to a safer supply of drugs and building more supervised consumption sites.  Other political coalitions are lobbying for the decriminalization of illegal drugs which would stop the stigma surrounding those Canadians suffering from addiction.

If you or a family member has been seriously injured by a prescription error related to opioids and you would like to examine your options under the law, please contact the experienced and skilled medical malpractice lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers

Our team of lawyers will investigate your case, consult with medical experts and advise you on the best course of action.  Please call Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers today at 403-571-0555 or contact us online to book a free consultation.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.


Delayed Diagnosis and the Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

In Canada, there are 28,000 deaths caused by medical errors each year, according to the Canadian Patient Safety Institute.  In fact, medical errors are found to be the third leading cause of death in Canada. 

Patient safety isn’t an issue unique to Canada.  It is a global public health concern. According to the World Health Organization, 2.6 million people die annually in low and middle income countries from medical errors. 

In high-income countries, it is estimated that as many as one in 10 patients are harmed while receiving hospital care, and 50% of these cases are considered preventable.  Diagnostic error, defined as the failure to identify the nature of an illness in an accurate manner, occurs in approximately 5% of outpatient care for adults in the United States.

ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS IS ESSENTIAL FOR RECOVERY

A correct diagnosis by a medical professional is vital to providing effective healthcare.  Once a diagnosis has been determined, the patient can proceed to receive proper care and treatment that they require as soon as possible.

However, an incorrect diagnosis can change everything.  An incorrect diagnosis by a health professional can occur for a number of reasons.  These may include:

  • Failure to review the patient’s full medical history;
  • Failure to order appropriate screening for illnesses and diseases;
  • Overlooking critical information found in various test results, such as a patient’s bloodwork, CT scans or MRI imaging;
  • Improper reporting of test or image results;
  • Failure to refer patients to specialists; and
  • Failure to follow-up with patients, their test results and with the referred specialists.

A delayed diagnosis occurs when a health professional fails to recognize symptoms in time, and as a result, the patient’s condition worsens.  If it can be proven that had appropriate treatment been provided in a timely manner and the patient would have survived or not suffered from a worsening condition, a medical malpractice claim for the delayed diagnosis may be successful.

In a delayed diagnosis lawsuit, the plaintiff (i.e. patient) must prove on a balance of probabilities that the delay caused or contributed to the unfavourable outcome. 

Therefore, the plaintiff must first demonstrate that they likely had the illness at the time of the alleged substandard care.  They must also show that they would have been diagnosed in a timely fashion but for the substandard care by the health professional.  The plaintiff must then demonstrate to the court that they would have received timely treatment.  And finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the timely treatment would likely have led to a healthier outcome.

An overlooked or missed diagnosis can result in a patient not being prescribed with the required medication or treatment needed to treat the illness successfully.  In these types of cases, the patient may be needlessly suffering from a worsening condition to the point of severe disability or even death.

Missed or delayed diagnosis is not necessarily medical malpractice.  Similarly, a diagnostic error or failure to diagnosis does not always give rise to a successful lawsuit.  If a missed or delayed diagnosis does not result in serious injury, the chances of winning a medical malpractice lawsuit is unlikely.

It must be proven that a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose resulted in improper medical care, delayed treatment or no treatment whatsoever which in turn resulted in the worsening of the patient’s medical condition in order for the malpractice to be actionable.

TIPS FOR PURSING A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWSUIT

If you are prepared to pursue a claim for medical malpractice against a health professional, Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers are here to help and recommend the following tips:

  1. Be prepared for a lengthy and tedious process:  In Canada, doctors are protected under the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA).  This association is tough and is prepared to protect the reputation of Canadian medical professionals.  A medical malpractice lawsuit is very hard, but not unrealistic.  With the right team of lawyers to help you with your case, their experience and knowledge will ensure your case is strong and you receive the compensation you deserve.
  2. Hire the best experts:  Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers can assemble a team of legal and medical experts to ensure that you put forth the strongest case and receive the compensation that you are entitled to. 
  3. Preserve all documents and photographs:  Medical records are the most important pieces of evidence in a medical malpractice case.  Photographs can be equally as important.  Taking pictures of your injuries and the changes over time can be very helpful evidence.  It is also important to record your memories of the events, such as doctor’s appointments and the changes in your medical condition over time.  Retain any and all documentation related to your lawsuit and provide this documentation to your lawyer.

If you or a loved one are suffering from a worsening medical condition due to a physician’s delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, a medical malpractice lawyer can investigate whether you have been the victim of a preventable medical error.

At Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers, we have the skills and resources to ensure that you put forth the strongest case and receive the compensation you are entitled to.  With over 20 years of experience, the lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie have handled many different types of medical malpractice claims, and have the experience and knowledge to evaluate your case and help you decide whether you should pursue a claim.  Call us at 403-571-0555 or online today to book a free consultation. 


New Study Reveals that Concussion Can Impact Long-Term Cognitive, Behavioural and Emotional Well Being in Adolescents

A concussion is the most common form of traumatic brain injury.  It is caused by a blow to the head, face or neck or any part of the body which causes a sudden vibration of the head. 

Concussions are often associated with symptoms such as headache, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, drowsiness and blurry vision.  They may also cause symptoms such as general confusion, poor concentration, being easily distracted, the inability to recall things that happened before or after the injury and inappropriate emotions.

It is well known that children and the elderly suffer brain injury more easily and often suffer from continuing post-concussion symptoms.  However, a new study has now confirmed that concussions in children can lead to long lasting cognitive, behavioural and emotional health consequences.

STUDY REVEALS IMPACT OF CONCUSSION ON ADOLESCENTS

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston studied 13,000 U.S. high school age athletes to determine the association between concussion history and various factors related to cognitive, behavioural and emotional health.  These participants were questioned regarding the number of times they had suffered a concussion within the last 12 months and also questioned regarding their cognitive, emotional and behavioural components and suicidal ideation and substance abuse.

According to the research, 14.5% of female and 18.1% of male student athletes were found to have suffered from at least one concussion in the past 12 months. 

The study revealed that 33.8% of the male participants that suffered at least one concussion reported that they had driven while impaired by alcohol in the last 30 days.  According to the female participants who reported suffering from more than one concussion, 19% of them stated that they had used marijuana at least once in the last 30 days.

The study also found that the male and female participants who reported having been involved in a physical fight in the last year were significantly more likely to have had at least one concussion during that same time period.

Dr. Gregory Knell, one of the study’s authors, stated:

We have previously speculated that children who suffer a concussion have more behavioral problems, so this study was able to provide a more comprehensive analysis on the various cognitive and behavioral health issues that this population faces in connection with this type of brain injury.

Male participants who reported a prior concussion were also found more likely to report difficulty concentrating, using tobacco or e-cigarettes and binge drinking.  Whereas female participants who reported prior concussion were more likely to report riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking alcohol and having suicidal thoughts or actions.

Co-author of the recent study, Dr. Scott Burkhart explained:

Parents need to understand that a concussion is a very serious brain injury, one which requires treatment every time a concussion is sustained.  This study has revealed this type of traumatic brain injury can have a compounding effect on children that could lead to more aggressive behavior, academic problems, and social issues.

SPORTS ARE NOT THE ONLY CAUSE OF CONCUSSION

Although we have focused our attention on the recent research involving adolescents suffering concussion from sports, this type of activity is not the only way that individuals get concussions.  The brain is an extremely sensitive organ and you do not need to participate in a sport to cause injury to your brain.  Any heavy blow to the head can impact the brain and cause a concussion injury. 

Car accidents are one of the leading causes of concussion.  The sudden impact of a car accident can cause your head to quickly hit a window or even the windshield of your vehicle.  A concussion can also occur due to the whiplash motion of your neck which subsequently forces your brain to rapidly hit the inside of your skull.  Most concussions do not cause a loss of consciousness.

Many accident victims ignore the signs and symptoms associated with concussion and fail to get the medical attention that they require.  Some of the signs and symptoms of concussion will not appear until a day or two after an accident.  It is strongly recommended that medical care be obtained as soon as possible following a crash.  Unfortunately, the longer that a concussion goes untreated the greater the potential for the injury to become more severe over time. 

A medical professional will review your medical history and may conduct a neurological examination, cognitive testing and imaging tests to determine your diagnosis. 

Rest is often the most appropriate and recommended treatment to allow your brain to recover from the trauma.  Doctors will often recommend limiting activities that require mental concentration, such as videogames, reading or using a computer, for at least the first 48 hours following a concussion.  Physical activities should also be avoided to reduce symptoms and allow the body to heal.  As symptoms improve, under the direction of a medical professional, you may gradually increase activities both mental and physical.

If you or a loved one think you have suffered a brain injury following a recreational accident, slip and fall or motor vehicle accident, consider getting a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you evaluate the injury’s impact on your life and whether you are entitled to make a claim for damages.

At Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers, we will review your accident from all perspectives to provide you with advice as to whether to pursue a claim for damages.  It is important that you call us promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries.  Contact our office at 403-571-0555 or online today to book an appointment for a free consultation.


British Columbia Court Provides Ruling on Social Host Liability

Over the years, courts in Canada have struggled with the question of whether or not the host of a party owes a duty of care to their intoxicated guests who leave their property and an accident ensues.  The recent case of McCormick v. Plambeck was argued before Chief Justice Hinkson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia providing the latest clarification regarding social host liability in Canada.

In the latest decision concerning social host liability, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim that the Pearsons, the adult hosts of a party attended by high school students, breached a duty of care by allowing a teenager to become intoxicated on their property and failed to stop him from leaving.  The court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the “social hosts” owed him a duty of care.

WHAT IS A SOCIAL HOST?

The 2006 Supreme Court of Canada decision of Childs v. Desormeaux defined social hosts as occupiers who are non-employer and non-commercial hosts.   In this case, the court held that a social host does not owe a duty of care to anyone that became injured by the actions of an intoxicated guest.  However, the court did imply that a duty may be owed by social hosts given the rights set of facts.

The case of Williams v. Richard went on to clarify that the duty of care owed by social hosts is determined by the facts of the case and more specifically the issues of foreseeability and proximity.

Foreseeability refers to whether the host knew or ought to have known that their guest was intoxicated or their guest had plans to engage in dangerous activity, such as driving while impaired.

Proximity refers to a “special link” between the host and the intoxicated guest.  Relevant facts that are examples of proximity include whether the host supplied the alcohol or whether the host knew underage drinking was occurring.

THE FACTS OF MCCORMICK v. PLAMBECK

Following a party at the home of the Pearson family, the plaintiff, Calder McCormick (“McCormick”) (17 years old at the time), got into a vehicle driven by the defendant, Ryan Plambeck (“Plambeck”) (18 years old at the time), in the early hours of September 16, 2012.  Both the plaintiff and the defendant had been drinking at the house party.  Plambeck’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of the accident was less than the legal limit.

The two young men left the party on foot and proceeded to steal a neighbour’s vehicle that they knew had the a key on the driver’s side wheel.  Plambeck crashed the vehicle, killing himself and seriously injuring McCormick.

According to the facts, although the party was not closely monitored, there was some level of supervision by responsible adults and consideration given to make sure that individuals who had been drinking were not driving home intoxicated.  The Pearson parents were in the home while the party was ongoing, walked through their home to check on things and instructed their daughters to have anyone who drove to their home to leave their car keys in a bowl.

The party was ended by the Pearsons at 1:00 am and both parents drove individuals who required a ride home and offered others to sleep over, if necessary.

TRIAL JUDGE’S DECISION IN MCCORMICK v. PLAMBECK

Chief Justice Hickson decided that although the Pearsons might have foreseen that the sequence of events could have occurred at the party, the steps they took to prevent such events from having taken place were reasonable (i.e. taking car keys away from guests and driving individuals home after the party).

Chief Justice Hickson stated:

As hosts, the Pearsons had to take all reasonable steps to minimize the risks of harm to their guests, including the plaintiff.  The standard is one of reasonableness, not perfection.  … It is never possible to eliminate all risks, and the Pearsons were not required to do so.

The court ultimately concluded that the Pearsons could not have foreseen the tragic outcome when their teen guests left the party on foot. 

Chief Justice Hickson, in making his determination, considered all of the facts and the context of the Pearsons hosting a house party where underage drinking would be taking place.  He stated

Salt Spring Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands.  It was described by a number of witnesses as a ‘laid-back’ community, where the lifestyle is slower paced than in larger urban centers.  Several witnesses commented on the habit of many on the Island leaving their homes and vehicles unlocked, and of some leaving car keys in unlocked vehicles. … [I]n 2012, the use of marijuana and consumption of alcohol by minors was apparently widespread, and condoned by many Salt Spring Island parents, despite the illegality of the use of the former at the time of the accident and the prohibition of the latter…

The court held that the Pearsons did not owe a duty of care to McCormick as the crash was not foreseeable.  Furthermore, given the context, even if the Pearsons owed a duty of care to McCormick, the Pearsons took appropriate measures to ensure a safe party and did not serve alcohol at the party (teens brought their own). 

If you or a loved one have suffered serious personal injuries resulting from the negligence of a social host, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers today.   We can help answer your questions and help you take legal action against the person or persons responsible for your injuries.   Contact Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers today either online or at 403-571-0555 to book an appointment for a free consultation.  We will review your individual circumstances and provide you with an assessment of your potential claim.


Coronavirus Outbreak Leads to Class Action Lawsuits in Canada

As COVID-19 continues to spread globally and the death toll continues to rise, many are looking to file lawsuits and seek compensation for illness, death, financial losses, and business, travel and school interruptions.

In Canada, there have been at least 17 class-action lawsuits filed.  As nursing homes across Canada became hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks, we lost many elderly Canadians to the deadly virus.  The Canadian Armed Forces were even brought in to help handle the outbreak at several institutions.  A number of nursing home class action lawsuits have been filed alleging the facilities’ failure to implement proper protective measure; failure to take measures to help stop the spread of the disease; failure to screen staff; amongst other allegations of negligence leading to the spread of infection throughout the facilities and the contraction of illness and in some cases death to the residents. A separate action was filed against an Ottawa lab alleging that nursing home residents were given false COVID-19 positive test results.

Class action lawsuits have also been filed against multiple businesses for financial losses suffered by customers, including:

  • event organizers such as StubHub Canada Ltd. and Ticketmaster, for refusing to issue refunds to Canadians who purchased tickets for events that were cancelled during the pandemic;
  • airlines such as Air Transat and Air Canada for refusing to refund travellers for flights cancelled due to COVID-19; 
  • educational institutions, such as the University of Victoria for failing to issue partial refunds for parking permits; and
  • insurance providers for refusing to pay businesses for losses related to the pandemic.

Employee Safety a Top Concern

One of the primary reasons for class actions in North America resulting from the pandemic has been outbreaks among employees at warehouses, plants and farms. Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been concentrated in locations such as meat-packing plants, farms with large populations of migrant workers across the country, and elsewhere. Employees and their families are bringing large-scale actions against employers who failed to secure the safety of their employees and put their health at risk, or worse.

Independent Claims May be a Better Option

While joining a large class action may seem like the best path forward if you’ve suffered health consequences or lost a family member as a result of an employer’s neglect, it may actually be more advantageous to opt-out and bring a claim independently. We previously discussed this in relation to claims against long-term care facilities, but with food production industries being an ongoing COVID-19 hotspot, it is worth reiterating some key points.

When it comes to a class action, it can be tempting to join because of the old adage, ‘strength in numbers’. Litigation can be an intimidating and even daunting prospect that takes time and money to resolve. However, class actions are not guaranteed, and even when they are successful, the proceeds are shared among hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs.

To retain proper control of the litigation strategy, and to obtain the most favourable benefit, we recommend considering the idea of bringing an independent claim instead. Many people do not realize that participating in an unsuccessful class action will often have the side effect of barring their right to bring a separate claim later if the outcome of the class action is not satisfactory. To ensure you are doing everything you can to see the most favourable outcome, we recommend considering all options with an experienced personal injury lawyer, who will be able to advise on your best chance for success.

Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers will continue to follow the developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and the progress of the lawsuits related to COVID-19 in Canada and will report on any updates in this blog.

At Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers we are committed to helping you and your loved ones.  If you or a member of your family has suffered serious injury through no fault of your own, the personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers may be able to help you obtain financial compensation.  Our legal team will meet with you and evaluate your legal options to help you decide whether to pursue a claim.  Contact our knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyers to learn what options are available at 403-571-0555 or online today.


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