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The Office of the Press Secretary at the White House announced last week that December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. The proclamation, signed by our President Barack Obama, reminds us during this holiday season that we must be vigilant while driving to our friends and families for parties and celebrations to ensure that we remain safe.

The purpose of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month is urge Americans to make responsible decisions and to take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving this month and every month. The proclamation stresses that families play a key role in preventing impaired driving. Impaired driving includes any behavior that takes a drivers focus away from the roadway. This includes driving drunk, drugged or distracted. Distracted driving includes driving while talking on the phone, texting, or playing with the radio. It can also include driving while doing any other task, including adjusting the temperature, corralling children or pets, or even having an involved conversation. The release also reminds us that drugged driving includes driving while taking prescription medications, so be sure to read all warning labels carefully prior to driving to make sure that your medication will not affect your ability to drive safely. The President recommends that parents talk to their children about the risks of impaired driving and set guidelines and expectations for young drivers in the family, Additionally, parents, educators and other caregivers should set a good example for their children and family members by never driving in an impaired state.

The President and his administration are taking steps to ensure that we all drive without distractions. These steps include raising public awareness, improve impaired driving screening procedures, and giving law enforcement the training they need to both punish and prevent impaired driving. They are also combating substance abuse by supporting local prevention programs and providing youth with the harsh facts about alcohol and drug use and the negative affects it can have on our lives.

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The Chicago Tribune reports that a former Illinois surgeon, who practices in northwest suburban Lake in the Hills and in Iowa has been charged with professional incompetence and misconduct by the Iowa Board of Medicine related to his practice. These allegations stem from the doctor’s Lyme disease focused practice that has been deemed, “harmful or detrimental to the public.” Additionally, he is charged with sexual misconduct and unprofessional conduct stemming from an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female Illinois patient. This victim states that she contacted the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation regarding the incident. He has since been placed on indefinite probation by the Illinois Department.

The surgeon is licensed in both Iowa and Illinois, and his current practice centers on treating and diagnosing patients for a type of Lyme disease that many medical authorities do not recognize including the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Academy of Neurology. Lyme disease is an infection typically transmitted by ticks that can cause swollen joints, inflamed nerves, and rashes. It is normally fully treated by a round of antibiotics. However, certain doctors, including this surgeon believe that patients with reoccurring issues like back pain, fatigue or poor concentration are caused by a chronic form of Lyme disease. These doctors believe that chronic Lyme disease cannot be caught by tests or with standard treatment, causing many of their patients to be treated with antibiotics for months or even years at a time.

In an email to the Chicago Tribune last year, the surgeon stated that he maintains this practice because he contracted Lyme disease in 2006 and therefore he is dedicated to the care of Lyme disease patients. He treats dozens of patients every week, many for Lyme disease. This Lyme practice is the center of the Iowa Board of Medicine’s charges against him, alleging that he diagnosed and treated patients for Lyme disease even though they did not meet established standards for the disease set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further, they seriously questioned his treatment methods and accused him of engaging in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female patient from Illinois whom he was treating for Lyme disease. A hearing on these charges has been set for February of next year.

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A new University of Illinois study has found that bans on handheld cell phones are effective, but only in urban areas. The researchers came to this conclusion by studying New York State in the years prior to and after its 2001 ban on handheld cell phones. The result was that cell phone bans resulted in decreased accident rates in urban areas, which is good news. However, the more surprising results were that in cell phone bans actually correlated with higher accident rates than expected in very rural areas.

The researchers conducted the study by examining long-term accidents rates and their association with bans on cell phones, using seven years of data from New York and comparing that data with Pennsylvania, which has no ban. The researchers used these two states because they have similar weather and wide diversity in population density of their counties. This study is one of the longest-term analysis of such statistics ever published. To figure out how cell phone bans affect different areas of the states, the researchers divided counties into urban, rural, or very rural by looking at the number of licensed drivers per mile of roadway. Then they analyzed the accident rates among those categories. What they discovered was that after the ban, there was an initial rise in the number of accidents in all three types of areas, followed by varying results in each of the types of counties. In urban areas, for example, there was a steady decrease in the amount of personal injury accidents over a seven year period, while conversely there was an increase in accident rates in very rural areas over the same time.

The leader of the study, Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and mathematics at the University of Illinois, has a recommendation for drivers. He says, “the main idea [for drivers] is to use the eye test when it comes to cell phone use.” The eye test is, “[i]f you look around and it’s busy, it’s a good idea to put the cell phone down and not use it.” The results of this study impact Chicago drivers because they show that a handheld cell phone ban in the city is likely to decrease accident rates. Currently, Chicago drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones, and text messaging is also prohibited according to Hands Free Info.com, which reports on the cell phone restrictions in all 50 states. This is good news for Chicago drivers, as the current ban is likely to decrease accidents in our city. That said, the Illinois General Assembly website details a pending House Bill that would prohibit the use of handheld devices throughout the state.

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As of Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the current outbreak of fungal meningitis has affected 344 people in 18 states – including in Illinois – and has claimed the lives of a total of 25 individuals across the country.

But now federal officials have narrowed down the cause. The pandemic came as a result of a rare fungal form of meningitis that affected patients who were injected with methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid drug commonly used to treat back pain. Investigators toured the plant at the center of the ongoing outbreak and found foreign, “greenish-black” material in some vials of the injection suspected as the cause of the illnesses, reported MSNBC.

Meningitis is an illness that is marked by inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord; because of the proximity of the swelling in relation to the brain and spine, meningitis is considered to be a life-threatening medical emergency. This particular strain of the disease, a rare fungal form of meningitis, affected patients who were injected with methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid drug commonly used to treat back pain. MSNBC reports that as many as 14,000 people may have gotten the shots, and, because symptoms of meningitis may take as long as a month to present, it is expected that both the list of infected individuals and the number of deaths related to the infection will continue to grow.

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On October 24, 2012, the United States Chamber of Commerce held its thirteenth annual legal reform summit in Washington D.C. The purpose of this annual summit is to limit plaintiffs access to American courtrooms by proposing pro-business, anti-consumer legal reform. This year’s summit was no different. The American Association for Justice (“AAJ”) came out with a slideshow detailing the top 10 ways that the U.S. Chamber hurts Americans. Number three on the list details how the U.S. Chamber has tried to keep injured plaintiffs out of courtrooms by continually denying workers rights and defending companies who have poisoned everyday consumers with lead paint, asbestos and environmental contamination, to name a few.

The U.S. Chamber’s History with Worker’s Rights.

According to the AAJ report, the U.S. Chamber has repeatedly denied basic worker’s rights; from forcing employees to pay for their own basic safety equipment to condoning racial and disability based discrimination.

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Ever since Dale Hackbart, an NFL defensive back, took the Cincinnati Bengal’s NFL franchise all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in a personal injury lawsuit, the law surrounding injuries that occur on the field of play has been pretty stagnant. But that could all change very soon.

In 1979, the United States Supreme Court created a ruling that included language establishing the fact that when a person is injured on the field of play during the normal course of an athletic competition, he or she may not have standing to bring a personal injury claim for the harm caused because he or she inherently accepted the risk of injury by participating in the game.

But recently the Baltimore Sun reported on an injury on a soccer field that has the potential to remake personal injury law in several states.

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Last week it was 137. This week, after more people fell ill from the current outbreak of meningitis, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the statistic has now jumped to a total number of 205 cases across 14 states.

The pandemic came as a result of a rare fungal form of meningitis, affected patients who were injected with methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid drug commonly used to treat back pain.

Although the death toll from the unprecedented outbreak only climbed to 15 from last week’s 12, our Chicago meningitis outbreak attorneys are concerned by the fact that MSNBC reports that as many as 13,000 people may have gotten the shots, and, because symptoms of meningitis may take as long as a month to present, it is expected that both the list of infected individuals and the number of deaths related to the infection will continue to grow.

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It wasn’t supposed to be a lethal injection.

Nonetheless, as of this morning, the death toll for the current outbreak of meningitis has reached twelve, in addition to the 137 sickened from the epidemic apparently caused by contaminated steroid injections.

Meningitis is an illness that is marked by inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord; because of the proximity of the swelling in relation to the brain and spine, meningitis is considered to be a life-threatening medical emergency.

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Over the past several days, our Chicago personal injury lawyers have expressed enormous concern over the number of guests who have been sickened or died from a rare-but-deadly disease at Chicago’s J.W. Marriott hotel last month.

The line of J.W. Marriott hotels and resorts are the luxury division of Marriott International, a hotel chain with more than 500 hotels worldwide.

Now, however, despite the brand’s reputation for opulence, the Chicago Tribune reports that two of the eight persons who contracted Legionnaire’s Disease at the hotel located at 151 W. Adams St., have subsequently died from the infection.

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In the most basic of terms, under Illinois law municipalities have an overarching responsibility to protect their residents. This includes the responsibility to enact and enforce laws to protect their constituents, as well as ensuring that government-provided utilities are safe for use by members of the community. When a particular city fails in its obligations to implement these precautionary measures, and individuals are harmed as a result, the city may be legally responsible for the harm caused.

A resident of Sauk Village, Illinois is alleging just that. According to the Chicago Tribune, recently, a man filed a Chicago personal injury lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that the Sauk Village was negligent in providing the community with water that was contaminated with the carcinogen vinyl chloride. The Illinois personal injury claim details the fact that the man was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx in April 2012, and alleges that the cancer was caused by the polluted drinking water made available by the city.

An important factor in determining liability on the part of the city for the poisoned water is the fact that village officials were informed in 2009 by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) that one of the town’s wells was contaminated with vinyl chloride, reports the Chicago Tribune. The town consequently closed down that well while the IEPA tested water in the city’s two remaining wells.

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