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Northwest Cultural Council Reception on May 19, 2018

On May 19, 2018, the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. sponsored its first reception for the Northwest Cultural Council. Founded by Kathy Umlauf in 1988, the Northwest Cultural Council  supports and promotes the work of local area artists, both in visual art and poetry. By creating the Northwest Cultural Council, Ms. Umlauf focused on adding art and culture to the many business districts in the Northwest suburbs.

The art will remain up at the Arlington Green Executive Center, where the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. is located, through Saturday, July 7, at 2101 S. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights. It’s really brightened up our hallways!

Wrongful Death

wrongful death

Wrongful death is a claim brought by a party against a defendant who caused the death of a close family member. A wrongful death action gives an opportunity to the estate of the deceased person to bring a lawsuit against the defendant who may have caused the death by intentional or negligent actions. The lawsuit gives the family the chance to seek compensation for their emotional and financial loss.

What is a Wrongful Death?

Claims for wrongful death are usually negligence cases. Negligence case is when the defendant was careless which caused an accident causing harm to the victim. For example, if the negligence of a party leads to the death of a loved one on a hunting trip, you may have a wrongful death suit. The party bringing the action must prove the four key elements:

  1. Negligence – the party must prove the defendant caused the death of the victim by carelessness or reckless actions
  2. Breach of duty – the party must prove that the defendant owed and then breached a duty to the deceased victim.
  3. Causation – the party must prove thatthe defendant negligence caused the death of the loved one.
  4. Damages – The death of the victim should have resulted in damages such as hospital fees, medical expenses and funeral/burial cost.

Wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action and is separate from the criminal prosecution. Therefore the burden of proof is set lower. Even without criminal charges, a family can bring a civil action against a defendant. Additionally, if a criminal court acquits a defendant of murder, the victim’s family may still have a cause of action in civil courtA court would take the two charges separately and one should not control the other.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Suit?

Usually, survivors with a relationship to the deceased brings a wrongful death claim. The relationship to the victim construe differently from state to state.

In all states, a spouse can bring a wrongful death claim because the spouse can show a financial dependence on the deceased. Others who may be eligible to bring the claim may include parents of  unmarried children and children of the deceased. In some states sibling and grandparents may have the right to bring a lawsuit. But they would have a higher burden in proving closeness to the victim. Parents of minor children can bring a claim, but debate remains whether parents of adult children can bring a claim.
Bystanders with no relationship to the victims cannot bring a claim for wrongful death.

When to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim

Survivors can bring a wrongful death claim when a defendant kills their close relative by the harmful act of an intentional or negligent act. Some instances when a wrongful death claim can be brought includewhen then the victim dies because of

  • Intentional act
  • a criminal activity,
  • medical malpractice,
  • product defect,
  • occupational exposure and hazard,
  • supervised activities (day care, adult care, field trips) or
  • car related accidents involving negligence, including manufacturing defects.

What to Prove

To bring a wrongful death claim, one must prove that the

  1. defendant owed a duty of care to the victim,
  2. defendant breached they duty,
  3. death was caused by the breach and
  4. death caused damages that plaintiff can recover.

Damages

When calculating damages for the one who has brought a wrongful death claim, the jury looks at the victim’s earnings at the time of death and potential future earnings and losses. Some damages that can result from a wrongful death can include:

  • medical cost of the deceased victim
  • deceased person’s expected income
  • cost of services provided such as funeral and burial
  • loss of consortium
  • loss of support and income
  • lost of prospect of inheritance
  • value of services the deceased would have provided if still alive
  • loss of love and companionship

A court may award punitive damages to the victim’s family for a action. Punitive damages exceed compensation. A court or jury awards punitive damages mainly to punish the defendant for the harmful actions.

Negligence at Nursing Homes

You do not want to believe that your loved one may not receive the care you thought they would receive at their nursing home. Unfortunately, when it comes to cleanliness and hygiene, some nursing homes show signs of neglect. Nursing home neglect, unlike nursing home abuse, is a breach of duty that results in harm to the patient. If they fail to provide adequate care, your loved one may suffer from illness, injuries or distress. Some forms of neglect may include:

  • poor hygiene
  • poor sanitation
  • uncleanliness
  • medical neglect
  • neglect of basic needs

How Can I Identify Neglect at a Nursing Home?

All nursing homes must provide the basic necessity of keeping the facility clean and caring for the resident’s personal. Failure to do so can have detrimental health effects for both the staff and residents. Residents living in a negligent environment have higher risk of certain diseases, injury or illness. Neglect can also lead to serious injury or death.

While some neglect may be extremely obvious, you may not easily detect others. Physical signs may not always present themselves when negligence takes place. The best way to detect neglect remains to visit a close family member or loved one with frequent visits and notices. Even without neglect, your loved one will happily welcome you into their new home. Unfortunately, the elderly residents who don’t usually see their family may not know how to display their concerns.

Some signs of negligence may:

  • Malnutrition
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Bed sores
  • Injuries
  • Dehydration
  • Alterations in appeareacne or personal hygiene
  • Environmental hazards at the facility including unsafe furniture’s and wheelchairs, bad light and slippery floors.

What Should I Expect from a Nursing Home Facility?

All residents at nursing home facilities have the right to a clean and safe environment so they can live comfortably. Staff at the nursing home facilities should be held accountable if they fail to keep the facility clean and safe for the residents. Negligence in nursing homes should not go unreported as it creates high risk of danger for the residents. The facility needs to pay close attention to the environment created for the residents and their needs.

A facility should take necessary steps to prevent injuries to elderly residents. The facility must also make sure the staff is experienced and have the skills to provide adequate care for the elderly. Facilities that are understaffed may assign more responsibilities for the individual worker to insure the resident’s safety.

What Should I Expect from a Nursing Home Staff?

The staff at a nursing home has an incredibly hard job. They care about your loved ones and want them to have the best experience at the facility. However, staff may not have the required skills or the time to ensure that they meet all of your loved one’s needs. To ensure the staff knows what your expectations are, use this list of tips:

  • Ask for ongoing communications with the staff regarding the resident’s care.
  • Make sure that the staff can always assist with your loved one’s needs, especially mobility.
  • If you believe that your loved one may have a high risk of falling, ask for close supervision and for help in ensuring their safety.
  • Pay close attention to the environment and ensure that the staff quickly resolves any sanitary issues or safety concerns for the residents.
  • The staff should regularly monitory the seniors for changes in mobile or mental ability.
  • Ask for assementments for any developing medical concerns you or your loved one may have

Research indicates that residents at the nursing home facilities who are frequently visited by family, friends or loved ones are less likely to experience the nursing home abuse, neglect or emotional distress. However, the responsibility of all nursing home facilities is to provide adequate care for the residents.

Therefore, check in on your loved one. Make sure the nursing home facility they live in remainsa safe and healthy space for residents. They a comfortable environment and to avoid any kind of nursing home neglect.

Hunting Accidents: Wrongful Death and Negligence Injuries

hunting accidents

During the last week of March of this year, an Illinois juvenile suffered non-fatal injuries after being shot in a hunting accident. The accident occurred on March 30, 2018 around 8:00 A.M. near southern Davison County in South Dakota. According to Conservation Officer Brian Humphrey of the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Departments, the Illinoisan was hunting snow goose when the gun that injured him appeared to not have its safe on and was bumped causing a round to fire at the juvenile.

While this incident occurred in South Dakota to an Illinois resident, many hunting accidents happen in the State of Illinois. According to the Department of Natural Resources, also known as the IDNR, “Hunting Incidents by Year Cumulative Report,” in 2015, a total of 308,878 hunting licenses were sold, and 41 fatal and non-fatal accidents were reported. This does not account for other accidents that were not reported to the IDNR.

[Read more…]

Cooling Down By Boating This Summer? Be Safe!

With Memorial Day as the official kick-off weekend for boating season, many boaters have been taking advantage of the nice weekend weather and launching their boats a few weeks early. Before you jump onto your dock, review these rules of the waterway safety. Make sure your boat, yacht, or even ship is water ready.

According to the Discover Boating, just as we learn the “Rules of the Road,” learn the “Rules of Water.”

Discover Boating divides its boating safety tips into four sections:

  1. life jackets,
  2. pre-departure checklist,
  3. semi-annual boating maintenance checklist, and
  4. boating with pets.

Life Jackets

Illinois recommends the use of a life jacket by all boat passengers. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 77 boating-related accidents on Illinois waters in 2014 resulted in 54 injuries and 20 fatalities. During the last five years, Illinois averaged 95 boating accidents resulting in 67 injuries and 19 fatalities.

There are numerous life jacket options that can be utilized:

  1. Offshore life jacket – best suited for boat rides occurring farther into the water due to its 22 pounds of buoyancy and its extended survival design in rough, open water.
  2. Near shore buoyant vest – the classic, most commonly thought of life jacket. You can purchase these life saving vests at a relatively low cost
  3. Buoyancy aid – the most comfortable and useful for different boating activities and water sports
  4. Throwable device – a device used to aid another person in the water. Common devices include boat cushions, ring buoys, and horseshoe buoys
  5. Special use devices – only use boardsailing vests, deck suits, pullover vests, work vests, and inflatable jackets when in the specific use of the device
  6. Inflatable life jackets – utilized while inflated or deflated

Lastly, if you are boating with children, have a life jacket for their proper size.

 Pre-Departure Checklist

Discover Boating created a pre-departure checklist for boaters to utilize before they hit the water. The list is an extensive one, but here’s a quick high light:

  • Your boat should have at least one Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on the boat. At minimum, there should be two life jackets on the boat at all times.
  • It is important to have a sound producing device such as a horn that can produce a four-second blasting sound for at least one-half of mile in the event of an emergency.
  • Before journeying out into the water on your boat, check to ensure that all instrument lights are functioning properly.
  • Make sure flare signals are stored in a dry area.
  • Be sure to have a standard and stocked first-aid kit on board.

Semi-Annual Boating Maintenance Checklist

Twice a year, boat owners should conduct the following check-ups:

  • Are all fire extinguishers functioning properly?
  • Are all safety equipment meeting required thresholds?
  • What is the condition of the fuel tank? Is it rusted?
  • What preventive measures have been or need to be taken to prevent or correct corrosion?

Pet Safety

 Pets tend to become a member of the family which means they may be participating in a family boating trip. If boating with a pet, there are few things to keep in mind.

  1. Be sure to have plenty of drinking water on board.
  2. Obtain a fixaxble umbrella to provide a shaded area to prevent over exposure to the sun.
  3. Protect your pet’s feet from the hot boat surface.
  4. If this is your pet’s first boat outing, keep it short so he or she can get used to the motion of the boat.
  5. Consider a pet life jacket.

This list of tips is by no means totally inclusive. Therefore, be sure to visit Discover Boating’s website for full checklists and tip lists.

Veterans in Nursing Homes

Many families of retired military members or veterans do not know all of the options available to them for senior care. Since May is National Military Appreciation Month, remember that your veteran deserves the best care. MedlinePlus.gov defines nursing homes as secure places for patients who don’t need to be hospitalized, but they can’t function at home, either. This applies to civilians or ex-military.

Nursing homes employ a vast range of medical specialists focused on everything from speech rehabilitation to occupational therapy. But the foundation on which these facilities rests on a mix of nursing aides, RNs, LPNs and orderlies. They work day to day for the care and well-being of patients.

[Read more…]

Dementia Treatments in Nursing Facilities

dementia
Many families delay moving a loved one into nursing care until their loved one requires more care. Dementia is a progressive brain disease and with time, the patients become able to remember and do less and less. Symptoms include:
  • memory loss,
  • becoming bedridden and/or wheelchair ridden and
  • loss of motor abilities.

As a result, not all families are able to care for their loved ones when they get to this state. When they can’t, they often decide to move their loved one into a maximum care nursing home.

[Read more…]

Defense of Property – How Far is Too Far

In the first year of law school, students take Torts, a class focused on personal injury claims. In this class, students read Katko v. Briney, a 1971 case from Iowa. But what steps can one take to protect their property?

Katko v. Briney

In Katko v. Briney, Edward and Bertha Briney were tired of their nearly abandoned farmhouse being broken into during the hunting season. To stop these break-ins, Edward Briney secured a 20-gauge shotgun to an rod-iron bed in the back bedroom. Then, he fixed a wire around the bedroom door to the trigger of the gun making a makeshift spring-gun.

Sounds like a prank Bugs Bunny would pull on Elmer Fudd, right? A single month after Briney created his DYI security system, Marvin Katko was out hunting near the farmhouse. On past hunting trips, Katko had entered the farmhouse and others like it. He would find canned foods and other non-perishable goods. This time around, Katko accessed the house through the porch window and opened the bedroom door. When Katko did this, Briney’s shotgun-Rube Goldberg creation shot at Katko and hit him in the leg.

Though Katko did not need to get his leg amputated, a jury awarded Katko with $20,000 in actual damages and $10,000 in punitive damages. In issuing their decision, the Iowa Supreme Court stated that the Brineys used unreasonable deadly force in an attempt to defend their property.

[Read more…]

Should I Contact a Lawyer After a Nursing Home Fall?

nursing home fall

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 36% of hospital emergency room visits for long-term care residents are due to falls. The average assisted living facility accounts for 100 to 200 falls each year. Unfortunately, a nursing home fall can cause serious problems effecting the quality of life, disability, and reduced independence. Of course, as our population ages, the CDC estimates by 2030, nearly 3 million people will live in assisted living facilities.

About 20% of these falls can be prevented by improving controllable environmental factors. These factors include poor lighting, wet floors, and incorrect bed height. According to the CDC, only about 5% of seniors live in assisted living facilities, but they account for up to 20% of the deaths due to falls. But many times, the last nursing home fall was not the first fall. The CDC estimates that each elder citizen falls 2.6 times. In the end, about 1,800 senior citizen die each year from a fall.

[Read more…]

Have a Safe Spring on Your Motorcycles

We have had a short spring. Although spring officially began on March 20, the thermometer remained in winter mode. What happened to the April showers, green landscape, and blossoming flowers? And now, it seems like summer will begin!

For example, on April 9th, 2018, the Chicago Cubs opening day was postponed due to snow covering Wrigley Field. But two days later, sunshine and the 60s greeted the Chicagoland area.

Houses and cars could finally begin to turn the heat off and open the windows. Bikers uncover their motorcycles and hit the road. According to Statista’s 2016 survey, there are a total of 314,807 motorcycles registered and traveling on Illinois roads. While enjoying this weather with a fun, relaxing ride may seem like the most logical thing to do. But avoid having a motorcycle accident. Remember these important safety tips when hitting the road. [Read more…]

About the Firm


Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

About Ron

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