Issue: March 2016
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Slumbering Concerns: Sleep Disorder Treatment Risks and Liabilities

Introduction

Liability Risks for Sleep Disorders

More than 25% of people in the United States report an occasional problem getting enough sleep. Sleeping difficulties have been associated with the development and management of chronic diseases. Insufficient sleep also can lead to injuries and disability resulting from motor vehicle or machinery-related accidents.

 

Chronic insomnia affects almost 10% of the population. Other disorders that affect the amount and/or the quality of a person’s sleep include sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, hypersomnia, and parasomnia.

 

Sleep apnea has become more common with the aging of the population and the increased incidence of obesity, but not all sufferers get diagnosed. Many members of the medical community have concerns about the health risks for patients with undiagnosed sleep apnea. Others, including insurers, worry about the costs and extent of unnecessary sleep testing and treatment.

 

Injuries related to sleep disorders may give rise to legal claims, including claims for medical malpractice or negligence, which can result in high settlements and awards. Attorneys, physicians, hospitals, insurers, employers, and others at risk for liability need to be aware of the types of litigation issues that may arise in connection with a sleep disorder injury.


The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy

Attorneys:

What proof is needed to establish medical malpractice in the treatment of a patient with a sleep disorder? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ?

Physicians:

How can liability for medical malpractice be avoided for a sleep disorder injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the physician to employ?

Insurers:

Can a payout under a medical malpractice liability policy be avoided by proof that the health provider was not negligent or there was no coverage for the sleep disorder injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the insurer to employ? 

Employers:

Can an employer be subject to liability for an injury related to an employee’s sleep disorder? And, what is a potential strategy for the employer to use? 


Practice the Technique: Checklists

Attorneys:

Check this list of facts and circumstances tending to show a health provider’s liability for malpractice or negligence for a sleep disorder injury.

Physicians:

Presented is a checklist of items a physician must consider when defending against claims of malpractice or negligence involving a sleep disorder injury.

Insurers:

The insurer should check these “red flags” and inconsistencies when investigating a claim of sleep disorder injury.

Employers:

Use this checklist to determine if the employee’s sleep disorder injury is “work related” and occurred “in the course of the employment.”

Expert Analysis

Is There a Better Way for Sleep Apnea-Affected Women To Sleep After Childbirth?

Matthias Eikermann, MD, PhD

How Do Performance Enhancing Sleep and Sleep Disorders Affect Athletes?

Michael Howell, MD; Jonathan Parker, DDS

What Documentation Is Necessary for a Narcolepsy Social Security Disability Claim? 

Julie A. Hall, JD

Litigation

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, may be mandated by the court or, in some circumstances, may be the appropriate method for a negotiated resolution.  


Reasons To Reach Settlement

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to reach settlement, and not take the action to trial. 


Reasons To Go To Trial

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to take the action to trial.


Jury Awards and Settlements

How much have juries awarded and what settlements have been reached recently in cases involving sleep disorders?



Medical Examples

Sleep Disorders

This section provides detailed medical information on normal sleep, specific sleep disorders, and the diagnosis and treatment of these disorders. Also discussed is a patient’s prognosis and ability to work with a sleep disorder.



Law and Medicine Resources

Law and Medicine Resources

Provided is a listing of law and medical resources for further information on sleep disorders.


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Slumbering Concerns: Sleep Disorder Treatment Risks and Liabilities

Table of Contents
Introduction

Expert Analysis
   Matthias Eikermann, MD, PhD
   Michael Howell, MD; Jonathan Parker, DDS
   Julie A. Hall, JD

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy
   Attorneys
   Physicians and Health Providers
   Insurers
   Employers and Risk Managers

Practice the Technique: Checklists
   Attorney Checklist
   Physician Checklist
   Insurer Checklist
   Employer Checklist

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Reasons To Reach Settlement

Reasons To Go To Trial

Jury Awards and Settlements

Sleep Disorders

Law and Medicine Resources