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Attorney Joseph Balesteri: Avoid Doctors and Hospitals in July, Weekends and Holidays

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Chicago, ILJoseph Balesteri says medical errors are more likely to occur on weekends, holidays, and in the month of July when new doctors, fresh out of medical school, traditionally begin their residency programs. "It is something that all medical malpractice lawyers are very aware of," says Balesteri, an attorney with Power, Rogers & Smith in Chicago.

So if you have surgery scheduled and you are worried about the outcome, don't check your horoscope, check the calendar.

"Doctors don't do rounds as much on Saturdays and Sundays, and they don't come in over the holidays," Balesteri says. "They rely on other people, like new residents, and they often don't know what they are doing."

There are several reasons Balesteri knows a lot about how hospitals and doctors work. He spent the first five years of his career defending medical professionals in malpractice suits. "It was like being at medical school," he says. "I took part in hundreds of hours of examinations for discovery, and listened to some of the smartest doctors in the country answer questions about medical procedures."

Another reason for his insight is that Balesteri's father is a successful and respected cardiologist. When Balesteri was offered a position at a law firm that sues doctors rather than defends them, Balesteri was worried about what his father might think. "Obviously," he says, "physicians don't look too favorably on lawyers who sue them. But once he knew the firm's reputation and the kinds of cases we take, he was okay with it."

Since moving over to Power, Rogers & Smith, Balesteri won more than 200 million dollars in verdicts and settlements for his clients. He is considered one of Chicago's best and brightest upcoming personal injury litigation lawyers in the area of medical malpractice.

This spring, Balesteri settled a medical negligence case for 3.15 million dollars on behalf of a 69-year-old woman. She had knee replacement surgery in 2002. Soon after, she began to lose sensation in her foot and it began to change color. The surgeon had severed a vein in her leg and it was days before the problem was discovered. "She had to have her leg amputated from the knee down," he says.

As Balesteri sees it, all doctors have a responsibility to perform at the top of their game no matter what the circumstances. "Sometimes they don't go in to the hospital when they should, or they get too busy, or they rely on people they shouldn't rely on to make diagnoses when they are not there," says Balesteri. "There are a lot of reasons for doctors not providing the level of care they are capable of, but there is no excuse for anything but safety and appropriateness when it comes to patients.

"I've found that great doctors and even doctors who are really trying hard make mistakes," Balesteri says.

Most of the cases his firm handles settle at trial, before the jury has had a chance to deliver a verdict. It is only once the trial is underway, according Balesteri, that insurance carriers become interested in making the plaintiff an offer.

Referring to the case of the woman who had her leg amputated, Balesteri says, "It seemed, once the trial had begun, the insurance company made a new offer every day. There was no way the 3.15 million dollar offer could be turned down at that point for a woman who was 69 years old."

He would prefer that juries made the awards, but that is not the way most cases end. "It would be nice if you could see the jury make the award. It validates the case and your work," Balesteri says.

Joesph Balesteri attended Indiana University, graduating in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business. He attended DePaul University College of Law and graduated with his Juris Doctorate in 1995. He has spoken in Illinois and out-of-state on medical malpractice, premises liability and trial topics for the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

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