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Yasmin, the oral contraceptive, was introduced to the market in 2001. The drug's manufacturer, Bayer, marketed the drug as a treatment for acne and severe premenstrual symptoms, in addition to its birth control benefits. The drug was a hit, bringing in $1.47 billion in sales during 2010 alone.

Although the drug was a financial success, it came with a price-deadly side effects. The drug has been linked to an increased risk of blood clots that often result in heart attacks and strokes. As a result, since 2009, Bayer has been hit with a barrage of lawsuits claiming that it failed to warn consumers of the drug's health risk and that it knew or should have known of the adverse side effects.

As a result of the litigation, Bayer recently announced that it has reached agreements to pay $1 billion in settlements to 4,800 women in the United States who say they were harmed by taking Yasmin or Yaz (its sister drug). The company is only settling claims for blood clot injuries. Currently, there are about 10,000 lawsuits that are pending against the manufacturer.

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Crossing central Illinois, Interstate 55 connects the Chicago metro with St. Louis. Over the holiday season, the corridor sees an increase in truck and passenger vehicle traffic. A recent tragedy near Litchfield provides a reminder to take care over the next few weeks as more people hit the roads to be with family.

The accident occurred on November 26, while an Illinois State Police trooper was completing a routine traffic stop. A passing semi tractor-trailer struck the trooper as he stood along the side of the road. The trooper died at the scene of the accident. The section of highway was closed off for much of the day, so that law enforcement could investigate what happened.

This is the same area of the Interstate where several other accidents have occurred this year. In May, a school bus rear-ended a stopped truck injuring many students. Also, a Megabus blew a tire and hit a bridge, which killed one passenger and injured others.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 13.5 percent more fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2012 than during the same time frame in 2011. The number of fatalities jumped from 6,720 to 7,630 nationwide during Q1 of 2012. First quarter motor vehicle accident fatalities had been declining nationally since 2006, when there were 9,558 traffic deaths during the first three months of that year.

Illinois was no exception to the unfortunate upward trend. The Chicago Sun-Times reports a nine percent increase in Illinois traffic fatalities from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012. While the number of deaths in Illinois and across the nation is easy to ascertain, the reason for the increase is not quite so clear.

Potential Causes

While there are many theories attempting to explain the increase, none pinpoint a single cause for the uptick. The most widely held view is that though winter weather usually keeps first-quarter accidents low, warmer weather in January, February and March of 2012 enabled more drivers to get out on the road. Others speculate that the increase of cars on the road is a result of an improving economy. Either way, more cars on the road will inevitably result in more traffic accidents.

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The Illinois Workers' Compensation system has undergone significant reforms in the past year. These included a decrease in payments made to healthcare providers who treat injured workers, the establishment of preferred provider programs and the pilot of a collective bargaining program for workers' compensation benefits. The state legislature is now debating two bills that may further change the benefits injured workers in Illinois are eligible to receive.

Illinois House Workers' Compensation Bill

Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) recently introduced H.B. 6145 in the Illinois House, which amends the Workers' Compensation Act. If passed, the bill would impact the eligibility of injured employees who have received benefits for prior injuries. The bill would require previous partial disability benefits to be subtracted from the amount awarded for a subsequent injury, as long as the subsequent injury impacts the same area of the body as the earlier injury.

In other words, the bill would decrease the benefits available to workers who sustain repeated injuries in the same portion of the body. The bill also specifies that shoulder and arm injuries should be considered the same portion of the body for purposes of computing benefits. Moreover, hip injuries are to be considered injuries to the leg. Additionally, the bill caps cumulative awards for partial disability benefits at 500 weeks.

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As the construction season gets underway the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and its partners kicked off the "Embrace the Orange" campaign. The initial launch coincided with National Work Zone Awareness Week during the last week of April. The goal of the campaign is to reduce motor vehicle accidents, injuries and fatalities in construction zones across Illinois.

Work zone accidents are a serious concern. On average, more than 7,000 such crashes occur annually in Illinois. Twenty-four people lost their lives due to construction zone accidents last year. These fatalities included motorists and construction workers, as well as one work zone pedestrian. Even though this represents the lowest number of deaths in several years, IDOT and other organizations participating in the campaign are committed to reducing it to zero.

The Illinois State Police Operational Services Commander explained, "Construction zones can become fatal zones if road safety precautions are not followed and the Illinois State Police is committed to an overall zero fatality goal that also includes work zone crashes."

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