“We passionately believe that people who have been seriously
injured or have lost loved ones due to the negligent actions
of others deserve a voice.”
What should I do after an auto accident?
After you have been involved in an auto accident, you will want to do several things.
Should I accept payment from the insurance company?
While it may be tempting to accept an initial payment from an insurance company, it is not always in your best interest. Insurance companies are in the business of making money which means that in some cases, they will try to get you to accept a lesser payment than you would get if you filed a personal injury lawsuit. Therefore, before you cash any check, review your options with a knowledgeable motor vehicle accident lawyer.
If I file a lawsuit, what damages am I allowed to sue for?
When you file an auto accident lawsuit, you may collect damages for your injuries, lost wages, future lost wages, medical bills, property damage and pain and suffering.
How much is my case worth?
The amount an auto accident case will vary and depend upon each person’s individual circumstances. In order to learn how much your case may be worth, you should set up an initial consultation with The Pope & Taylor Firm.
What if I don’t want to go to court?
Often times, auto accident cases reach settlements outside of court. This is especially true when victims have experienced lawyers on their sides who are expert negotiators. With the right attorney, you may never have to step into a court room.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY
CRITICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDICAL MALPRACTICE “REFORMS”
Isn’t this legislation necessitated by an “explosion” in medical malpractice cases?
No. In fact, only 7 percent of all injury (or “tort”) claims involve any type of professional malpractice (medical, legal, accountant, etc.), according to the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia. Since 1985, the rate of medical malpractice claims has declined at an average annual rate of 8.9 percent, according to a 1992 American Medical Association report.
Aren’t health care providers burdened by “frivolous” lawsuits?
The reality is the exact opposite. According to extrapolations from the Harvard Medical Practice Study, more than 95,000 Americans die each year due in part to medical malpractice and hundreds of thousands of others are injured. The Harvard researchers concluded that “we do not now have a problem of too many claims; if anything, there are too few.” Only about 2 percent of those injured by physicians’ negligence ever seek compensation through a lawsuit, according to a 1991 New England Journal of Medicine article.
Aren’t lawyers to blame for medical malpractice claims?
No. The medical industry has failed to address the cause of malpractice claims in America: negligent medical care. Peer review and state medical boards are like the proverbial fox guarding the hen house. These bodies, which are supposed to discipline dangerous providers, have failed to protect the public from bad medicine. While the Harvard study found about 27,000 negligent adverse events in one year in New York hospitals alone, that state’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct averaged only 236 disciplinary actions a year between 1986 and 1990, according to The New York Times. Only about 2,000 doctors (one-third of 1 percent of all doctors nationwide) are disciplined each year by state medical boards, according to the Public Citizen Health Research Group.
What’s wrong with the proposal to limit “non-economic” damages?
First, this measure stigmatizes “non-economic” damages, implying that awards for injuries such as loss of vision or gross disfigurement are somehow less important than awards for medical expenses. Second, it discriminates against those who historically have had smaller economic losses due to their lower wages, i.e., women, children, the elderly, and minorities. Third, arbitrarily limiting an injured patient’s award for such a loss throws case-by-case adjudication out the window. It, in effect, says that federal politicians in Washington know better how to resolve cases than juries that hear all the facts. Fourth, it further hurts those who have the most severe injuries because it is their damages that are most likely to exceed any artificial limit. The bottom line is, this measure strips juries of their most important function: resolving cases. Ironically, some of the same interests which would permit juries to sentence a person to death believe that juries are incapable of making fair decisions involving injured consumers. They believe money matters, people don’t. This is wrong.
What about the proposal to limit punitive damages? Don’t such awards stifle the development of new medical research and products?
Absolutely not. First, punitive awards against health care providers are exceedingly rare, and reserved for flagrant intentional misconduct such as sexual abuse of a patient. Second, punitive awards against medical device makers also are very rare. In his seminal study on products liability and punitive damages, Professor Michael Rustad of Suffolk University in Boston found only 355 punitive awards in such cases over a 25-year period. More than half of those awards were reduced or thrown out. Those trying to force passage of this legislation cannot point to one safe, useful and profitable product that has been kept off the market due to liability concerns. In fact, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry boasts in advertisements that it will spend a record $15 billion on research and development in 1995. While rare, punitive damages are critical in deterring the most egregious misconduct and are properly scrutinized by the courts.
If a medical product is approved by the Food and Drug Administration shouldn’t its maker be immunized from punitive awards (the so-called “FDA excuse”)?
Absolutely not. Oftentimes the medical device industry has vigorously lobbied for such approval and a minimum safety standard. This means that medical products, even though approved by FDA, nevertheless can be hazardous to patients. FDA, for example, approved Vitek jaw implants, which after implantation dissolved in patients causing nightmarish complications. Drugs such as DES also received the federal government’s stamp of approval, only to later turn out to be health hazards. In addition, this measure is completely disingenuous in that its proponents are some of the same people calling for staff and budget reductions at FDA.
Don’t malpractice claims increase doctors’ insurance premiums, and indirectly consumer health care costs?
No. The medical industry completely overstates the costs of malpractice insurance. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, medical malpractice premiums account for less than 1 percent of our national health care costs. Nevertheless, medical malpractice insurance is the most profitable line written in the United States. In 1991, insurance industry monitor A.M. Best reported that insurers collected almost $5 billion from health care providers for malpractice insurance. This amount equaled about 0.64 of 1 percent of national health expenditures for that year, according to the Health Care Financing Administration. Boiled down to the bottom line, liability insurance amounts to just 26 cents out of a $40 office visit.
Don’t doctors and hospitals practice “defensive medicine” out of liability fears? Doesn’t this pump up the costs?
Fortunately for the medical industry, it can always trot out the amorphous and fluid “defensive medicine” claim. But many procedures described by doctors as “defensive” actually are safe and appropriate. In July 1994, Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) reported that less than 8 percent of diagnostic procedures are likely to be caused by malpractice liability concerns. OTA also found that doctors overestimate their risk of being sued. In fact, there are many reasons that unnecessary tests are ordered, including to pump up doctors’ fees. A major culprit in boosting health care costs is the practice of self-referral, i.e., doctors referring patients to facilities in which they have a financial stake. Doctors with a financial interest in a lab were found to have ordered up to 96 percent more tests and, as a result, their prices were up to 38 percent higher and total bills up to 125 percent more than those of independent labs, according to an October 1991 Consumer Federation of America study. Yet, this legislation would lower the barrier to physician self-referral.
Why do good doctors pay the same insurance premiums as bad ones?
Without question, it would surprise most Americans to learn that careless doctors don’t pay higher insurance premiums than good doctors. After all, good drivers’ premiums are lower than those for high-risk drivers. Yet, insurers do not rate doctors by experience. Rather than clamping down on injured patients’ rights, the medical industry should do a better job of weeding out dangerous providers, and at least making sure that their premiums reflect their record. Today, the majority of good doctors subsidize bad doctors’ negligence by paying the same insurance premiums. For example, a 1987 study by Health Resources Inc. found that 2 percent of all physicians in Cook County, Illinois, were defendants in 36 percent of the medical malpractice cases from 1972 to 1986. Other studies have found similar conclusions. Experience rating would be good policy, and consumers would benefit because malpractice would be deterred and good medicine encouraged.