Monday, December 29, 2008

Ohio's Good Samaritan Law Protects Rescuers....Unlike California's

A recent California decision watered down that state's "good samaritan" law and ruled that a rescuer could potentially be sued for causing injury to an accident victim she was trying to help. Many states, including Ohio, have passed "good samaritan" laws, which protect rescuers from liability for negligence when they attempt to aid accident victims. These laws serve a worthy purpose of encouraging people to come to the aid accident victims without fear of being sued.

This decision was a quirky one, based on a narrow interpretation of California law, and it wrongly ignored the purpose and spirit of the good samaritan law, in my opinion. Fortunately, Ohio's good samaritan law is straightforward and would have protected the rescuer had this happened in Ohio. No matter what is happening with California's law, it should not deter good intentioned people from coming to the aid of accident victims in Ohio.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Chamber And Lawsuits--Time To Pull The Plug On This Merry Go Round....

This article by CBS' Andrew Cohen absolutely nails the hypocrisy of the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce and its never ending quest for liability protections for corporate America, even in the face of the worst epidemic of corporate greed, fraud, and scandals in U.S. history. He accurately lays out the Chamber's never ending game plan as follows:

1. Spend billions on ad campaigns and lobbying that pushes for limits on Americans' rights to hold businesses and insurance companies accountable when they harm people;

2. Have every state pass the Chamber's wish list of legal "reforms" that either limit what businesses will pay if held legally accountable, or give them immunity from any lawsuits;

3. Refuse to accept that our mortgage backed economic meltdown, financial pyramid schemes, and millions in job losses was caused in part by the Chambers' platform of "Corporate America needs freedom from lawsuits and excessive regulations to thrive"; and

4. Amazingly, and with a straight face, spend billions more to argue for MORE corporate legal protections or else the economy will suffer further....

Are they serious? You bet. The Chamber's assault on the legal rights of individuals is like mail to the mailman--it just keeps coming, rain or shine, boom or bust.

The Chamber does alot of good things for businesses big and small. But when it comes to the issue of lawsuits and businesses and the cause and effect between them and the economy, the Chamber is like an out of touch DJ playing the same old tunes that nobody really wants to dance to. But if you think otherwise, here's a thought. The true test of any "reform" measure, in my opinon, is: Does it affect everyone equally? Will everybody share in the pain and sacrifice, or just a select few?

Well, guess what? The Chamber's "reform" measures that limit or deny the right to sue don't apply to businesses. Corporations that are harmed are free to bring thousands of lawsuits every year to enforce their rights, with no limits on what they can recover. They can sue each other, or sue you, with impunity. But when it comes to individuals bringing lawsuits against corporate America, now we need "limits" and "boundaries" and "pre-emption" and "immunity."

Colonel Potter from M.A.S.H. had a saying for these euphemisms: "Horse hockey!"
(syn., see "b.s.")

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another Reason For Having Good Uninsured Motorists' Coverage

Now more than ever, you need to make sure you have as much uninsured/underinsured motorists' (UM/UIM) coverage as you can afford to buy. A recent Wall Street Journal article is reporting a dengerous trend: drivers all over the U.S. are cancelling their auto insurance due to the bad economy. In fact, as many as 15% of all U.S. drivers are driving without insurance.

What does this mean to you? If you're injured by an uninsured driver or one with low limits(underinsured), your recovery for your medical bills, lost wages, and physical injuries is now dependent upon the amount of UM/UIM coverage you have with YOUR insurance company. Translation: uninsured driver + bad injuries and lots of bills + low UM/UIM limits with your insurance company ='s you lose, and you're left holding a shoebox full of medical bills that you can't pay.

The absolute mindblowing part of all this is that you can easily double or significantly increase your UM/UIM coverage by hundreds of thousands of dollars--and for as little as approximately $100.00 per year. Our FREE book, "How To Buy Car Insurance In Ohio To Protect Your Family," will teach you what you need to do to make sure you have enough coverage if you're hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Just go to our website and click on the link and it's yours.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Insurance Company Surveillance: Beware The Van...

Fairfax Virginia personal injury attorney Ben Glass is right on the money in a recent post about insurance companies spying on injured people who've made claims or filed lawsuits. We've witnessed this with our own clients on more than one occasion.

Case in point. A negligent driver pulled out from stop sign into the path of our client, causing significant fractures and numerous surgeries. The insurance company for the negligent driver hired a private investigator (PI) to secretly photograph and videotape our client at work, and outside the home.

Here’s the real creepy part. The PI secretly videoed our client at her home from across the street in a van (always be suspicious of a van parked on the street next to your home for long periods of time). She also followed our client to work, and to restaurants with her friends. We discovered the investigator’s identity, and subpoenaed her entire file, including the tapes. When we took the PI's deposition, we learned that she was unsuccessful in videoing our client doing any strenuous activities, despite many hours of surveillance. We also discovered an e-mail from the insurance adjuster to the investigator giving the following marching orders after the investigator came up empty: “We just really need to get something on ______ asap.” The investigator ended up spying on our client for FOUR MORE MONTHS! The videos revealed so little and were such a bust that the insurance company's attorney didn't even introduce them at trial. But that disn't stop the insurance company from spending thousands of dollars on spying tactics.

This tactic is not uncommon, as creepy as it is. In certain cases, insurance companies will stop at nothing to get out of paying on a claim. Fortunately for our client, this tactic went nowhere, and the jury returned a fair verdict.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

School Seclusion Rooms? No Liability In Ohio

A recent CNN article highlighted a tragic story about a thirteen year old special needs student who hanged himself in a "school seclusion room" designed to isolate and/or punish him. This "room," more akin to a prison cell, housed this child at least 15 times before he committed suicide.

If something like this happened in Ohio, the school district would enjoy 100% immunity from any liability. Under a 2003 "tort reform" law (lobbied for by insurance companies who insure schools), schools are generally not liable for ANY negligent act. Two exceptions are the negligent operation of a school bus or other school vehicle, and "physical defects" on school grounds--like a collapsing ceiling, for example. And that's about it.

Pretty scary stuff if you think about it. School seclusion rooms? Meet soverign immunity . Translated, it means "the King can do no wrong." But when immunity can breed this much irresponsibility, perhaps its better suited for reality show contestants rather than institutions and their insurance companies that don't deserve it...

Do I Need An Attorney To Handle My Auto Accident Claim?

(The following is an excerpt from my recent book; "Your Ohio Accident...And How To Level Your Playing Field." It is FREE to all Ohioans by visiting our website and clicking on the link to the book).

General answer: Yes, but not always. Sometimes, we will tell potential clients that they can do just as well handling their injury claim on their own as we could do for them if we represented them. But this rule is the exception, and not the rule. Below is an example of practically the ONLY circumstance I can think of where you could conceivably handle your claim on your own.

EXAMPLE: You were rear ended. You went to the local ER (always a good medical idea as a precautionary measure), got treated and released, and waited a few days to see how you felt. You might have been stiff and sore for a few days or a week. You might have even seen your family doctor (also a good idea) just to be checked out. You may have missed a day or two from work, but eventually, you returned to work, and generally got better. No physical therapy, no series of diagnostic tests, or other treatments or bills – a happy ending to an initial nightmare.

If this is your accident scenario, a couple rules come into play. First, you have a limited claim. You’ll eventually be offered your medical bills plus a minimal amount for your pain and aggravation. Some insurance companies even have a name for this: an “inconvenience fee” (notice how your pain has been labeled just an “inconvenience”). Basically, the insurance company is looking to “cash you out.” Definition: in exchange for the small figure they’ve offered you, you sign a “Full Release,” which means your claim is over. If you have any further treatment or bills after you sign, forget it. Signed release = claim is over, unless you were fraudulently tricked into signing it.

This is why some insurance companies will send an adjuster to your house shortly after a collision, and offer to reimburse you immediately for your medical bills, as well as your “inconvenience fee.” By “cashing you out,” they close the books on your claim and limit their exposure.

Second, any competent attorney who would handle a minor or limited claim on your behalf would probably be able to obtain a slightly better offer, but the net recovery to you might be the same as if you handled it yourself, if you factor in the attorneys’ fees.

BOTTOM LINE: If your injuries were minor or brief, did not involve anything but a follow up doctor visit, and you’ve quickly recovered, your claim is minor. You really can’t mess it up if you handle it yourself. I call these claims “no harm, no foul” claims.

To borrow an example, if you were looking to repair or replace a simple light fixture in your home, and you really weren’t sure what you were doing but plowed ahead anyway, you probably wouldn’t burn down the house if your home repair attempt failed. However, if your injury claim involves anything more than a simple doctor's visit, you are at serious risk for messing up your claim, many times without even knowing it.

How do I know this? For over 20 years now my phone has rung with stories of how people either completely ruined or almost ruined their claims. Next week I'll provide some specific examples of how this can happen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Debating Tort Reform

This week I participated in a TV debate ( more like some friendly coffee shop talk) on tort reform for "Forum 360" (formerly The Civic Forum of the Air, which has been on the air for over 30 years). Alot of this blog is devoted to this issue and I speak to alot of groups about it and it's always fun to try to share what I see and listen to other viewpoints too. Part of my talk involved all the legislative "reforms" in Ohio medical malpractice and other personal injury lawsuits that (1) have capped or limited your recovery for serious injuries caused by things like blatant medical errors, drunk drivers, and recalled Chinese toys, or (2) have given 100% immunity to negligent parties who really don't deserve it.

People are shocked when I tell them that "tort reform" applies to legitimate cases of serious injuries. Case in point: you're a 25 year old stay at home Mom. You are told you have breast cancer, and undergo a mastectomy, only to be told afterward that you were misdiagnosed (the test was not read properly or your results were mistakenly switched with another woman's), and you never had breast cancer.

The result under Ohio law "reforms?" Your recovery is limited to your medical bills (that you have to repay out of any settlement or verdict) and $500,000. How's that for accountability? Pretty good deal if you're a hospital or doctor or their malpractice insurance company. The response I always get is: "I thought tort reform was just about cracking down on frivolous lawsuits." Wrong--that is how it's SOLD to the public by the insurance industry and the Chamber of Commerce.

A few years ago I gave a talk to a group of local professionals. After it was over, a woman approached me and said: "You know, it comes down to this: crack down on the goofball lawsuits, and leave the legitimate cases alone, because someday it might just be me in that wheelchair." She said more in one sentence than I could in a 20 minute talk.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Briefcase Blog

One of the beauties of a law degree is its versatility. After you graduate, you have alot of options. You can work in big firms, small firms, hang out your own shingle, work for the government in some capacity, practice criminal or civil law, or even teach.

Some of these options are rather ethereal, though. Teaching something as droll as Property Law in law school would for me be the functional equivalent of watching paint dry while being subjected to continuous loop accordian music. Picture a professor wearing a blazer with elbow patches droning on about 18th century property concepts like "feoffment with livery of seisin"--I can't even remember what it means but somehow I still remember the term (sounds like something you'd order in a French restaurant or something Emeril makes on The Food Network"). I'd rather stab myself (repeatedly) with dull letter opener than teach a topic like that.

And then there are guys like Russ Bensing. He has a great blog, The Briefcase, that covers what it's like to practice criminal law in the trenches of our criminal justice system. Real stories from an insider's point of view. No polish or varnish--and no accordian music either! Practicing criminal law is like a 30 mile trip in the fast lane at 80 mph, whereas civil law (my practice) is more the 5 hour ride at 60 mph with the occasional acceleration over the speed limit. Russ's blog gives you a feel for the ride, and the stories alone are worth checking out. You'll have a newfound respect for what a good criminal lawyer goes through (or puts up with) on a day to day basis.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Here’s an all too familiar scenario. Months or years after your divorce, you hand the car keys to your minor child, who negligently wrecks the car and seriously injures another motorist. You promptly turn the claim into your insurer, thinking that your child is covered under your auto policy, only to be shocked that the insurance company denies the claim. And now both you and your child have been sued by the injured driver for thousands in medical bills and lost wages, and you are facing the prospect of personal liability – and possibly bankruptcy.

There are two reasons why the insurance company might deny the claim: your child is not a (1) “named insured” or a (2) “resident relative” under the policy. A "named insured" is a driver specifically listed in the policy. If your child is not a “named insured” listed in the policy, most policies will still provide coverage for “resident relatives” of the household.

But here’s the problem: with flexible parenting arrangements and separation agreements that do not specify “residency” issues, where is your child legally residing? In one parent’s home? Or both? Or even at a third home if time is spent living with grandparents? The question is: is there anything you can do to ensure that your minor children will be covered in a future accident under one or both parents’ insurance policies?

This accident scenario has been frequently litigated. One factor courts have looked at in deciding where a minor is “residing” (for purposes of satisfying the “resident relative” requirement of the insurance policy) is the language of the divorce/dissolution decree or separation agreement. For example, if the agreement provides that the minor “alternately resides with each parent under a custody or separation arrangement,” it may carry persuasive weight as to whether the minor was a resident of one or both homes. Some courts have also recognized that in many divorce situations, a minor may well have a “dual residency” with both parents.

Knowing this, there are two simple and important steps you as a parent can take now, BEFORE AN AUTO ACCIDENT EVER OCCURS, to ensure your children are covered under your auto policy. The first is to contact your agent, in writing, and notify him or her that your child will be driving the vehicle(s) on occasion, and ask that your child be listed or added as a named insured under your policy.

The second is to ask your divorce attorney if your divorce or separation agreement can include language that specifically states that your child will be alternately residing with each parent. These simple steps will greatly reduce or even eliminate any opportunity for your insurance company to deny a claim in the future for insurance policy "residence" technicalities.

As an attorney who represents auto accident victims, the combination of (1) a divorce; (2) a minor causing a serious crash; and (3) litigation over whether the minor was covered as a “resident” under unclear insurance policies or separation agreements, occurs all too often. As you can see, with a little advance planning, the issue could be avoidable.

But if you think that this is not a real problem on your radar screen, I invite you to do two things after reading this post. The next time you’re driving somewhere, take notice of how many young drivers are talking on cell phones or texting while driving. And when you get home, look at how much you’re paying for auto insurance. Either one of these facts just might move you to take action to make sure your policy works to protect your family, given what you’re paying for auto insurance every year!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"YOU'LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT!" (A True Case Of Injury With A Red Rider BB Gun)

File this one under the "strange but true" category. While researching Ohio law recently, I stumbled upon an actual Ohio case involving--I'm not kidding--an eye injury to a child from a Red Rider BB gun (those of you unfamiliar with "A Christmas Story" will have no idea what the significance of that fact is at this point, but maybe the video clip will clue you in). Apparently there was some horseplay amongst some minor children and one child accidently shot another with the BB gun.

As it turns out, Ralphie's Mom in the movie ("You'll shoot your eye out!") was right after all. In honor of that movie (one of my favorites of all time), and in the spirit of holiday safety, I feel compelled to bring this case to the attention of the Internet world...

Mom's advice aside, I have to side with the Dad who bought the BB gun for Ralphie. If Dad doesn't buy the gun, the Bumpass' dogs never would have eaten the Christmas turkey, the Parker family would have never been introduced to "Chinese turkey," and the ending of the movie would have been downright lousy. Long live Ralphie Parker and his Red Rider "Peacemaker."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Excellent Resource For Ohio Divorce Law

I don't practice divorce law, but as a fellow blogger I come across some pretty good blogs dealing with other areas of the law. One I recently found was "The Ohio Family Law Blog," written by Dayton attorney Robert L. Mues. His blog is an excellent resource for a variety of topics related to divorce law, including insightful information for parents on how to deal with all sorts of parenting issues that accompany divorce. The address is or you can link to it by simply clicking on the title of this post.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Big Pharma (and America): Meet Diane Levine

Recently I posted about the pharmaceutical industry's attempt to avoid legal responsibility for maiming and killing Americans by claiming in lawsuits that if The FDA approves a drug, it "pre-empts" state laws giving injured citizens the right to sue them, and therefore makes them 100% immune from any liability (See November 9, 2008 post, "Big Pharma, The FDA, And You: Guess Who Loses?"). In that post, I told the story of Diane Levine, a Vermont musician, who, in a twist of cruel irony, lost her right arm after being given an IV injection of the drug Phenergan (an anti-nausea drug) for a simple migrane.

Today I found a link to a video that introduces her, and explains her struggle. It captures more in 22 minutes than whatever I could with a simple blog post.

In the video, you won't find a bitter or angry person. And this is typical, in my experience with representing people who have been seriously or catastrophically injured. If I've found one maxim to be true over and over again, it's this: the people who are hurt the most typically complain the least, despite having every reason to complain alot. She is full of grace, insight, and a willingness to perservere in the face of a preventable tragedy.

America, meet Diane Levine. You can click on the title of this post to see her story. I hope her legal battle has a happy ending, but with this arch conservative U.S. Supreme Court, don't count on it. My uneducated prediction is that the U.S Supreme Court will rule in favor of the drug company, and the industry will now enjoy 100% immunity for ANY drug or medical device, even if either is horribly defective.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Caregiver Spouses In Ohio: Full Time Job, Second Rate Pay (So Much For Family Values)

Here's the scenario: your spouse is injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver. She sustains a serious, permanent, traumatic brain injury. She can no longer speak, think, or care for herself normally, much less perform every day activities like driving. You take months off work from your business to personally attend to her medical needs, take her to appointments and therapy, assume all of her household activities, and you will continue to do this indefinitely because her injuries are permanent.

Obviously, your business suffers and you lose substantial income from work because you choose to be at your wife's side as her primary caregiver, and not pass her care off to strangers.

Is your lost income recoverable against the negligent driver's insurance company? No, according to The Ohio Supreme Court in Hutchings v. Childress (you can click on the title of this post to read the opinion until I figure out what the heck is wrong with my direct link function...)

This was an issue of "first impression" for the Court (meaning that no previous Ohio court or legislation had addressed the issue). The Court had 3 choices here: (1) recognize that when someone's carelessness causes a life changing injury, and a spouse assumes the role of primary caregiver, your reasonable wages lost due to caring for your spouse are recoverable against the negligent party's insurance company; (2) allow for the "reasonable value" of the services performed by the spouse if they were performed instead by professionals like nurses' aides, therapists, etc; or (3) not allow for any compensation whatsoever.

The Supreme Court ruled that, despite the husband's choosing to become his wife's primary caretaker, and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income in the process, the negligent driver's insurance company didn't owe them a penny in lost family income. Rather, all that the insurance company owed was the "reasonable value" of similar services, such as if the husband hired a nurses' aide to care for her.

What kind of message does this send? Let's see. Someone's carelessness turns your life on its head. Your spouse will never be the same. You do the right thing, step it up, abandon the role of husband or wife and become caregiver, bather, therapist, cook, driver, and most importantly, are just THERE at every turn for your spouse because he or she deserves no less. And your business suffers.

The result? Your spouse gets first rate care, your income suffers significantly, and you're "entitled" to the mimimum wage rate for someone like a nurses' aide. You're essentially punished for doing the right thing. Who benefits from this? The negligent party and his insurance company.

Frankly, this decision won't act as a disincentive for spouses to stay home and care for their injured spouses, as such a choice is a selfless act of love that is probably made irrespective of what consequences such a decision brings. But if there's a choice between recognizing the value of that honorable choice, and all the losses that go with it, or marginalizing it and actually rewarding the negligent party's insurance company with bargain basement accountability, the choice seems pretty clear.

But now this decision is officially "the law." I thought we were a society that honored and believed in "family values." This decision certainly doesn't promote or recognize that concept.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Credit Life Insurance: Buyer Beware

Buying that new car? Were you offered "credit life insurance" to pay off your loan if you die? Here's what often happens. In your zeal to drive off with your new ride, the salesman asks you about purchasing credit life insurance. He helps you fill out the application by asking: "You've never had cancer or a heart attack or anything major like that, have you?" You say no, so he checks "no" on all the boxes and you sign the application.

Only one problem. Below is language from a typical credit life application:

"1. I am not eligible for any insurance if I now have, or during the past 2 years have been seen, diagnosed or treated for:

(a) A condition, disease or disorder of the brain, heart, lung(s), liver, kidney(s), nervous system or circulatory system; or

(b) Tumor; Cancer; Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure; Diabetes; Alcoholism; Drug Abuse; Emotional or Mental Disorder; Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS); the Aids Related Complex (ARC); or received test results showing evidence of antibodies of the AIDS virus (HIV Positive).

Read (a) carefully again. Look how broadly it is written. If you were treated for pneumonia or even bronchitis within the 2 year period, you were "treated for...a condition of the lung(s)," making you technically ineligible for the coverage!!!

But wait, you say-- the salesman only asked about major diesases, which your now departed spouse did not have. In fact, he died of something unrelated to a "condition of the lung(s)." No matter. Chances are, your claim for the life insurance will be denied, and now you're stuck with having to sue to prove you're entitled to the $8,000 loan balance on the car.

Therein lies the problem with this insurance. The policies are downright lousy and one sided and you never know it until you try to use it. Bottom line: your chances of actually qualifying for it are so low that it is a borderline ripoff, in my opinion. Even if the salesman was ethical and thorough in the application process, and you simply forgot about a prior medical treatment which was not disclosed on the application, the language of these policies is such that you will still be denied!

It's a rigged game, in my humble opinion. In the words of Nancy Reagan, "just say no!"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Big Pharma, The FDA, And You--Guess Who Loses?

If the FDA approves a drug and its warning label, should the drug manufacturer be shielded from ANY liability when the drug harms or kills people? Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, maker of the anti-nausea drug Phenergan, is asking The U.S. Supreme Court to do just that in a pending lawsuit. In this case, a Vermont musician had her arm amputated after given the drug for a migrane. Apparently,there are 3 ways to give this drug, and the method used to administer the drug in the musician's case can cause gangrene. And she is the 20th person to have an arm amputated due to this drug.

Wyeth's defense? Hey, we warned of this on the drug label, and the FDA approved the warning. The woman now missing her arm claims: maybe you should have warned physicians NOT to adminster the drug in this manner if a simple anti-nausea drug is going to cause people to lose their arms due to gangrene, and you KNOW ABOUT IT.

The drug manufacturers' efforts to obtain 100% immunity for drugs it introduces to the public has its roots in the Bush administration's efforts to protect the pharmaceutical industry from any lawsuits as long as the FDA approves the drug. But here's the rub, as poimted out by a recent editorial in The Boston Globe:

In the past, the FDA never claimed, as it does now, that its approvals of drugs or their labels should protect drugmakers from liability. This change in policy, which was opposed both by former FDA commissioners and current career FDA staff, is part of the Bush administration effort to free industry generally from tort suits. Former commissioner David Kessler's argument against pre-emption is that the FDA sees relatively little test data on a new drug once it is on the market.

Protecting drug companies is only part of an orchestrated effort by the Bush adminstration to protect big business from liability in a variety of situations. Sound familiar? It should. We heard it with Wall Street, didn't we? "Government stay out of the markets--they can regulate themselves." And for eight years now, this same administration has been saying: "And no lawsuits either--it's not good for business." Isn't this the same administration that has been bemoaning a lack of societal "personal responsibility and accountability?"

Here is the essence of the last eight years: a whole truckload of risks (your financial risks in the market, what you eat, what you drive and the drugs you take) has been transferred from corporations to you.

Now sit back and think about all the drugs put out on the market over the years that caused massive harm or killed people, and were either recalled or withdrawn from the market. Does it make you feel safe to know that all these drugs were approved by the FDA? Well what if the FDA gets it wrong? And what if the drug manufacturers either failed to adequately test a drug or withheld data from the FDA?

My guess is that this Supreme Court, one of the most conservative and business friendly in years, will rule in favor of Wyeth. If that happens, hopefully the new Congress will react by passing a law prohibiting the drug industry from avoiding its legal accountability if drugs "approved" by The FDA turn out to be dangerous.

This is not some anti-corporation rant. Corporations employ millions of people in this country and are a vital cog in the economic wheel. They deserve to make billions if they perform their due diligence and take reasonable measures to put useful and safe products on the market. That's the American way. But they shouldn't get a free legal pass when they cut corners by hiding behind a government agency that gets it wrong, or didn't have the capacity to get it right.

Otherwise, "personal responsibility and accountability" is just a one way street...


Thursday, October 30, 2008

What The Geico Lizard Or Cavemen Won't Tell You About Their Auto Insurance Policy

Reason no. 257 why your auto insurance is lousy and won't protect you, courtesy of a recent Ohio case. Here's the facts: son is driving and Dad is the passenger. Son's negligence causes an auto accident; unfortunately son is killed and Dad is seriously injured.

Dad had a full coverage auto policy through Geico. Some policies provide liability coverage for injuries when one family member negligently operates a car which causes injuries to a fellow family member. Not Geico's: a fine print EXCLUSION did not allow Dad to make a claim under the liability coverage.

Dad also paid a separate premuim for "Uninsured/Underinsured motorists("UM/UIM") coverage" through Geico. Some policies will allow an injured family member to recover for their injuries caused by another family member's driving negligence even if there is no coverage under the liability portion of the policy. Not Geico's. You guessed it: another EXCLUSION in the policy prohibited any family member from making a claim under the UM/UIM portion of the policy when injured by another family member.

Bottom line: Dad paid for "full coverage" for his family, was seriously injured through no fault of his own, and has no coverage. All courtesy of a 2001 law, passed by The Ohio Legislature, and lobbied for by the insurance industry. This law basically allows insurance companies to write ANY EXCLUSION it wants, and it is perfectly legal. Borderline fraudulent, but legal.

Here's the problem: you're never told when you buy insurance whether these restrictions and exclusions exist, and under what circumstances you'll be covered. You only find out how truly crappy your policy is after a tragedy. So much for your full coverage auto policy. It's one of the many reasons we wrote: "How To Buy Car Insurance In Ohio To Protect Your Family." It will guide you through the maze of how to properly buy car insurance and will protect you BEFORE you ever need to use your insurance. It's FREE to all Ohioans. Just e-mail us at or call us at 330-452-8831 and it's yours.

True, the lizard and cavemen ads are funny. But there's nothing funny about paying hundreds or thousands for car insurance that turns out to be worthless.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What Is Democracy? Standing In Line For Over An Hour...

Today I exercised my constitutional right to vote, in order vote early (although early voting was not discussed in our Constitution by our Founding Fathers). I stood in line for an hour. I saw tireless, polite, and a bit frazzled poll workers. I saw the young, the elderly, black and white folks, blue and white collar workers, police officers, moms with squirming kids, and everyone in between--all waiting to vote.

Just taking it all in made me think: this is what democracy looks like. It may be slow. It may be imperfect. But, just like the line that eventually snaked forward, it works. It reminded me of an essay from E.B. White I read a long time ago in college. It was written in 1944, and it was in response to a letter to the local "War Board" asking, "What is the meaning of democracy?"

We received a letter from the Writers' War Board the other day asking for a statement on "The Meaning of Democracy." It is presumably our duty to comply with such a request, and it is certainly our pleasure. Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don't in don't shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles, the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere.
Democracy is the letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea which hasn't been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It's the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request from a War Board, in the middle of the morning in the middle of a war, wanting to know what democracy is.

And it is also standing in line for over an hour to vote in an historic election. And no matter who wins, it's nice to know that the public apparently is as interested in this election as they are in who wins "American Idol" or "Dancing With The Stars"...

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


“Got any good advice for me since you’ve seen what goes on with medical mishaps?” As attorneys who investigate and prosecute medical malpractice cases, we get this question a lot from friends, neighbors, and even family. The first thing I typically say is that the odds are in your favor. Thankfully, most physicians and hospitals do a fine job of taking care of their patients.

But we’ve learned some medical secrets over the years that are definitely worth sharing, and they just might make your medical encounter a safer one.

1. “Will You Take My Picture?”

Over 600,000 people per year in the U.S. have high tech gallbladder surgery with a scope (known as a laparoscope). It is a relatively safe procedure, but there is one SERIOUS complication you need to be aware of.

One of the most devastating injuries that can occur during gallbladder surgery is the surgeon cutting the patient’s common bile duct, which serves as the “highway” between the liver and the stomach for transporting bile. When this occurs, the surgeon has mistakenly cut the common bile duct instead of the cystic duct. The cystic duct, which is the “exit ramp” on the duct highway and which connects the gallbladder, should be cut. The common bile duct – the main highway – should NEVER be cut or damaged. Common bile duct injuries require major reconstructive surgery and can cripple a person’s ability to move bile, which can damage or even ruin the liver.

There is a valuable tool for identifying the anatomy of the bile duct system, particularly the differences between the common bile duct and the cystic duct. It is called a cholangiogram, which is simply an x-ray exam of the bile ducts taken during surgery after dye is injected into the duct. The purpose of this simple x-ray is to help the surgeon identify the bile duct anatomy before anything is cut or removed, and it will even show if a patient’s bile duct anatomy is different than normal.

So, if you are having laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, you should ask your surgeon: “If there is any doubt in your mind as to what you are cutting, will you take an x-ray picture to make sure before anything is cut?”

Although most surgeons do not perform cholangiograms in every surgery, they SHOULD perform one (it takes about 20 minutes) if they are not completely sure of the anatomy of the bile duct system. Any good surgeon should be willing to explain under what circumstances he or she will use a cholangiogram or take other safety steps to avoid a devastating bile duct injury. And if the surgeon is put off or offended by your question and your medical knowledge, get another surgeon!

2. Beware of Ghosts . . .

You meet with a surgeon you come to know and trust and he or she explains what is going to happen during the surgery. However, after the surgery, you find out that while you were under anesthesia, your surgeon handed off the scalpel to a resident surgeon in training. Or, equally as bad, he or she left the room to start three other surgeries, and handed your surgery off to a partner, associate, or even a resident. Of course, you’re told none of this before the surgery.

The American Medical Association coined this practice “ghost surgery.” It happens more than you think, and it happens more often in teaching hospitals. In fact, in 1995 the Cleveland Clinic was sued when an ear, nose, and throat surgeon (who had four surgeries scheduled AT THE SAME TIME) allowed a resident to perform nasal surgery and the patient went into a permanent coma. In 1998, a jury tagged the Clinic with a verdict of over $10 million in negligence and fraud damages for not disclosing these important facts to the patient beforehand.

You have the absolute right as a patient to know if, and under what circumstances, somebody other than your surgeon will be responsible for any part of your operation. This is called the law of “informed consent,” which means that each person has the right to be informed about the medical details of a procedure before giving consent to undergoing that procedure. It’s one thing to have an intern tag along during a routine hospital exam and listen to your heart or lungs or palpate a lump. And it’s quite another to become an unknowing participant in someone else’s medical learning curve during something important like surgery.

Because you deserve the right to know, don’t be afraid to ASK, and don’t be afraid to REFUSE to participate in a game of medical Russian Roulette with a doctor you don’t know and have never met. Besides, your surgeon shouldn’t take offense. If you think about it, it’s the ultimate compliment to a surgeon to say: “I want you and you only to perform my surgery because I’ve come to know and trust you.”

3. “Can We Reschedule This for a Tuesday?”

Avoid major surgery on Fridays if at all possible. Although we have no hard numbers to share, we have seen a significant correlation between Friday surgeries and serious mishaps and patient mistakes that occur over the weekend. Perhaps the physician is called on a Saturday evening and doesn’t want to come in, directing an important medical decision to someone else who may not be as familiar with all the medical details, staff may be reduced – the possibilities are endless. And we’re willing to bet that if you asked any physician or nurse friend about this issue, they might agree.

4. Got Allergies? Speak Up.

Don’t assume that the hospital bracelet you’re wearing will be seen by the staff. Yes, your allergies to certain medications should be plastered all over your chart, but despite that AND your bracelet, we have seen instances where patients are still given medications they’re allergic to, sometimes with disastrous results.

So don’t be afraid to say before you take a medication: “I’m sure you’re aware of this, but I am allergic to ________.” If the nurse says, “Yeah I know,” compliment him or her for being on top of things. And if he or she says, “Uh . . . I’ll be right back,” and quickly leaves with the medication in hand, pat yourself on the back for speaking up!

5. When No News is Not Necessarily Good News.

Nothing is sadder than a test result showing a major problem, like cancer for example, that was not communicated to a patient for months or years because of an avoidable breakdown in communication between the lab and the physician.

Certainly, it is the physician’s job to inform you of your test results, and failure to do so, or an unacceptable delay in doing so, is inexcusable negligence. But do not assume that your physician’s silence means the results were negative. The possibilities of miscommunication between a busy laboratory and a physician’s office, or even losing the test results altogether, are real and unfortunately all too common.

So if a reasonable amount of time passes (say a week, for example), and you haven’t heard from your doctor, call or stop by the office and ask for a copy of the test results. Why get a copy? If you have a common name, there might be 3 or 4 of you in your geographic area. How do you know that your doctor got YOUR results and not some other George or Jane Smith’s? Make sure either the lab or your physician has given you the right test results, and not somebody else’s!

6. Get a Second Opinion On That Mole.

Generally, many times the need for surgery is obvious and necessary and your doctor is the right person for the job. But if there is time, you may want to explore getting a second opinion (that is, if your insurance will allow it).

You may find out about alternatives to surgery, or you might come away with a better appreciation of some of the risks.

Specifically, if you’ve had a skin growth or mole removed and sent off to the lab, you may want to consider getting a second opinion of the lab’s findings. The reason? One pathologist (a physician trained to read and interpret tissues and specimens) may interpret the findings differently than the original pathologist. This tip comes directly from a pathologist we consulted with on a failure to diagnose a skin cancer case. If it’s good enough for pathologists who interpret these growths daily, it’s certainly worth knowing and sharing.

7. Morphine Will Kill the Pain, But . . .

Morphine can also cause respiratory depression that, if not detected, can suppress the body’s ability to supply oxygen to the brain, and can lead to brain damage (anoxic encephalopathy). Thankfully, most hospitals will hook up the patient to a pulse oximeter, a painless device attached to the patient’s finger that will monitor oxygen levels, and sound an alarm if the oxygen levels dip too low. However, not all hospitals use pulse oximeters routinely, particularly small or rural hospitals. If your loved one is receiving narcotic drugs, make sure he or she is hooked to a pulse oximeter, and don’t be afraid to ask for one if one is not in the room.

8. “It Was Just a Little Ulcer and Now Look at It!”

Frequently the elderly are subject to longer hospital stays. This means longer times of immobility, which can lead to pressure sores and, if not timely documented or treated, painful and debilitating decubitus ulcers. Many of these are preventable with diligent monitoring and observation by hospital or nursing home staff.

But due to staffing problems or simple inattention, many times these sores are missed or neglected. Do not hesitate to check for signs of developing sores with your loved ones, and report them to nursing staff immediately. And always get the name of the staff person you spoke to. Your diligence and persistence may prevent a potential problem from getting worse, even though it is the staff’s responsibility to look for and treat these problems.

9. “These Don’t Look Like My Blood Pressure Pills . . .”

If you receive a prescription that looks different in color or shape than what you’ve been taking, do not assume you’ve received some other or generic version of the same drug. You may have received the wrong drug! Not only have we seen patients receive the wrong drug, have even seen situations where the pharmacy put the correct label on the pill bottle but included the wrong medication, which was the ultimate in ineptitude – and confusion-- for the patient. If you’re unsure about the medications you were given, call your pharmacist or your doctor immediately. If possible, even show them the drug you received.

* * * * * *
Why are these medical safety tips important? Here are the cold, hard facts. A 1999 Report from the Institute of Medicine revealed that 98,000 people die in hospitals each year due to medical errors. That’s double the amount of U.S. citizens that are killed on our nation’s highways (42,000). And a 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies concluded that medication errors harm at least 1.5 million people every year (that’s not a typo). And at least 400,000 of preventable medication errors occur in hospitals. The bottom line is that you are much safer driving across the country or flying every day than entering a hospital, which is mind boggling if you stop and think about it.

With those jaw dropping numbers in mind, perhaps one or more of these tips will increase your odds of leaving the hospital in better health than when you entered.

(visit our website at

Ohio Lemon Law: What’s Covered and What Isn’t

I was recently contacted by colleague Sergei Lemberg, an outstanding lemon law attorney [link:]to share a post on my blog, and I'm happy to oblige. Below he discusses what you need to know about new car lemons...

With all of the cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, and RVs being manufactured in the U.S. and abroad, it’s reasonable to expect that some will have defects. After all, vehicles are incredibly complex pieces of machinery and a lot of things can go wrong. In the best-case scenario, any defects that weren’t caught by quality assurance are quickly repaired by the dealer. In the worst-case scenario, you have a vehicle with pronounced defects that make it run poorly, that constitute a safety hazard, or that reduces its value – and the dealer or manufacturer refuse to buy back or replace it.

When that happens, Ohio lemon law can come to the rescue. Ohio lemon law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, trucks, and motorcycles that are purchased or leased in Ohio. The motorized portions of RVs are also covered, as are used cars that are purchased within one year or 18,000 miles of delivery to the original owner.

Although it doesn’t cover minor defects (like a non-working stereo system), the lemon law does force the manufacturer to stand by its product. In order for the lemon law to apply to new vehicles, the defects have to occur during the first year from the delivery date or the first 12,000 miles on the odometer – whichever comes first. In addition, the vehicle must have been taken in one time for a problem that could cause serious injury or death or eight times for different problems. Alternately, the vehicle can have been out of service for a cumulative total of 30 calendar days. In addition, you have to notify the manufacturer in writing of the defect within one year from the delivery date or the first 18,000 miles (whichever comes first).

If you think you have a lemon, you have to take part in the manufacturer’s dispute resolution process (if one exists) before going to court. Before you begin, though, you should have a lemon law lawyer by your side. After all, you can be sure that the manufacturer’s team of legal eagles will be there to fight your claim every step of the way. The good news is that, if your claim is successful, the manufacturer has to pay your attorney fees. Often, with the help of a lawyer, you can get a refund, replacement vehicle, or cash settlement without having to go through the entire lemon law process – and get your attorney’s fees covered in the process.

Whenever you buy a new or used vehicle, it’s important to know your rights. And, if you think your vehicle is a lemon, it pays to persevere to make the manufacturer stand by its product.

(visit our website at

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Allstate Commercial...Where's The Sequel?

Allstate has been running a recent commercial where a young man who causes a collision is sued in a personal injury case and the jury returns a verdict in excess of this poor fellow's liability insurance. The attorney for Allstate then informs the young man's parents that the injured person can now go after and take the young man's college fund and savings, etc.

The purpose of the commercial is obviously twofold. One, Allstate wants to sell higher levels of liability insurance. No problem there. But the other purpose is to plant the fear that "out of control" jury verdicts will mean that you lose everything and become a pauper on the streets if you get hit with a verdict in excess of your liability limits.

This is misleading and inaccurate for two reasons. First, our friends at Allstate don't mention that if a jury returns a money verdict greater than your liability limits, you can file for bankruptcy and discharge any personal debt in almost any circumstances (unless you were driving drunk, for example).

More importantly, in the unlikely event that you get tagged for a verdict that exceeds your liability limits, it is often because the Allstates' of the world put the screw job to you by handling your claim in "BAD FAITH." Example: you cause a crash and injure somebody. You have a $50,000 liability policy. The injured person offers to settle for $35,000 or $25,000 for example- a figure much less than your liability limits. So far, so good. But Allstate makes a "take it or leave it" offer of $8,000 to the injured person.

Allstate's unreasonable offer forces the parties to go to trial, and a jury returns a verdict of $65,000. Allstate gambled and lost. But here's the problem: it gambled with YOUR personal assets, as you now owe the injured party $65,000, and your liability limits are only $50,000. Bottom line: if Allstate's puny offer was considered unreasonable (because it could have settled the claim for $25,000 and not exposed you to losing your personal assets), Allstate can now be liable to YOU as an Allstate policyholder for handling your claim in bad faith. It is Allstate's job under the law to FAIRLY evaluate the claim and take no action that favors Allstate's interests over yours as a policyholder. If Allstate has committed "bad faith" by mismanaging a claim against you, you as a policyholder can sue Allstate for "bad faith" damages, including the $15,000 in personal liability it exposed you to, and punitive damages that punish Allstate for unreasonably exposing your personal assets.

So the next time you view this commercial, remember that in many circumstances, it is the Allstates of the world that put their own insureds in this box by making unreasonable settlement offers, and essentially gambling with their financial future and assets while trying to save a few bucks. To borrow a page from Allstate's own playbook, their "good hands" shouldn't be used to push their insureds off a financial cliff. That is the essence of "bad faith" claims handling practices, and the law gives you the right to fight back when you're pushed around.

The second commercial--where the poor kid hires one of those "trial lawyers" to sue Allstate for handling his claim in bad faith--is the one you won't see.

(visit our website at

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Perfect Solution To Corporate Corruption--And "Punitive Damages" Claims

For those unfamiliar, punitive damages are money damages a jury can return to punish a defendant for reckless, intentional, or fraudulent bahavior. Simple example: a drunk driver hits you head on, injuring you. A jury tallies your "compensatory damages" (medical bills, lost wages, physical pain and suffering) at $20,000, and levies an equal amount of punitive damages against the driver for driving drunk. The result? His insurance company pays $20,000, and the drunk driver must pay the $20,000 punitive damages out of his own pocket, since almost all insurance policies exclude coverage for punitive damages.

I've been practicing personal injury litigation for twenty years. I have handled hundreds of lawsuits, and I have seen dozens of instances of egregious conduct where punitive damages were justified. Yet, I have NEVER had a jury return a verdict which included punitive damages. Almost all those cases settled shortly before trial, and the prospect of a possible punitive damages verdict was the main reason those cases settled. Punitive damages verdicts are as rare as an Anarctic coconut, and in many cases, they are awarded to one business defrauded by another business.

But big business and The Chamber Of Commerce HATES punitive damages, and both have fought for years to limit these damages or kill them outright. Here's what the StarChamber's "Institute For Legal Reform" said about them at a forum ginned up to create new strategies to curb "excessive" punitive damage awards:

"The huge amount of money pocketed by unscrupulous trial lawyers is destroying businesses, raising consumers' costs, and threatening the jobs of thousands of workers," said Lisa Rickard, president of ILR. "Last year's success calls for more work to solidify our victory, or we risk being undone by half-measures and misguided rulings."

(We got off easy with the "unscrupuolous" tag; usually the standard talking points slamming trial lawyers include "greedy" and/or "ambulance chasing" or some other perjorative term...)

Back to my point. Let's make the quantum leap with the Chamber that it's not outsourcing to China, lousy trade agreements, rising health care costs, and the 77 other valid reasons that affect job losses in this country, but rather "juries gone wild" punitive damages verdicts that are the real culprit.

I have a solution. And it can't come at a better time, when Wall Street financial conglomerates and their CEOs' greed and ineptitude have brought our economy to its knees. And, at the same time, my solution will solve the pesky "punitive damages" issue that seems to be holding our economy down, according to the StarChamber.

Let's get rid of punitive damages altogether. No more of us "pocketing huge amounts of money" with predatory lawsuits asking for punitive damages against poor, defenseless corporations.

What do we replace eliminating punitive damages with? Simple. Prison time. Hard time in the slammer for any CEO's, officers, or Boards of Directors who participate in, or ratify, any corporate behavior that recklessly injures others, or amounts to fraud.

So, if an engineer at a safety meeting warns that a product has not been properly tested or poses a safety risk to consumers, and the corporate officers ignore him or her in a rush to get a product on the market to gain market share, the corporation is free from paying punitive damages to the families maimed by the product. But whoever signed off on the safety shortcuts must go to prison if a jury finds that the corporation's conduct was reckless.

And if financial institutions knowingly push risky money making schemes on consumers in order to invest the profits in more complicated, unregulated shady deals, again, there's no punitive damages liability to the thousands of people defrauded. Just have the officers and CEO's head directly to prison if a jury finds the company committed fraud (no "Club Fed" prison either--rip off schemes that cost us billions should mean hard prison time--maybe 1 hour of exercise a day and NO TV!!!).

No money is paid to trial lawyers, no money is lost by the corporation, and no jobs are lost. I'd trade the right to being a claim for punitive damages in a heartbeat for CEO prison time.

What do you think would happen if we passed a law increasing criminal penalties for this behavior? My guess is that the last thing a CEO making $29 or $83 or $224 million a year wants to hear is the sound of a prison door slamming behind him.

The StarChamber is always moaning about a lack of personal responsibility and a "sue happy society" that we live in. Well, with my proposal, we get both personal accountability for corporate wrongdoers (prison time ), and corporations save money.

Somehow, I don't think the Chamber will run with this idea any time soon. "Personal responsibility" is only a one way street in their press releases and talking points.

(visit our website at

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Major Crash At The Intersection Of Law, Politics, And Greed

And we thought Enron was a temporary economic infection caused by greed and lack of oversight. Now, it appears that this was not an infection at all: the patient, our national economy, is terminal. Countrywide. Bear Stearns. Lehman Brothers. Merrill Lynch. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And now, mega insurance giant AIG has collapsed(and I'm sure I'm leaving out a few other financial titans of virtue). Emasculated, all of them, and now suddenly looking to the very institution it derided for years--the federal government-- for a taxpayer bailout, like Oliver Twist begging for more gruel.

How on earth did this financial disaster come about? Here's the recipe: (1) repeat over and over again that less regulation and oversight will mean more competition, growth, and that Wall Street will police itself. (2) Spend billions lobbying an administration and a Congress all too willing to give Wall Street and big business every break and legal protection it wants. (3) Convince Congress to pass laws allowing insurance companies to act as banks and offer financial services, and banks to offer insurance and other financial products.

Case in point? In 1999, a Republican Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, The Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed a 60 year law passed after the Depression that outlawed the comingling of these industries. Here's what Sen. Phil Graham (who is now one of Sen. John McCain's economic advisors and who just a few weeks ago accused Americans of being a bunch of whiners about the economy) said about the bill:
"I believe we have passed what will prove to be the most important banking bill in 60 years. It overturns the key provision of the Glass-Steagall act that divided the American financial system.

"Over time, the market and the regulators have used a variety of innovations to try to undo this separation. As a result, we have substantial competition occurring, but it is competition that is largely inefficient and costly, it is unstable, and it is not in the public interest for this situation to continue.

"The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act strikes down these walls and opens up new competition. It will create wholly new financial services organizations in America. It will literally bring to every city and town in America the financial services supermarket."

(Note: since both parties were responsible for this bill I'm sure you won't hear much about it on the campaign trail...)

Now, back to the empathetic Sen. Gramm. Financial supermarket? More like a wild west lab experiment fueled by abject greed. And the test subjects have been ordinary Americans sold risky mortgages that were then packaged into securities and sold and resold, and we know the rest of the picture.

But there's another layer of hypocrisy to add to this story. At the same time these paragons of virtue and trust (note sarcasm here) were going hog wild in this financial feeding frenzy, they were also lobbying for legal reform. The claim? Lawsuits of all kinds, like class actions and personal injury lawsuits, were limiting their competitiveness, draining the economy, and killing jobs. So, at the same time these behemoths were given free financial reign, Congress passed class action "reforms" making it more dificult for ripped off consumers to sue big business.

The biggest cheerleader for all this legal reform? None other than AIG Chairman and CEO ($29 million per year) Maurice Greenberg. Below is an excerpt from an excellent article in The Washington Monthly chronicling the orchestrated movement by big business and insurance companies to restrict personal injury lawsuits:

In the mid-1980s, with insurance companies hitting a slump, the insurance industry's "tort reform" movement, as it became known, broadened its emphasis. Instead of limiting itself to targeting individual jurors through mass media advertising, the industry began to heavily lobby legislators to restrict citizens' ability to sue. The movement pursued strict caps on damage awards, tougher standards for proving liability, and caps on plaintiffs' attorney fees. The industry's crusade was taken up by small government conservatives, who believed that tort reform paralleled their own efforts to fill the federal bench with pro-business jurists and roll back government regulations. They were also upset by changes in the 1960s and 1970s that broadened legal protections for women and minorities, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the expansion of product liability doctrines that made it easier for injured consumers to force companies to compensate them for faulty products. Politically, it was a lot easier to attack juries and trial lawyers than the popular consumer, civil rights, and environmental protection laws they enforced--or the injured victims they represented.

Advertising was a key component of those efforts. In 1986, Newsweek ran a series of ads sponsored by the insurance industry under the heading, "We all pay the price." The ads warned that lawsuits were driving ob/gyns out of business, shuttering local school sports programs, and scaring the clergy out of counseling their flocks--though few of these assertions turned out to be true. That same year, 1,600 tort reform measures were introduced in 44 state legislatures, 21 of which passed significant restrictions on lawsuits and jury awards before adjourning.

Tort reformers still weren't satisfied but were hamstrung by the fact that most Americans didn't see lawsuits as a huge problem. After all, most people never have any contact with the legal system unless they're getting divorced. So, a group of corporate leaders, including AIG's Greenberg, set about to change that by pumping money into right-wing think tanks to prepare a body of "evidence" proving that not only was there a crisis in the courthouse but also that "we all pay the price" as a result.

Seems like Mr. Greenberg was right about one thing. We ARE all paying the price right now for a toxic mix of lax regulation and a simultaneous rollback of laws that make it much more difficult to sue these companies under all kinds of circumstances. I'm sick and tired of certain politicians screaming about a "lack of personal responsibility and accountability," which are code words of the tort reform movement. I'm all for those concepts on a personal level. But where is the hue and cry now for corporate responsibility and accountability from these same politicians?

Looks like AIG just got an $85 billion pass on that train...

(visit our website at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Who Can I Sue" Website? How About "Please Just Go Away.Com?"

I recently heard a TV interview with someone promoting a new website called "" Apparently you can write or call the site, explain what happened, and some lawyer will let you know if you have a claim. But as I understand the site, participating lawyers will pay $1,000 per month to answer questions about potential lawsuits.

Certain adjectives came to mind when I heard about this site and did some research. They include "garbage," "shameless," and "embarrasing" (and I'm keeping it clean here). What competent, self respecting, knowledgeable attorney who handles personal injury cases would actually PAY MONEY to be affiliated with this nonsense?

With the advent of the Internet, there are many ways to search for answers to legal questions that people might have, without resorting to cartoonish websites like this one. It's so over the top that it makes me wonder who's really behind this idea. It wouldn't suprise me if it's a set up for bashing trial lawyers and making us all look like fools. And sites like this are EXACTLY why we trial lawyers who think this is embarrasing, and don't resort to this crap, need to expose these sites for what they really are.

I suppose this site is good for one thing: if you consult with an attorney about a possible legal claim, I'd ask him or her: "Are you a participating member of "" if the answer is yes, consider the advice given to Forrest Gump, and run like hell...

(visit our website at

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Build It And They Will Come....? The Battle For Patients

I'm not referring to a new retail store or strip mall. Rather a proposed for profit, physician owned, $100 million hospital in Northern Summit County is creating alot of infighting between local hospitals and doctors there. Apparently, over 85 local physicians have agreed to invest in a swanky, 100 bed hospital which will feature "upscale services" such as a spa, a gourmet restaurant, and walking trails, of all things.

The proposed benefits? "Growing the market for Akron," according to Dr. Robert Kent, president of the group lobbying for the project. What's more, it is projected to generate revenues of $150-200 million per year, and spawn another $138 million in related economic development.

The huge economic numbers being thrown around sound like something Wal Mart officials say when opening another new store. But we're talking about patient care here, not big box retailers.

Not so fast, say local hospitals like Akron General and Cuyahoga Falls General. Their occupancy rates range from 16 to less than 50%, and they are claiming that "greedy doctors" are pushing this project as a money making venture at the expense of the vitality of existing hospitals.

This whole debate underscores how health care delivery is becoming just as much a business model as it is the delivery of quality care. On the one hand, if there is truly a need for such a hospital, and doctors who invest in it can deliver good care and make handsome profits doing it, that is the nature of our free market system. But it also shows how the influence of money affects our health care delivery system. If Akron and Cuyahoga Falls General are correct, this new hospital will drive well paying patients away from existing hospitals, and possibly create a two tiered system of health care delivery for the haves and the have nots.

So who's right about this? I'm not sure, but I look at it from a different perspective. Just a few years ago, doctors were threatening to leave Ohio, claiming that they were being held economic hostage due to too many lawsuits, and demanded (and received) limits on what negligently injured patients could recover in lawsuits. So when I read about a $100 million, apparently physician funded hospital, it really makes me wonder now about the hollowness of those claims.

More importantly, physician groups like The AMA and certain politicians have claimed for years that the primary way to reduce health care costs is to limit what patients can recover in malpractice lawsuits. These hospital wars prove that malpractice lawsuits or no malpractice lawsuits, there are MANY other factors that affect health care costs, and quality health care. Just remember that point, and this story in the next few weeks when certain politicians will (again) drag trial lawyers out of the basement and blame them (again) as the primary reason our health care costs are increasing.....

(visit our website at

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sometimes We're Not So Smart..................

Levity is a good thing. Lest we take ourselves too seriously, the following excerpts are actual (and hilarious) examples of not so stellar lawyer questioning taken from actual testimony. Sometimes during the heat of battle we’ve all been guilty of asking a wordy or vague question, but THESE ONES need to be taken out and shot. Enjoy!

1. Q: I show you exhibit 3 and ask you if you recognize that picture?
A: That's me.
Q: Were you present when that picture was taken?

2. Q: What happened then?
A: He told me, he says, 'I have to kill you because you can identify me.'
Q: Did he kill you?

3. Q: She had three children, right?
A: Yes.
Q: How many were boys?
A: None.
Q: Were there girls?

4. Q: And lastly, Gary, all your responses must be oral, OK?
A: Oral.
Q: How old are you?
A: Oral.

And my personal favorite is…

5. Q: You say that the stairs went down to the basement?
A: Yes.
Q: And these stairs, did they go up also?

My guess is that I'll be able to find a few more of these.........

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Doll Wars: This "Runaway Jury Verdict" Is Just Fine

Last week, a federal jury awarded Mattel $100 million in damages against the designer and company of the rival "Bratz" dolls (click on the title of this post to read the article). The jury concluded that the creator of the dolls stole the idea from Mattel while working there (Mattel had asked the jury for over $1 billion in damages).

Isn't this one of those "runaway jury verdicts that the Chamber of Commerce has been crying about for years? In 2004 and 2005, The Chamber, and its legal arm, known as "The Institute For Legal Reform," spent $102 million in lobbying and a never ending public relations campaign for the sole purpose of passing legislation to limit what individuals can recover from juries at the hands of corporate wrongdoers and insurance companies. This never ending campaign (which, in reality began in the 1950's) has launched phrases like "litigation lottery," "jackpot justice," and the all too familiar "runaway juries."

So, on the heels of this monsterous verdict, one would expect The Chamber to express its usual outrage and demand "reforms" on corporate lawsuits like this one. But here's the catch: you won't hear a peep from The Chamber over this verdict. The reason: it involved large corporations' rights to recover lost profits. The lesson? It's perfectly OK, and downright American, for large corporations to spend millions on lawyers to sue when products like childrens' dolls are stolen in the marketplace.

But when you as an ordinary citizen lose a limb or are sentenced to a wheelchair due to an unsafe or recalled product, suddenly it's different. According to The Chamber, we need "limits" and "caps" and "predictibility" and "certainty" from our justice system, or else it's a "litigation lottery."

See how this works? It's a one way street on the hypocrisy highway, and it's yet another reason why the system is tilted against the individual and in favor of big business and insurance companies.

Sometimes you learn the real stench of an interest group's true colors by what it DOESN'T say.

(visit our website at

Monday, August 18, 2008

Auto Insurance Rates Are Increasing.....I Thought Tort Reform Was Supposed To Fix This?

Well, it took a few years, but now it appears that the big lie has been proven. In 2005, The Ohio Legislature passed massive "tort reform." Translation: your right to recover against drunk drivers, manufacturers of tainted food products, and other wrongdoers is now capped at arbitrary, "one size fits all" limits. The hook? "Legal reform" was PROMISED to improve Ohio's economy, create jobs, keep businesses in Ohio, and bring down insurance rates. Here's what Former Governor Taft (15% approval rating) said about this law:

"The legislature has been debating this important issue for months, and I am pleased that they passed a bill that will help improve the business climate and create jobs in Ohio."

And here's what the Vice President for the Midwest region of The American Insurance Association had to say about the bill:

"Ohio's new common sense tort reform measures will help make the state an even more attractive place for insurers to do business by creating a more stable, equitable and predictable legal system."

Well, here we are in 2008. Ohio's economy is in the tank. We've lost over 200,000 jobs in just the last few years. And now this news from The Ohio Department Of Insurance: auto insurance AND homeowners insurance rates will rise in 2008. In fact, auto rates in Ohio have risen 4.8% in the first quarter of 2008 according to this insurance report. (in fairness, auto rates declined by 2.7% in 2007 but homeowners rates had increased during this time).

So what's the upshot? Despite all the promises of "creating jobs," "improving our economy," and lowering insurance rates, tort reform hasn't done a darned thing to improve Ohio, or your pocketbook. The only thing it did do is take away your legal rights to hold wrongdoers accountable if you are seriously injured, and strip away your 7th Amendment constitutional right to trial by jury.

What a wonderful concept: limit what you can recover from drunk drivers and unscrupulous businesses, and convince you that it's good for you and your family! So where's the jobs? Where's your savings from all this reform? Are your auto or homeowners rates going down? Are your health insurance premiums falling as well? Has tort reform freed your pocketbook?

Didn't think so. The only thing it has done has improved the bottom line of insurance comapnies, who are turning around and raising your rates anyway! And if you need any more proof, here's the final nail of this fraud: there are no limits or caps on what businesses can recover when they sue each other. It only applies to you, the injured person.

(visit our website at

Monday, August 11, 2008

This Has Nothing To Do With Law....(But It's A Really Cool Website)

Some things are worth sharing even though they have nothing to do with the topics of interest to us on this blog. This tip comes courtesy of my wife! For you music fans out there, check out You can create your own radio station of your favorite artists, and the site will play both that artist and similar ones in continual fashion on your PC or laptop. And it's free. It's nice to have when you are working at your computer, surfing the Net, or trying to come up with a new blog post......

Really, there's plenty to write about...just need some time to do it....

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Other Side Of The Insurance Company Lawsuit Coin

Last week I wrote about Allstate suing a number of medical providers and personal injury attorneys nationwide over sham injury claims (see previous post "Insurance Companies Are Right On This Issue"). Well, it seems that Allstate (as well as State Farm) is in some hot water of its own for allegedly doing the same thing against its own insureds! The lawsuits were filed in New York by a physician (John McGee, M.D.) and allege that Allstate and State Farm set up fraudulent "independent medical exams" of its own insureds with select medical groups, which always concluded that the injured insureds were either not injured or would not need further treatment. By doing so, these insurance companies could then allegedly deny paying for their own insureds' past medical bills and future medical benefits.

Of course, news like this does not usually make the newspaper or get media attention (compare that to a few goofball lawsuits like the guy who, on his own, sued a dry cleaner for $54 million for a lost pair of pants). Insurance companies and business groups love to parade such lawsuits around as the poster child for lawsuit abuse. Apparently it's OK, though, for insurance companies to abuse their own insureds. Good hands? More like boxing gloves...........

(visit our website at

Thursday, July 31, 2008

An Incredible Day

Today I had the honor and privilege of meeting with a Holocaust survivor. I left the meeting in awe of the client's grace, dignity, and just overall kindness. It's hard to wrap your mind around the abject suffering this person endured, and how anyone can overcome it with such astonishing grace. It proves to me the unbreakable nature of the human spirit, how good can triumph over evil, and it was truly inspiring to be in this person's presence.

It sure puts things in perspective, and meeting such incredible people is one of the many great things about what I do.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Insuance Companies Are Right On This Issue......

As you can probably tell by now if you've read any of our previous posts, we believe that insurance companies have way too much influence and power in the courts and legislature, and use this influence to the detriment of Ohioans with legitimate injury claims. However, to be fair, there are some personal injury attorneys who abuse the system. A recent nationwide lawsuit shows that these abusers do so at their peril.

In March of 2008, Allstate Insurance Company filed a massive lawsuit against chiropractic clinics, certain physicians, and attorneys all over the country for allegedly using deception and coercion against accident victims.

According to the lawsuit, here’s how the scheme worked. Accident victims would receive a call and were told that either their insurance company, or the at fault driver’s company, wanted them to be “checked out” at a chiropractic or physician’s clinic. Upon arrival, accident victims were examined and X-rayed, told their injuries were serious or substantial, and were introduced to attorneys, who frequently interviewed the victims at the provider’s office. Obviously, Allstate figured out that when the same attorneys and medical providers were showing up over and over again on accident claims, something was up!

If the allegations in this lawsuit are true, the injured person is merely a pawn in someone else’s money making scheme. If so, Allstate and other insurance companies deserve restitution if some of these claims were actually fraudulent.

We have adamantly refused over the years to enter into any such "relationships" with medical providers. By not being beholden to anybody, we maintain our ability to be objective and exercise independent judgment for every one of our clients’ claims.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Technicality....And Another Victory For Ohio Insurance Companies

Here we go again. Another Ohio Supreme Court decision interpreting an auto insurance policy came out last week, and yet another victory for insurance companies. Here's the simple facts. A is a passenger in a car driven by B. Both A and B have their own uninsured and underinsured motorists' coverage. They are hit by C. B, one of the injured parties, claimed that he was insured under BOTH his policy and A's (the driver's) policy.

Here's how the law used to work: if you were a passenger in another vehicle, you were covered under BOTH the driver's insurance as well as your own insurance policy. This makes sense; most drivers would probably conclude that their insurance covers any non-family passengers in the driver's vehicle. Stated differently, no person has probably ever been told by his or her agent that their insurance doesn't cover any non-family passengers.

A fine print exclusion ended that fairness. Last week, The Ohio Supreme Court upheld an excusion in the policy such that you as a passenger are not covered under the driver's insurance if you have coverage under your own policy.

Why did the insurance industry write this exclusion? Because it could! Senate Bill 97, passed in 2001, allows insurance companies to basically write ANY EXCLUSION IT WANTS, as long as it's not vague or ambiguous. Bottom line: as long as the exclusion puts the screws to the policyholder in clear language, it's enforceable.

And remember, according to The Ohio Supreme Court, you as the policyholder "bargain" for this language when you buy insurance!!!!

Here's the lesson to take away from yet another decision that upholds insurance company technicalities: THE ONLY WAY TO PROTECT YOURSELF IS TO PURCHASE AS MUCH UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED INSURANCE AS YOU CAN! If you want to read more about this, you can visit our website and order our free book: "HOW TO BUY CAR INSURANCE IN OHIO TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY." Or just call 330-452-8831 and we'll send you a copy.

(visit our website at

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Insurance Company Rules: The Real Reason Why Insurance Companies Win

The other day, I wrote about how the Ohio Supreme Court has allowed insurance companies to confiscate every penny of an injured person's auto settlement (known as "subrogation"). And then I discovered this video. It essentially shows in video form what I tried to explain in my last post about the absurdity and unfairness of current Ohio subrogation laws (and is much more effective and funny I might add).

Enjoy. This playful poke aside, if you think these ridiculous rules are limited to Ohio, go to to read Linda Shank's fight with Wal Mart. They battled her case all the way to The U.S. Supreme Court and won the legal right to take every penny of her $417,000 recovery after a collision with a large truck that left her permanently brain damaged (Wal Mart paid $470,000 of her bills and had a fine print subrogation clause that gave them the right to take every penny of her settlement as reimbursement).

Once the media discovered the story and skewered Wal Mart over its position, Wal Mart relented and dropped their reimbursement claim. BUT THE REAL STORY HERE IS THAT WAL MART HAD THE RIGHT UNDER FEDERAL LAW AND U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISIONS TO CONFISCATE EVERY PENNY OF MRS SHANK'S SETTLEMENT!

Congress (on a federal level) or The Ohio Legislature (on a state level) could change this oppressive and unfair law in a New York minute. Can you figure out why this hasn't happened yet? It tells you the influence of insurance companies in this country, and particularly in Ohio............

(visit our website at

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Robbery In Broad Daylight: Insurance Companies Win--- And You Lose (Again)

Do you remember the popular arcade game “Pac-Man,” the darting head with an opening mouth that scurried across the screen gobbling up everything in sight? A 2004 Ohio Supreme Court decision has granted your health insurance company “Pac-Man” status when it comes to your injury settlement. Believe it or not, your health insurer can literally confiscate 100% of your auto settlement in certain situations, even if it leaves you without a penny.

For example: You're hit by a drunk driver. Your shattered leg needed 3 surgeries, you missed 9 months of work, and you had $100,000 in bills paid by your health insurance. Buried in your health benefits booklet is a "subrogation” clause, which means this: “If you’re injured due to the fault of another, and we pay your bills, we get repaid out of any settlement you get.” Translated, “subrogation” means that your health insurance company has its reimbursement fingers in your settlement.

Until 2004, Ohio law used to prohibit health insurance companies from leapfrogging in front of you and getting reimbursed out of your auto settlement if you did not get full compensation for your injuries (after all, you’re the one who broke your leg and needed surgery, and you paid for your health insurance coverage to boot).

The 2004 Ohio Supreme Court case of Northern Buckeye v. Lawson changed all that. In that case, the injured person’s health insurance company had a fine print subrogation clause that basically said “even if you as the injured person/insured are not fully compensated for all of your injuries, we still have first priority for reimbursement over any settlement you obtain.”

The Supreme Court of Ohio (in a 4-3 decision) ruled that the insurance company was entitled to leap over (and step on)the injured person and recover every penny of bills it pays, even if it leaves the injured person with little or no recovery. After this decision, your health insurer can now legally confiscate your entire settlement pie in certain situations. The Court’s reasoning? “Hey, it’s a contract.” As long as the insurance company spells out in the contract that it can stand first in line and take every penny of your auto injury settlement, it can. That’s right – you purchased health insurance, paid your premiums, weeks later got your policy in the mail with all these one-sided clauses that take away your rights– and you “bargained” for this contract, according to four members of the Ohio Supreme Court! It is laughable to suggest that all the fine print and exclusions in an insurance contract are "bargined for" by the consumer.

This is one of the worst decisions in years, because it makes an injured person nothing more than a collection agent from one insurance company to another. And now it is the law of Ohio. As King Louis XVI said in Mel Brooks "History Of The World" movie, "It's good to be the king!" Only that was comedy. There's nothing funny about injured persons getting their settlements confiscated %100 by their insurance companies. I used to think that happened only in Russia. Heck, even the IRS doesn't take all of your income in taxes............

Stay tuned. More to come. Unfortunately.

(visit our website at

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

83,000 Versus.................5! What "Lawsuit Crisis?"

Here's a short quiz:
1. 79,000 of these lawsuits were filed in Ohio in 2006, and 83,000 in 2007- What kind were they?

A. Malpractice lawsuits against physicians and hospitals.

B. Products liability cases against manufacturers of consumer products.

C. More spilled hot coffee cases against fast food chains.

D. Foreclosures.

Answer: D

Foreclosures are exploding in Ohio and clogging our courts due to the mortgage crisis and unscrupulous lending practices(otherwise known as corporate greed). Conversely, there were only 348 products liability lawsuits filed in Ohio in 2006 (no, that’s not a typo). And only 3 went to a jury trial. That shockingly low number of products liability suits was not some anomoly. In 2007, THERE WERE 372 PRODUCTS LIABILITY SUITS FILED AND A WHOPPING 5 JURY TRIALS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE STATE! So much for the claim that Ohio corporations are being held economic hostage by scores of product liability lawsuits against product manufacturers.

Yet, business groups like The Chamber of Commerce and others claimed in a series of radio ads last year that Ohio's horrible legal climate is driving businesses out of Ohio (go to to listen to this laughable ad). Why is it laughable? Because The Ohio Legislature granted businesses and The Chamber a wish list of legal "reforms" in 2005 that limit YOUR recovery for things like tainted Chinese toys and food, bad medicines, and any other products that harm Ohioans, no matter where made.

After the reforms passed, Ohio was voted 4th in the country and 1st in the Midwest for having a "great legal climate for business", courtesy of The Pacific Research Institute (go to to read the Institute's report). This "Institute's" Board includes Altria (huge tobacco conglomerate), ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil (Exxon has contributed a meager $445,000 to the Institute since 1998), Microsoft, and other megabusinesses.

Strangely, however, in 2007, two years after The Legislature gave big business all the reforms it wanted, and one year after it's "Fourth Place" ranking, Ohio's legal climate for business somehow dropped to 32nd place in the USA. Why? Because the Chamber's Institute For Legal Reform said so, that's why. And this formed the basis for all those radio ads.

Now, however, we have the true numbers for what is really happening in Ohio regarding lawsuits. And unlike bogus "studies" and cooked position papers from "Institutes" funded by big oil and big tobacco, the numbers show the truth of things. Are we really to believe that less than 400 product liability lawsuits and 3-5 jury trials per year for a state of 11 million people was crippling Ohio businesses and causing massive job losses? Or was the problem EXAGGERATED, perhaps, by big businesses that didn't NEED these reforms, but simply WANTED them from a rubber stamp Ohio legislature to increase their bottom line?

Well, it's been almost 3 years now since big business got its legislative wish list. Is Ohio's economy now booming? And has big oil, one of the biggest lobbies for "tort reform," passed those savings on to you in the form of lower gas prices? To twist a phrase from the movie Jerry McGuire, would somebody please "show me the savings" from all this tort reform???

(visit our website at

Monday, June 30, 2008

Aultman and Mercy Hospital Lawsuit....And Hypocrisy (Click On The Title Of This Post To Read Article)

Mercy Medical and Aultman Hospital are currently suing the pants off of each other in a big local lawsuit. Mercy claims that Aultman illegally set up a scheme to pay local insurance agents secret bonuses to steer businesses and individuals to buy AultCare Insurance, which is apparently owned by Aultman. Mercy claims that this secret kickback scheme created a "monopoly" that cut into Mercy's market share of potential patients, and therefore its bottom line.

Aultman has fired back, countersuing Mercy for corporate slander, defamation, "unfair trade practices," and has labeled Mercy's claims "extortion."

Who knows who's right or wrong in this one. But here's where a HUGE spotlight of hypocrisy shines on these lawsuits. First, these hospitals can sue each other for MILLIONS, and there are NO CAPS OR LIMITS on what they can recover from a jury. For example, if a jury returns a verdict for Mercy or Aultman for $50 million, that's what either hospital can potentially recover. No problem with that: if that is what a local jury concludes, and the evidence supports the verdict, that is why we have a constitutional right to trial by jury.

However, if either hospital injures YOU after a negligent medical error, and you bring a lawsuit, your pain and suffering is reduced to $250,000 for life, even if a jury values your misery at $300,000, or $3 million. Why? Because the "tort reform" laws that limit compensation APPLY ONLY TO YOU. All those caps and limits do not apply to business lawsuits like this one. So, tort reform is a one way street--it limits THE AMOUNT OF MONEY YOU CAN RECOVER BUT NOT THE AMOUNT BUSINESSES LIKE HOSPITALS CAN RECOVER.

Second, hospitals like Aultman lobbied heavily for tort and medical liability "reforms" before The Ohio Legislature passed them in 2003. Below is a quote from testimony Aultman Health Foundation VP Tim Teynor gave to The Ohio Legislature:

Employers more than ever need to be free to offer flexible health benefit systems. We must be careful to avoid increasing the cost burden on employers and employees due to new coverage mandates and increased liability.

From a providers point of view, the legislature could help restrain rising medical costs by passing several pending tort reform bills, including:

• Senate bill 120 - would make liability proportional to a defendant's degree or fault or responsibility.
• Senate bill 179 - would modernize ohio's peer review statute.
• Senate bill 281 - would cap non-economic damages for pain and suffering in malpractice lawsuits.

(To read Mr.Teynor's full testimony, go to

If capping YOUR compensation after a preventable hospital error is supposed to keep health care and insurance costs down, what do you think a multimillion dollar lawsuit and hospital legal wars over insurance market share does to health care costs? Does it bring the cost of health care down?

Perhaps now you know why I used the term "hypocrisy" in the title of this post. See how these reforms work? In the name of holding down health care costs, your rights are limited, but when it comes to businesses like hospitals hiring armies of lawyers to sue each other for millions, there are no limits. Just another example of average citizens not getting a level playing field when it comes to making businesses like hospitals accountable for their mistakes. And make no mistake about it, this lawsuit proves that running a hospital and churning patients is all business.......

(Visit our website at

Monday, June 23, 2008

Your "Full Coverage" Auto Policy Is Lousy.....And I Can Prove It!

You may THINK you have a “full coverage” auto policy to protect all your losses if you’re involved in a crash. After all, that's what you were told when you bought your policy. Chances are you don’t. I would estimate that over 90% of people who have auto insurance in Ohio are SERIOUSLY underinsured and exposed to huge monetary losses if involved in a crash. In fact, your auto policy may be so lousy that you may have NO COVERAGE AT ALL AFTER A CRASH THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

We have seen it happen over and over again after over 20 years of representing people injured in crashes. So I decided to do something about it and wrote a book: “How To Buy Car Insurance In Ohio To Protect You And Your Family.” In the book I explain the 2 MAJOR REASONS why you probably have a lousy auto policy, and what you can do about it NOW to protect yourself ( Hint: the details are in the fine print in your policy that nobody but we attorneys bother to read AND Ohio law that stacks the deck against you without you even knowing it until it's too late....)

The good news is'(1) there is something you can do TODAY to protect your family; (2) the book's a short read; (3) it’s FREE and (4) it may also double as a cure for insomnia, but did I also mention it’s FREE?

Just e-mail me at or call us at 330-452-8831 and we’ll send it out.

Visit our website at

Are You A True Tort Reformer? Here's One Way To Find Out

You may have heard of the term "tort reform." Generally, it refers to law changes sought by insurance companies and big business. This movement has been around for over 30 years, but it has accelerated greatly over the last 10-15 years both nationally and here in Ohio. These special interests have spent MILLIONS on radio, TV and newspaper ads, and lobbyists pushing for these "reforms." Here's the bait upon which tort reform is sold to the public: by cracking down on "frivolous lawsuits" and "runaway juries," this will protect businesses, which will be good for the economy, and hold insurance costs down.

Now here's the switch: while decrying "frivolous lawsuits," insurance companies then lobby to pass laws that impose arbitrary, one size fits all caps on even LEGITIMATE CASES OF SERIOUS INJURY. Here's how these caps work in Ohio: if you lose a limb or are rendered comatose due to a preventable medical mistake, for example, and a jury values your next 40-50-60 years of misery at $1 million, it is arbitrary reduced by law to $250,000.

What does limiting legitimate injuries have to do with cracking down on frivolous lawsuits? Nothing, of course. But that hasn't stopped the insurance industry from convincing the Ohio Legislature to pass limits on what seriously injured Ohioans can recover.

At the end of the day, the "tort reform" movement is alot like people who want politicians to "crack down on crime" by building more prisons. Sounds great from a distance, until you realize the prison is going in YOUR neighborhood. Suddenly, the situation is "different" or "unfair."

BUT.........if you STILL believe that arbitrary limits on what anyone can recover for serious and legitimate injuries is a good idea, you are probably a true "tort reformer." And if you are, you should print and sign the form below and take it with you whenever you need treatment from your doctor or hospital. That way, everyone will know that you're not going to get involved in our legal system as someone who "sues," and that you're willing to place blind trust in whomever you deal with.

(visit our website at


(Bringing Ohio Patients and Doctors Together To Fight the High Cost of Medical Care)**

Warning: Tort Reform affects your rights! Please do not sign this form unless you have had a face-to-face discussion with your doctor about tort reform.

Dear Dr. , I understand that I (or my child ) will shortly be undergoing the following medical care with you:

(Surgery Anesthesia Important medical exam/treatment)

On behalf of me and/or my minor child, I agree as follows:

It’s a Good Idea to Limit My Recovery in Medical Malpractice Cases

Like you, I am worried about the high cost of health care. Although I never really thought about it before, I think that it’s a really good idea that if you negligently injure me or my child for life, my opportunity to recover damages from your insurance company should be limited. After all, my limited recovery because of your negligence will keep malpractice insurance premiums low, and insurance companies will pass these savings on to all of us, and surely this will bring down health care costs for all Ohioans. I’m glad I’m sacrificing my rights to compensation for the good of all Ohioans, and I can’t wait for health insurance costs and doctors’ fees to be dramatically reduced real soon in Ohio because of all these savings.

Ohio’s Current Laws Do Limit Damages—But It’s Not Enough

In Ohio, we already have laws which limit my recovery from your insurance company. Nevertheless, I am agreeing to “cap” my recovery at $250,000 for pain and suffering damages.

You (the doctor) Can Sue Me For Everything—That’s OK

On the other hand, if I cripple you on the highway with my car, you can sue me and recover for all of your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, without limit. This seems to treat you better than me but I am willing to sacrifice my family’s well-being for yours.

I’ll Have to Pay Back What I Get from You to My Own Insurance Company

You have also explained to me that my own health insurance plan will want me to deduct from my recovery, and send to it, 100% of the medical bills it paid for my injury. I also understand that if the reason you are treating me is for a work related injury that my worker’s compensation insurance company will have a claim for all of the money it spends for my medical care and lost wages. What these insurance companies are owed will be deducted from my recovery against you. Once again, my limited recovery because of your negligence will mean lower health insurance costs that will be passed on to all Ohioans, which should be coming real soon.

I Want to Agree to These New Laws And Any Others The Ohio Legislature Might Pass Right Now!

I realize that you may want even more reforms that limit or even eliminate my right to bring a claim against you for negligence, so I am willing, in order to make it more affordable for your medical practice, to AGREE IN ADVANCE to any future proposed restrictions apply to my case. After all, we all need to pitch in to bring your rates down, which will be passed along to me in the form of lower health care costs.

So, in order to help you and your business I hereby solemnly agree if you hurt me or my child then:
• That even if I or my child are crippled, disfigured, blinded or in chronic severe pain for the rest of my/our life that the most you will have to pay for the pain, suffering, humiliation and embarrassment is $250,000.
• That out of any recovery from you I may have to pay back to my own health insurance or disability insurance company everything they paid because of my injury.
• That if I can't make ends meet because of any caps, I will simply go on government assistance.

Secrecy Agreement

I hereby agree in advance, that if you hurt me or my child and we settle my claim, we will keep the claim and the settlement secret so that no one else will find out that your malpractice insurance company has settled my case. I also agree, as is required in most settlement agreements, that I will pay you back a large portion of the settlement if word leaks out that your insurance company paid me.

Patient name (or parent if patient is a child)

Doctor’s Name: By signing this form the doctor promises that he/she has had an open and honest discussion with the patient about tort reform and has disclosed to the patient all prior claims paid by or on behalf of the doctor for medical malpractice. The doctor has also disclosed all pending claims so that the patient can make an informed choice about who to trust his/her life to.

**This form is authorized to be used by any doctor and any patient in Ohio. It is designed so that health care providers can have an honest discussion with their patients (and parents of child patients) about the impact of tort reform on patient care. It is also designed so that those who can’t wait for more tort reform to pass on a national or statewide basis can go ahead and enter into a private contract with their doctor for an upcoming treatment or surgery. It is hoped that if a doctor can get every patient to agree to this that maybe the doctor can get a better rate on his insurance and thus whatever the patient ends up paying for out of his pocket for injury can be passed along as a savings to the rest of society in terms of lower cost of medical care.

(Credit for the idea behind the form goes to Virginia attorney Ben Glass....)