Monday, May 23, 2016

Which Is More Dangerous: Texting/Distracted Driving Or Drunk Driving?

According to Car And Driver Magazine, texting while driving is WAY more dangerous than drunk driving. Here's how Car And Driver set up the test:

Rigging a car with a red light to alert drivers when to brake, the magazine tested how long it takes to hit the brake when sober, when legally drunk at .08, when reading and e-mail, and when sending a text. The results are scary. Driving 70 miles per hour on a deserted air strip Car and Driver editor Eddie Alterman was slower and slower reacting and braking when e-mailing and texting.
The results:

  • Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake
  • Legally drunk: add 4 feet
  • Reading e-mail: add 36 feet
  • Sending a text: add 70 feet

This may come as a surprise to some, but it makes sense from a perception/reaction standpoint. 

But it is not the SOLE reason why distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving.

The real reason why testing/fooling with your phone is more dangerous than drunk driving dawned on me the other day on one of those numbing drive home commutes. Every single day, I see drivers looking at their phones while driving. If I kept score during any given week, the count would  probably reach the hundreds.

This made me want to do some digging, so I called Mr. Google for help (what did we do before Google and why do our kids use their smartphones for everything BUT a Google search?--sorry for going off topic...).

 How many adults in The U.S. own smartphones? A Staggering 225 million.  Licensed drivers? 210 million. Number of drunk driving incidents last year? 121 million (how pathetic is that?)

From a sheer numbers standpoint, the number of drivers with smartphones significantly outweighs the numbers of drivers who choose to drink and drive. Can we infer from the data that the opportunity to access our phones while driving is significantly greater than the circumstances that lead to drunk driving?

I'm no statistician but I know what I see with my own eyes. And that is a public driving like a bunch of bobble heads, constantly looking up and down and glancing in stealth like fashion. I generally go to bed fairly early, but I can't remember the last time I saw someone driving impaired.   

Our technological advances have been staggering over the last decade, and the distracted driving phenomenon is one of the many byproducts. Until we develop the technology to disable the onslaught of information we receive while driving, distracted driving is going to continue to take a heavy toll on our collective safety.

In essence, we've become intoxicated by a new drug--our phones.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Car Accidents, Emergency Rooms, And "GOMER'S"--And The Importance Of Following Up With Your Doctor

By: Brian R. Wilson, Esq

Canton Ohio

You've probably never heard of the term "GOMER" unless you are in the medical profession. Actually, it is an acronym  (G.O.M.E.R.) used by ER doctors and staff it stands for "Get Out Of My Emergency Room."

Harsh? Perhaps. But if you've been in an auto accident, it's helpful to understand the mindset of emergency room medicine, and how it affects your injuries and future treatment.

Emergency rooms see just about every calamity known to society, and many are life and death or potentially serious. Gunshot wounds and trauma, or folks on the verge of strokes or heart attacks are just a few of a long laundry list of injuries or ailments ER personnel see on a frequent basis.

And, given our access to health care issues in this country, many people use the local ER as their primary care doctor as a means of receiving medical attention. What's more, the scourge of increasing drug dependency has led to the local ER becoming a target for those who seek a prescription to fuel their dependencies.

All this has led to ER rooms becoming increasingly crowded and frenetic.

Every day in the ER involves "triaging" or the prioritizing the treatment of patients based upon the seriousness or potential seriousness of  the injury or condition.  If you've ever waited in the ER for a few hours for that foot or knee sprain, you've probably been "triaged," meaning that your treatment was put on the back burner while others with potentially more serious conditions were seen ahead of you.

In the absence of obvious, serious trauma like head or spine injuries, fractures, or internal injuries many car accident victims become "GOMER's." They are frequently are worked up rather quickly to rule out serious injuries, and are sent on their way.

And in this "treat em and street em" mindset, many injuries and conditions are not given serious attention, or are outright missed altogether. A few recent examples from car accident cases we've handled illustrate the occasional incompleteness of ER care:

Case No 1: Client is involved in a high speed, serious, head on crash with a drunk driver. His complaints of pain in the sternum or "breastbone" and mid back pain are noted in the records. A chest X Ray is ordered, which confirms a fractured sternum, but no spine X Rays are ordered. He is treated and released with a "back sprain." Days later, due to unrelenting pain in the mid back, he follows up with a health care provider, who orders a spine X ray. Two compression fractures are found in his thoracic spine.

Case No 2: After a serious fall at a grocery store, client is taken to the local ER. He has serious swelling in his knee. An X Ray of the knee reveals no fracture, and the client is discharged with a "knee sprain." Days later, due to inability to walk or even bend the knee, an orthopaedic physician orders an MRI, which reveals a complete tear of his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and  a complete tear of his medial collateral ligament (MCL) requiring immediate surgery.

Your takeaway if you've been in a car collision and went to the ER? Don't assume your "discharge diagnosis" was correct, and follow up as soon as possible with your family physician or other specialist if you are having any continued problems or discomfort.

You're probably much less likely to be GOMER'ed in those settings.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The One Thing You Must Insist Upon After Your Crash...Or Risk Ruining Your Credit

I've seen this scenario OVER AND OVER again from car accident clients who call me in complete frustration months after their crash.

Client--let's call her Jenny--is involved in crash not her fault.  Jenny visits the local hospital for treatment. She explains to the hospital intake person (you know, the poor soul who has to ask for your insurance information while you're spasming in pain, bleeding, or have that bone sticking out of your leg) that she has health insurance and provides "nice intake lady" with a copy of  her insurance card.

Frequently, one of two things eventually happen after her insurance information is given. Either Jenny is told "since this is an auto accident, we will be billing the at fault party's insurance," OR the hospital takes her information and simply refuses to bill jenny's health insurance.

And then months go by. The hospital bill is lingering. Nothing has been paid. The at fault insurance company who promised to "work with" Jenny tells her that "we have to wait until you finish treatment" or "we can't pay anything until we review your records" or "we'll just offer you one lump sum as a settlement and you can pay your hospital bills out of your settlement."

Now Jenny is getting hounded by bill collectors hired by the hospital--which usually prompts a call to me.

What is going on here and why is Jenny being turned over to collections when she has health insurance and there is other insurance galore to pay her bills???

When the hospital sniffs that this is an auto accident claim and someone other than the patient may be at fault, it simply refuses to bill the patient's health insurance. But why?

Two words: hospital greed.

It's real simple: health insurance may pay well less than 50% of the patient's hospital bill. For example, if your ER bill is $5,000, the hospital may receive $1000 or even less from the patient's health insurance company as payment in full.  This is because insurance companies negotiate these discounts with hospitals who agree to be in their insurance network.

Because insurance reimbursement rates are so low, some hospitals are telling patients that the hospital "could not bill health insurance because it was an auto accident," or  told the patient that their health insurance "did not cover auto accidents."

Both of these statements are deceptive. First, virtually every health insurance plan will cover auto accident related expenses. Second, hospitals CAN bill health insurance. They just don't WANT to.

Reality: if there is a better and more lucrative source for the hospital's payment (such as the at fault driver's insurance company), the patient's health insurance is often viewed like a Spam casserole in the buffet line, and ignored.

Now, in a perfect world, this would not be a problem if the at fault driver's insurance company stepped up to the plate and simply paid the bill. But they almost NEVER do that. See excuses listed above...

The mistake that car accident victims make when they go it alone is not insisting that the hospital bill their health insurance, or simply turning the bills directly over to their health insurance company for payment to the hospital.  Chances are, the health insurer will pay the bill if the patient insists upon it.

The takeaway? If the hospital bill has not been paid within a month or so, contact your health insurance company and insist that it pay the bill.

Otherwise, the bill will linger, and here's the irony: your credit rating may get dinged despite the fact that you have health insurance, all because your local hospital (who is in your health insurance network), wanted to step out of that network to be paid a few more bucks.  

It's no wonder people call me after getting sucked into this unnecessary vortex.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Why A Hospital Was Fined $86,000 For Leaving A Towel Inside A Patient's Abdomen

Here's the story. A patient was admitted to a California hospital to have his bladder and prostate removed.

After three months and 43 pounds shed, this poor soul was re-admitted and underwent a CT Scan, which showed a large mass. I'm sure he thought this mass was possibly cancer.

Well, it wasn't cancer. Upon surgically opening his abdominal cavity, the surgical team discovered a different kind of mass: a large blue towel. It gets worse; the towel was intended for surgeons and the team to wipes their hands with only.

Oops. The hospital had no explanation for why the towel ever got inserted in the patient's belly, because it was not the kind of towel or sponge that was supposed to be used in the body cavity.

But here's the most interesting part: the only reason this story has seen the light of day is because California requires mandatory reporting of medical mistakes that can cause serious injury or death. But for this law, most likely the hospital would require the patient to sign a confidential settlement if he sued the hospital for malpractice.
Case closed, and the public never learns about something awful like this happening at its local, "trusted" hospital.

States like Ohio need to pass mandatory reporting requirements of medical errors, mistakes, and mishaps. Hospital care is big business, and hospitals often compete, and even sue each other, over market share.

Their public relations and messaging machines are colossal, and they are quick to tout their latest achievements and ratings. That's fine.

But the flip side of that coin is that the public should know when preventable errors like this one occur. Otherwise, we never get to peer behind the curtain, or in this case the surgical curtain.

If there's no transparency for hospital errors, it's like logging onto an online ratings site where negative reviews are not allowed.

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Does Your Dog Bite?" Inspector Clouseau And Ohio Dog Bite Laws....

The "Pink Panther" series of movies has provided many laughs (and quotes) in The Wilson house over the years. An exchange from "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," is a repeat favorite, particularly when one of us is being accused of not doing something (usually a household chore):  

Clouseau: Does your dog bite?
Clouseau: [bowing down to pet the dog] Nice doggie.
[Dog barks and bites Clouseau in the hand]
Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!
Hotel Clerk: That is not my dog.

"Not my dog" has become code of sorts for "that wasn't my mess to clean up" (usually not a defense but still funny....). 

That exchange does raise a legal question: does your dog have to bite or physically attack a person under Ohio law in order for you as an owner to be liable for the injuries Fido causes?

Not at all. Ohio has one of the more expansive dog liability statutes in the U.S. Basically, if your dog (1) chases; or (2) approaches in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of an attack; or (3) attempts to bite; or (4) endangers a person and causes injury, you are liable if you own, keep, or harbor the dog. 

There are limited exceptions to this blanket rule of liability: if the injured person was (1) criminally trespassing or committing a crime on the property; or (2) teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog on the owner's/keeper's property.

This law covers a variety of situations other than a classic "dog bite." For example, if the dog rushes onto another person's property and causes someone to trip or fall, you as a dog owner are liable. Similarly, it covers situations where joggers, walkers, or bicyclists are chased by dogs and sustain injury in the process.

The message from Ohio's dog bite law is clear: You as a responsible pet owner need to keep your dog under control, restrained, and not roaming all over the place, or you will be held accountable for the harm caused. 

So, if Inspector Clouseau were to ask "Does your dog bite?" in Ohio, the correct response would be: "Does not have to." Despite this, all mail carriers, UPS, and Fed Ex drivers should still have the mace handy just in case....   


Saturday, January 2, 2016

What Should I Expect At My First Meeting With You?

By Brian R. Wilson, Esq.

It was a very good question and not one I have been asked often. But it was easily answerable. "It's pretty simple. You do most of the talking. I do most of the listening, though I may ask a few questions. I'll let you know what your best course of action should be and we'll go from there."

For an auto or motorcycle case, the initial client meeting lasts approximately one hour. Naturally, there is no charge for the meeting, but I have to laugh at how many attorneys/firms tout a "free consultation" as some great selling point.

News flash. Everyone offers it. It's about as big of a deal as a free straw with a drink purchase. What IS a big deal, and makes us a bit different, is that you are not obligated to sign any sort of fee arrangement or contract at the initial meeting. In fact, it is discouraged, and for good reason.

You should be given the time to take a proposed agreement home, look it over, talk it over with your loved ones or friends, and even talk to another attorney or firm in the interim.

The last thing any car or motorcycle accident victim needs is a "high pressure lawyer come on" after dealing with (_____________slow, stingy, annoying, aggressive or fill in other appropriate adjective here) insurance companies, and being bombarded with lawyer and chiropractor materials or pitches which blow up your phone or land on your doorstep.

The right personal injury attorney to help you with and through your journey is worth waiting for.