Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Roaches On A Plane" Lawsuit Is Raunchy.

"Snakes On A Plane"--move over. We have a new plot for an action thriller thanks to a Charlotte attorney who's launched a lawsuit against an airline because some cockroaches were roaming around in the plane during a short flight. He's suing for damages in excess of $100,000 for "emotional distress" and other associated psychological ills.

As they say on ESPN, "C'mon, man!" Really? As a personal injury attorney, I want to say thanks to this colleague. Thanks for adding to the list of goofball lawsuits that make it into the media, and feed into all the negative stereotypes about our legal system. You know, the ones people ask me about at a party or bring up when I am picking a jury during a trial where my client has LEGITIMATE injuries. It's funny how miscreants like drunk drivers can wallop people over and over again, I'll file a lawsuit, the claim is either settled fairly or tried to a jury, and the media never reports it. That's not newsworthy. But a $100,000+ lawsuit THAT WILL GO NOWHERE is now plastered all over the media.

I'm reasonably sure "roaches on a plane" will make the list as a topic of discussion the next time I'm in court. And thanks too for giving The Chamber Of Commerce's militant "Institute For Legal Reform" more fodder/propaganda for its mission: to wipe out or limit YOUR INDIVIDUAL right to access the courts, unless you're a corporation, and then you can sue the pants off of anyone without restriction.

If this lawsuit even survives a motion to dismiss, if I were a judge I would award damages of a few extra bags of complimentary peanuts for his next flight. He could use them as a repellent. After all, cockroaches don't like peanuts. I've heard that if they eat them they will blow up and die.

OK, maybe that's an urban myth, like Juicy Fruit gum and moles and Alka Seltzer and seagulls. Add this lawsuit to the list of "urban myths" about our legal system. No matter what The Chamber of Commerce says in their latest "e-mail alerts," these cases are the exception, not the rule.

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Overlooked Element Of Damages/Losses In Personal Injury Claims

The accident scenario is a typical one: the client is creamed in a collision. After the initial bevy of acute care treatment in the hospital or ER, the client then begins the long, arduous journey of a series of diagnostic tests, stints of physical therapy, surgery, all the post surgery rehab (usually more therapy), and follow up appointments with their medical provider of choice.

What we as personal injury attorneys frequently overlook is all the time and effort it takes for clients to schedule around and attend all the appointments with therapists, etc. Quite simply, it is a huge hassle just to make all these appointments. And expensive too. With the cost of gas at over $3 a gallon, it all adds up.

Recently we calculated all the miles a client (who was broadsided by a drunk driver) travelled for numerous trips to therapy, doctors appointments, rehab after surgery, etc. It was staggering--over 1,000 miles of local driving. A few minutes on Google Maps makes this task simple and easy.

Do insurance companies recognize these losses in settlement negotiations? Usually not. If they do recognize them, they typically don't reimburse these losses on a dollar for dollar basis.

But that's not a reason to forego claiming mileage and the cost of gas and other inconveniences during settlement negotiations. Where is the REAL value in pointing out all these losses? At trial. Even the most skeptical juries can appreciate these losses, even if they struggle with how much an auto accident victim's "pain and suffering" is worth. In fact, this evidence can actually help a jury when calculating a pain and suffering amount when deliberating on a verdict.

After all, it's hard enough to deal with physical pain and disability associated with an auto or trucing collision. It's even harder when you have to make arrangements to leave work early, get in your car, show up early for your appointment, go through the rigors of physical therapy, and drive home and deal with the ordinary aspects of life like preparing meals, laundry, helping the kids with homework, etc.

Sometimes taking a step back and looking at all the ripple effects of an injury can help us see the bigger wave or picture in terms of our client's damages and everything they've gone through. The old adage of "walking a mile in the other person's shoes" applies here...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Surgical Fires In The Operating Room

Today while working out at the local YMCA I saw a report on The Today Show about the problem of patients catching fire during routine operations. The crowd gathering around the TV was shocked to learn that this can happen. Actually, it has been occurring for quite some time, as I have written about here and here.

It even happens at world renowned institutions like The Cleveland Clinic. In fact, it is estimated that 500-600 surgical fires are reported every year. Since not all states are required to report surgical fires, the number might be higher.

Every hospital should have training protocols in place to educate the surgical team on how to prevent these fires, because they are absolutely preventable. So ask your surgeon if he or she has experienced any fires during surgery, and also ask about any training the staff has undergone. It's a reasonable question that any patient deserves an answer to before going under anesthesia...