Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another Good Reason To Avoid Attorney And Chiropractor Solicitations After An Auto Accident

It's no secret that we have railed against some attorneys and firms who "solicit" injury victims after an auto accident. These tactics range from offensive to shady (the practice of hiding behind third party "injury help centers" that call victims and steer them to chiropractors and attorneys with questionable sales pitches), and some are downright illegal.

We don't do any of this stuff and we're proud of that, even if it means less business for us.

But now the newest mutation in the solicitation shenanigans: A Florida hospital employee has been arrested in allegedly stealing patient information and records from over 760,000 patient records and selling all of it to attorneys and chiropractors.  My guess is that these records involved various accidents or other calamities.

Every time I think that these practices can't sink any lower, something as astonishing as this comes along. The employee was just recently arrested, so it could get very interesting down the road as federal investigators follow the paper trail and blow the lid off of this powderkeg.

It's gotten to the point that accident victims really can't trust any post-accident phone calls or "inquiries" about their collision, nor should they. Just how can accident victims make an informed and intelligent choice amongst a sea of letters, brochures, DVD's,  numerous phone calls, and now, possibly stolen patient information???

It used to be that picking an attorney or firm out of the phone book was the equivalent of Russian Roulette. Post-accident solicitation is now the new form of this dangerous game.

The good news: over 95% of Ohio personal injury attorneys do not engage in these practices. And word of mouth is still a tried and true method of choosing competent attorneys in this dizzying and sometimes suspect maze.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Myth Of "Free Markets" When Tragedy Strikes

Yesterday 28 year old Connecticut woman tragically died in a parasailing ride gone awfully wrong in Pompano Beach, Florida. She and her husband plummeted into the ocean from a height of 200 feet when their safety harness broke.

This is the second parasailing fatality in Pompano Beach since 2007. According to the city's mayor, there is little to no regulation or oversight of this recreational activity:

Parasailing companies operate in Florida with little-to-no regulation from the state or the federal government. Mayor Fisher said he has been pushing for legislation to impose stronger safety standards.
“And obviously it fell on deaf ears,” Fisher said. “And so here we are today, losing another life because of no inspections and no opportunities to make sure that this equipment is safe. For someone to have come down on vacation to Pompano Beach, it’s inexcusable to me.”
Imagine how upset her husband and parents would rightly be over what happened here. My guess is that the parasailing outfit touted how "safe" its practices were, and nobody put up a sign on the door of the business that said: "there is no real regulation or oversight of the parasailing industry." In fairness, we don't know how safe or unsafe this outfit was and only time will tell whether this tragedy was just a matter of time, or whether there were extenuating circumstances.

But it sounds to me like this was a classic "free market" industry that certain politicians and people love to promote and yearn for. "Let these businesses regulate themselves" and "government stay out" is often their clarion call. Sounds great on paper until something like this happens. And then many of these same folks then say (with a straight face): "What the hell is going on here? You mean that they're allowed to run a risky business like this with no inspections or oversight?" "Where is the government in all this and why have they not stepped in and stopped these dangerous practices?."

Therein lies the conundrum. Many times, lax or no regulation opens the door to cutting corners and taking shortcuts that often lead to tragedies like this. Would increased oversight have guaranteed this would not have happened? Of course not. Many heavily regulated industries, like the trucking industry, still have a fair number of preventable trucking collisions due to shoddy hiring practices, imposed driver fatigue, and other shortcomings.

But one thing is for sure: when there is no watchdog, deterrant, or minimal oversight, it's only a matter of time until people get hurt. Ironically, the cries for "less regulation" come at a time when the business community is lobbying in frenzy like fashion for "legal reforms" that limit wrongdoers legal responsibility, dole out lawsuit immunity like candy, and limit what injured people can recover in legitimate lawsuits involving truly preventable injuries. It's the perfect lobbying trifecta: less regulation, less lawsuits and less liability. So much for the "personal responsibility" and "accountability" that these same groups and politicians love to preach about when it comes to individuals (and so much for the "corporations are people too" drivel...)

And don't tell me that "doing the right thing" and the self incentive for safety is enough to make companies sell a safe product or service. The Pinto, Firestone tires, Vioxx, bladder suspension vaginal slings, The Massey Mine collapse, Wall Street molesters of our economy and retirement plans, and a whole host of other offending products and incidents come to mind.

Allow me to borrow from the "freedom isn't free" bumper sticker I see all the time. Free markets aren't free either. They come with a price. And sometimes the cost is something you can't add with a calculator: human life. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Physician Age And Malpractice: Is There A Correlation?

According to a recent article from The American Medical Association (AMA), hospitals are starting to scrutinize the relationship between physicians' age and the quality of care they provide. A study cited in the article summarized the potential scope of the problem:

A Feb. 15, 2005, Annals of Internal Medicine systematic review of 62 studies found that 52% of those studies demonstrated a decline in physicians’ quality linked to advancing age and the passage of years since their medical school and residency training.

As I reflect back on all the medical malpractice cases I have litigated, I have seen a direct relationship between age and substandard medical care on only one occasion. In that case, an elderly surgeon (i think he was approximately 70 years old) obliterated my client's common bile duct during routine laparosopic gall bladder surgery. This is a definite no no during gall bladder surgery, as it is the VERY structure a surgeon is NOT supposed to cut, for it has disasterous consequences for a patient's ability to move bile from her liver to her stomach.

To make matters worse, one month before he cut my client's bile duct in half, he did the exact same thing to another patient's bile duct during another gall bladder surgery. The sad part of it was that, at one time, this surgeon enjoyed a good reputation in his local community. My take on it was that it was not advanced age that became his nemesis. Rather, it was pride and ego and arrogance and not knowing when to throw in the towel.

These fralties seem to be more prevalant and contribute more to medical negligence than advanced age, in my experience. To that list I would add complacency as a major contributor to malpractice. On too many occasions, I have seen otherwise competent physicians that carry an "I've seen this before" or "I have done hundreds of these before" attitude to a procedure or a set of symptoms. This leads to overconfidence or even arrogance and a failure to not do more in the face of symptoms that call for action.

I suppose that it's a good thing that hospitals are probably very quietly looking into this issue. But, in my humble opinion, complacency is immune to age. What every professional--doctor, lawyer, accountant, whover--needs to remember is that a know it all or complacent attitude knows no chronological boundries.