Saturday, November 16, 2002

Apparently, the incoming Congress not only has asbestos on the mind, but is planning on attacking the individual's right to bring medical malpractice claims. For years medical malpractice insurance companies and less-informed members of the American Medical Association have tried to blame "excessive litigation" and "high jury verdicts" as reasons for high medical malpractice insurance premiums. I don't really blame the doctors because if I were a physician, I'd be frustrated too. Recent facts though show that medical malpractice insurers lie - big surprise it's all about money. They are calling on Congress to enact irrational caps on damages. Not coincidently, such caps increase insurer profits. In fact, an ally of the medical malpractice insurance industry, The Wall Street Journal, recently revealed some truths as did the Denver Post. An October 11, 2002 article in the Post described how "Insurance companies have exaggerated the impact of malpractice claims to increase doctors' premiums." The article reports: "Once adjusted for inflation, insurance company losses linked to malpractice payments have remained stable over the last 30 years, according to the study. So, there is no truth to insurance and medical industry claims that an explosion in jury awards has fostered an escalation in physician premiums....."

The Wall Street Journal blames insurers' bad accounting and greed as having a "big effect on premiums." It stated that when the stock market's bull market ended, investment gains that covered up bad insurance practices disappeared and some doctors' medical malpractice insurance premiums sky-rocketed. Moreover, the article confirms that "doctors and hospitals win [medical malpractice lawsuits] about 62% of the time." It states "Some doctors are beginning to acknowledge that the conventional focus on jury awards deflects attention from the insurance industry's behavior. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for the first time is conceding that carriers' business practices have contributed to the current problem...." A CEO from a leading malpractice insurer was quoted as stating: "I don't like to hear insurance-company executives say it's the tort [injury-law] system -- it's self-inflicted."

Friday, November 15, 2002

Warning homeowner, a couple claims with your insurer and you may lose your insurance. A Washington D.C. couple learned this the hard way. Apparently, last Thanksgiving when a pipe broke in their home the couple made a claim to State Farm Insurance and it ended up paying about $3600 to repair water damage. The home was worth in excess of $600,000 and thus, it was a small claim in comparison. Nevertheless, the couple soon learned that State Farm refused to renew their insurance. The stated reason was the Thanksgiving incident, their 2nd claim in 2 years and the fact that during 25 years with State Farm, they filed a total of 3 claims, one for $278. Then, after this, the couple was REFUSED insurance from any other insurance company and had to buy insurance through a state plan that doesn't include any insurance for theft or liability. Read the whole State Farm Article.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Lectured yesterday at "Adjusting Motor Vehicle Accident/Premises Liability Personal Injury Claims in Wisconsin," at the Astor Hotel in here Milwaukee. After, I met a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to discuss asbestos and mesothelioma cases in Wisconsin.

Again, coalition of asbestos businesses are floating a scheme to "reform" the process for asbestos claims. This is the fourth battle in a war between victims of asbestos and businesses that profit from asbestos (asbestos is still processed and sold mainly overseas) but this time they have sympathetic ears in Congress and the White House. But if the public learns the truth, I doubt asbestos profiteers will prevail.

The asbestos-industry has known about the dangers of asbestos since the early 1900s Medical articles described asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma and the first asbestos lawsuit took place during that time. Yet, into the 1950s and 1960s companies like W.R. Grace and Owens-Corning sold asbestos ignoring asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Because tons of asbestos products were sold then and asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma are hidden for 15-45 years, the extent of the illnesses were not known publicly until the 1970s. After looking at the dangers, the EPA issued a rule banning asbestos in certain uses, but the asbestos industry fought the ban so it could continue to profit from asbestos-laced products. Since 1960 MORE THAN 250,000 persons have died the horrible suffocating death associated with asbestos and 150,000 more are predicted to die.

Don't be confused by lies told in asbestos companies' tv ads, these people are dead and dying. These are not "no injury" cases. For an amazing article describing how asbestos effectively decimated a town see the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. As a person who has witnessed the death associated asbestosis and mesothelioma and the effect it has on spouses, children and grandchildren, it's impossible for me to fathom 400,000+ families enduring such suffering.

It is simply reprehensible for asbestos companies, that profit and profited for decades, to now ask that these families be barred from accessing our civil justice system.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Being a personal injury lawyer, I see a lot of horrible injuries and thus, as a father, I may be overly cautious with my children and their toys. But I would rather be safe then sorry and thus, here are a few tips to help you choose safe toys:
1) Select toys to suit the age and skills of the intended child.
2) For toddlers who mouth objects, avoid small parts.
3) Look for sturdy construction.
4) For children under age 8, avoid sharp edges and points.
5) Be a label reader. Look for age recommendations.
6) Check instructions for clarity.
7) Discard plastic wrappings, which can cause suffocation.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Had a debate over the weekend regarding the role of trial lawyers in society. Apparently, some people (including many politicians) just don't understand that trial lawyers have a meaningful and important role in helping prevent injuries and helping those who have been injured by the improper acts of another. We help those who are harmed get fair compensation for their damages and help people assert the rights they have as consumers of products. Whether it's making the Country safe by taking hazardous product designs off the market, e.g. the Ford Pinto fuel system, or by putting financial pressure on employers to make working conditions safer, trial lawyers are a powerful meaningful voice for true reform. We have helped to make toys safer to prevent choking and children's clothes flame-retardant, and taken harmful medical devices off the market. And we make sure that parties causing the harm are held fully accountable.