H.R. 1215 – Closing the Courthouse Doors to Victims

mederrorscausedeath12The American Association for Justice reports H.R. 1215, the massive medical malpractice bill that also applies to nursing home and drug and device cases, will be debated on the House floor next week. This is the bill that caps non-economic damages at $250,000, eliminates joint liability for economic and non-economic loss, caps attorney fees, has a restrictive statute of limitations and says that a doctor and a pharmaceutical company cannot be named in the same lawsuit.  The bill is very preemptive and applies limits regardless of the number of parties, the causes of action or the theory of liability.

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in America. Capping damages prevent victims from getting compensation for injuries that deserve compensation for. It also increases your tax burden while protecting big insurance and allowing them to profit off of malpractice.

The first thing to note is that when suing in the medical malpractice arena, you are not typically suing a doctor, nurse or healthcare professional personally. More often than not, you are suing their insurance company. The insurance companies don’t want you to know this. But it’s true.

Caps only serve to help insurance companies profit, while passing the buck to the victim or ultimately the taxpayer. Take for instance a medical malpractice case where a child will need lifetime care due to a birth injury. It could cost millions to provide care for the child over the course of the child’s life because of the malpractice. Damages caps prevent a jury from awarding more than $250,000 to cover this cost. Once the $250,000 has been spent, victims are often forced onto public aid, increasing the tax burden. This prevents insurance companies from sharing the burden of the mistakes made by those who committed malpractice. It also allows insurance companies to profit off of the malpractice committed because they know they will only have to pay small amounts for the most devastating injuries.

H.R 1215 prevents victims from getting compensated while protecting big insurance and passing the buck to taxpayers. Tell your Representative in Congress that you won’t stand for a bill that robs taxpayers to allow insurance to profit and leaves victims by the wayside.

Signs and Symptoms of Concussion or Traumatic Brain Injury | CDC Injury Center

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Concussion?

Most people with a concussion have a good recovery from symptoms experienced at the time of the injury. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer. In general, recovery may be slower among older adults, young children, and teens. Those who have had a concussion in the past are also at risk of having another one and may find that it takes longer to recover if they have another concussion.


Symptoms of concussion usually fall into four categories:

Physical Emotional/
Difficulty thinking clearly Headache

Fuzzy or blurry vision

Irritability Sleeping more than usual
Feeling slowed down Nausea or vomiting
(early on)Dizziness
Sadness Sleep less than usual
Difficulty concentrating Sensitivity to noise or light

Balance problems

More emotional Trouble falling asleep
Difficulty remembering new information Feeling tired, having no energy Nervousness or anxiety

Some of these symptoms may appear right away, while others may not be noticed for days or months after the injury, or until the person starts resuming their everyday life and more demands are placed upon them. Sometimes, people do not recognize or admit that they are having problems. Others may not understand their problems and how the symptoms they are experiencing are impacting their daily activities.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be difficult to sort out. Early on, problems may be missed by the person with the concussion, family members, or doctors. People may look fine even though they are acting or feeling differently.

See Getting Better, for tips to help aid your recovery after a concussion.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Danger Signs in Adults

In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may form on the brain in a person with a concussion and crowd the brain against the skull. Contact your health care professional or emergency department right away if you have any of the following danger signs after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body:

  • Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
  • Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea.
  • Slurred speech.

The people checking on you should take you to an emergency department right away if you:

  • Look very drowsy or cannot be awakened.
  • Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.
  • Have convulsions or seizures.
  • Cannot recognize people or places.
  • Are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.
  • Have unusual behavior.
  • Lose consciousness (a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously and the person should be carefully monitored).

Danger Signs in Children

Take your child to the emergency department right away if they received a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, and:

  • Have any of the danger signs for adults listed above.
  • Will not stop crying and cannot be consoled.
  • Will not nurse or eat.




Source: Signs and Symptoms | Concussion | Traumatic Brain Injury | CDC Injury Center

Savings from ‘Tort Reform’ are Mythical – LA Times

Tort reform is the rallying cry of politicians to combat what they see as “frivolous lawsuits.” The have convinced a large portion of the public that insurance companies deserve better protections than everyday people. The Governor of Illinois has made tort reform his central reform issue, despite a mountain of research that shows tort reform simply does not work.

A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aimed to measure how much defensive medicine there is, really, and how much it costs.

The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending. In other words, out of the estimated $2.7-trillion U.S. healthcare bill, defensive medicine accounts for $78 billion.

As Aaron Carroll observes at the AcademyHealth blog, $78 billion is “not chump change … but it’s still a very small component of overall health care spending.”

Any “tort reform” stringent enough to make [defensive medicine] go away would likely create other costs, such as a rise in medical mistakes generated by the elimination of the oversight exercised by the court system.

Since it doesn’t appear that “tort reform” would have any effect on this spending, Carroll says, “there seems little reason to pursue [malpractice reform] as a means to dramatically reduce health care spending in the United States.”

Therein lies the myth of tort reform. Insurance companies and the politicians they funnel campaign contributions to, have spent billions convincing you that health care costs are because of lawyers. They want to avoid the real conversation, that medical error is the third leading cause of death in America. Because of the high incident rates of medical error, insurance companies and the health care industry want to prevent you from being able to go to court and obtain justice.

Source: New study shows that the savings from ‘tort reform’ are mythical – LA Times

Study: Nearly 2 Million Children in the US Suffer Sports-Related Concussions Every Year, Many Go Untreated

Nearly 2 million children in the United States suffer sports- and recreation-related concussions (SRRCs) annually, and many of them may go untreated, according to a recent study.

Concussions, a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), are common in children. Sports and recreation is a leading cause in minors 18 and younger, according to researchers.

Between 1.1 to 1.9 million SRRCs occur every year in children 18 and younger, researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Colorado say.

Three databases were used for the study that contained injury information reported to various healthcare settings, including emergency departments, inpatient and outpatient medical providers, and certified high school athletic trainers.

Source: Study: Nearly 2 Million Children in the US Suffer Sports-Related Concussions Every Year, Many Go Untreated

New Illinois law defines ‘stoned driving’ | Bleader | Chicago Reader

When Governor Bruce Rauner signed a new law decriminalizing marijuana possession Friday, Illinois became the 17th state to consider small possession a civil matter subject to a citation and a fine rather than a criminal offense.If you’re caught carrying more than 10 grams of marijuana (which, it seems in some photos, is a lot of marijuana), cops may issue tickets for $100 to $200. Chicago has had an ordinance decriminalizing pot possession of up to 15 grams since 2012.

Importantly, the law also stipulates that possession citations will be automatically expunged after six months.The new state statute also adds an important wrinkle to the legalization landscape by defining what it means to drive under the influence of marijuana. Drivers will be subject to DUI charges only if they have five or more nanograms of THC in their blood, or ten or more nanograms of THC in their saliva.

Source: New Illinois law defines ‘stoned driving’ | Bleader | Chicago Reader

When the Insurance Industry Covets Our Rights – HuffPo

In 1995, a part-time actuary for the Alabama Insurance Department achieved what the insurance industry had been trying to accomplish in state legislatures nationwide for years. With the simple stroke of a pen, Alabama became the first state in the nation to approve “forced arbitration” clauses in insurance policies, abolishing policyholders’ rights go to court against insurance companies or insurance agents for payment of their claims – even if the agent stole the policyholder’s money.

Incredibly, this was done behind the back of then Alabama Insurance Commissioner Mickey DeBellis, who did not find out about the practice for two years. He told the Multinational Monitor magazine in 1998 that when he finally saw the clause, “It was one of the worst I’d ever seen in my life. It took every right away from the policyholder. I blew my top.”


DeBellis immediately placed a moratorium on approval of mandatory binding arbitration clauses, but was quickly overruled by his boss, Governor [Fob] James.

“I’m sure there was pressure put on him by insurance companies,” says DeBellis.

Governor James instructed DeBellis to start approving these clauses, while issuing arbitration guidelines for insurers.

Instead, after 25 years with the Alabama insurance department, DeBellis resigned.

“Everybody’s entitled to their day in court, and binding arbitration takes that day away from you,” says DeBellis. “I did not feel it was in the best interest of the consumers in this state.”

To say the least. In forced arbitration systems, access to the courthouse door is blocked and all disputes must be resolved privately and secretly by the arbitration company chosen by the insurer. Arbitrators are not required to have any legal training. They may be biased. The discovery process, whereby parties obtain information from one another, is extremely limited. Arbitrators issue no written legal opinions, so no legal precedents or rules for future conduct can be established. And there is no right to appeal even though the arbitrator’s decision may be legally incorrect.

The Alabama arbitration rule was challenged in court and the late actor Christopher Reeve, who had been paralyzed in a horse-riding accident, filed an amicus brief. He said,

“One of the hardest things I have had to do since my disability is to deal with insurance companies. I found them to be callous and to try to set up any roadblocks they can to keep from paying legitimate claims. … I am totally against binding, mandatory arbitration in insurance policies.”

The attorney for those challenging the rule, Jere Beasley, eventually dismissed his lawsuit because, as he told me, the Alabama insurance department stopped approving arbitration clauses. Consumer advocates breathed a sigh of relief. But now, two decades later, consumer groups are “sounding the alarms” once again. This time, the focus is Texas.

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), which has long adhered to a policy of rejecting forced arbitration clauses in insurance policies, is thinking about changing its mind. Specifically, insurer Texas Farm Bureau has asked permission to stick forced arbitration clauses in homeowners policies, which homeowners must maintain as a condition of their mortgage. This particular proposal would include provisions that violate consumer protections found in other Texas laws and would impose a gag order on the arbitrator and both parties. Houston Chronicle business columnist, Chris Tomlinson, wrote,

The biggest problem with the Farm Bureau’s proposal is secrecy. That means no precedent-setting cases. Every consumer must start from scratch, work independently and possibly achieve wildly varying results. Consumers are also severely limited in what information they can request from the company during arbitration.

According to Alex Winslow, whose consumer group Texas Watch has been the leading voice against this proposal,

“What the Farm Bureau is asking … is to take disputes about insurance claims out of court, and push them into private, secret, arbitration proceedings where the industry has rigged the rules of the game…. This is just the latest in a long line of efforts to make it harder for people to get what they’re owed under the terms of their policy.”

The other real danger, notes Tomlinson, is that “Texas could set a national precedent in the coming weeks that would damage the rights of homeowners across the country.” He writes,

The Farm Bureau insists that its proposed clause is for its use only and will be optional. But if Mattax, who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, approves the Farm Bureau’s clause, there is no reason why every home insurer in the state wouldn’t adopt it….

Once a precedent was set in Texas, the insurance companies would work to implement the clause in other states and in other lines of personal insurance, including auto.

This is why so many national consumer rights organizations have sent letters andcomments to the TDI asking it to reject the Farm Bureau’s request. One letter, signed by 11 national groups, concluded,

We understand that for many years, your agency has maintained a policy of rejecting form and endorsement changes that include pre-dispute binding arbitration. We encourage you to maintain that policy and reject this proposal in order to protect policyholders both in Texas and across our nation.

The right to trial by jury in civil cases is a fundamental right preserved in the 7th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Let’s hope TDI doesn’t give the insurance industry the power to obliterate it.

Red Cross Safety Tips For The 4th of July Holiday

It’s time for Fourth of July celebrations – fireworks, a backyard barbecue, maybe a trip to the beach. Whatever people have planned, the American Red Cross wants them to enjoy their holiday and has steps they can follow to be safe.

“We want everyone to have a great holiday, and a safe one,” said Alison Bono, Central and Northern Michigan Regional Director of Communication. “Whether the weekend will involve fireworks, grilling or going to the seashore, we have safety tips everyone can follow.”

FIREWORKS SAFETY The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. Stay at least 500 feet away from the show. Many states outlaw most fireworks. If someone is setting fireworks off at home, they should follow these safety steps:


  • Never give fireworks to small children, and always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
  • Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
  • Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks.


GRILLING SAFETY Every year people in this country are injured while using backyard charcoal or gas grills. Follow these steps to safely cook up treats for the backyard barbecue:


  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
  • Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using grills.


BEACH SAFETY If someone’s visit to the shore includes swimming in the ocean, they should learn how to swim in the surf and only swim at a lifeguarded beach, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Other safety tips include:


  • Keep alert for local weather conditions. Check to see if any warning signs or flags are posted.
  • Swim sober and always swim with a buddy.
  • Have young children and inexperienced swimmers wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Protect the neck – don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters.
  • Keep a close eye and constant attention on children and adults while at the beach. Wave action can cause someone to lose their footing, even in shallow water.
  • Watch out for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.


RIP CURRENTS Rip currents are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. Any beach with breaking waves may have rip currents. Be aware of the danger of rip currents and remember the following:


  • If someone is caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until out of the current. Once free, they should turn and swim toward shore. If they can’t swim to the shore, they should float or tread water until free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.


Additional water safety tips are available at redcross.org/watersafetytips

SUN PROTECTION Limit exposure to direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15. Reapply sunscreen often. Remember to drink plenty of water regularly, even if not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. Protect the eyes by wearing sunglasses that will absorb 100 percent of UV sunlight. Protect the feet – the sand can burn them and glass and other sharp objects can cut them.

During hot weather, watch for signs of heat stroke—hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing. If it’s suspected someone is suffering from heat stroke:


  • Call 9-1-1 and move the person to a cooler place.
  • Quickly cool the body by applying cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin (or misting it with water) and fanning the person.
  • Watch for signs of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.





Source: Red Cross Issues Safety Tips For 4th of July Holiday

Appeals panel: Dad can press lawsuit vs NIU fraternity over son’s hazing death 

An Illinois appeals court will allow a father whose son died after drinking too much alcohol during a fraternity’s initiation ritual, to resume his lawsuit against the Northern Illinois University fraternity, saying a Cook County judge erred in dismissing the wrongful death action against the local chapter and its leaders.

The Illinois First District Appellate Court took up the appeal of Gary L. Bogenberger, administrator of the estate of his son, David, who became drunk to the point of unconsciousness during a November 2012 event at the Eta Nu chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and subsequently died.

Source: Appeals panel: Dad can press lawsuit vs NIU fraternity chapter over son’s alcohol hazing death | Cook County Record