Welcome to the Blog of The Glassman Law Firm, P.C., St. Louis Personal Injury Attorneys

We blog about relevant issues in personal injury law, discuss the misconceptions surrounding personal injury law and some of the most popular cases in the news, inform on the legal and political landscape of tort reform and insurance company lobbying, and provide readers with helpful personal injury information and resources. Please visit www.glassmanlegal.com for more information.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Malpractice Premiums Increase While Patient Safety Is On The Decline

In society, we tend to collectively attach ourselves to something that sounds right, rather than taking the time to carefully consider all of the facts. One such instance is in the case of medical malpractice. Ask anyone and they will tell you (based upon millions spent on ads run by insurance companies and the chambers of commerce), “Premiums are outrageous as a result of people suing the doctors and bilking the system.” Sounds true? Wrong.

Since 2003, payouts to patients nationally have steadily declined to the tune of 51%. Still however, people are calling for “more reform” when the current reform has worked... for doctors.

By placing a cap on how much compensation a patient can receive, state legislatures have created a disincentive for hospitals and doctors to practice safer medicine. Regardless of how negligent a medical provider is, by limiting damages recoverable by the victims of medical negligence, the medical profession essentially feels that, “No matter how negligent we are, we will only pay for a fraction of our error.” Consequently, medical error rates remain dangerously high.

"Mistakes are happening every day in every hospital in the country that we're just not catching," says Dr. Albert Wu, an internist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. More than 250,000 people every year die as a result of medical errors, and medical error injuries are in the millions. These combined numbers result in medical malpractice being “the third leading cause of death" in the country, according to Dr. Peter Pronovost, an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

If we decided to adopt the same philosophy regarding auto insurance, we could rear-end a Rolls Royce and pay no more than if we hit a Dodge Neon. Unfortunately, that absurdity is commonplace in the medical field. They are saying the same thing, “Whether we give you a scar or we permanently disable you, even kill you or a loved one, we’re only offering a one-size fits-all package.”

Still think more reform is needed? The statistics show that while medical malpractice premiums in Missouri have increased from $108 million to $176 million over the past 20 years (an average of only 3.15% annually), the number of patient injury and death payouts have fallen dramatically from 16,000 to 8,450, a 47% reduction. From 1991-2011 the cost of annual claim payments, including legal defense fees, fell from $76 million to $61 million; 60% of claims paid were less than $250,000 and 80% were under $500,000. Yet premiums continue to rise as the insurance companies air misleading ads claiming that “excessive” jury awards compel them to raise prices.

Since 1991 the number of insurers selling malpractice insurance in Missouri has grown from 72 to 93, an increase that wouldn’t happen were the business of malpractice were unprofitable. This business is so profitable in fact, a new report reveals that the average profit margin for the top 10 medical malpractice insurers is twice as high as 50 of the most profitable Fortune 500 companies. A report done by the American Association for Justice found that by distorting profits and losses, insurers have created bogus malpractice insurance “emergencies” so that lawmakers would consider limiting the legal rights of injured patients.

The president of the American Association for Justice said, “While health care costs skyrocket, Congress should not give another handout to malpractice insurers that have average profits higher than 99 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Congress needs to focus on patient safety, not efforts that will pad the pockets of insurance companies at the expense of Americans’ legal rights.”

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fun At The Pool Starts With A Responsible Adult

As the weather gets warmer, families are able to spend more time outdoors doing activities they love such as barbecuing, playing sports or swimming. Spending time at the pool with your family can be a wonderful way to occupy your summer; however, taking your eyes off of your child for just a moment at the pool can be life changing. 
Each summer, too many children are victims of drownings or near drownings. Below are just a few steps every adult should exercise when watching children in, or around a pool. 
  • Assign an adult to supervise the children. Whether there is one or several adults in the immediate area, be sure that at least one knows they are keeping an eye on the kids. 
  • Remove the children from the pool area if you are taking a phone call or are going to be distracted, even for just a moment. 
  • Pool toys and floaties are not life jackets and should never be substituted for supervision by an adult. 
  • Be sure that your pool is fenced in and has a self latching gate. 
  • Do not over crowd your pool with toys that float on the surface, be sure that you can see any children in the pool clearly, without obstruction. 

Two summers ago, The Glassman Law Firm handled a case in which a nine year old girl had drowned at a pool party where she was celebrating the end of the school year. While there were plenty of adults around the pool area to watch the children, no one was specifically assigned to the task. Since the adults were so distracted by their own conversation, they failed to notice that the young girl had jumped off of the diving board-- and never resurfaced. Once it occurred to them that the girl was missing; they wasted valuable time searching for her in the home-- not realizing because of all of the pool toys and rafts floating on the surface, that the girl was lifeless at the bottom of the pool. This situation was completely avoidable. Regardless of the fact that The Glassman Law Firm was able to settle the case for the highest amount ever awarded for a child’s death in that county, the grief of a lifetime still haunts the surviving parents and siblings. 
In addition to these suggestions, make sure that there aren’t any objects your child could use to gain access to a neighbor’s pool. You could be the safest person in the world with the most secure, childproof swimming pool but a jungle gym or ladder too close to a fence could give a determined child an entry way into a neighbor’s yard. 
During the summer of 2010, a six and three year old accessed their neighbor’s pool and drowned, even with the neighbor’s pool fenced and gated. It is unknown how the children were able to access the pool, however, they were seen playing with a stepladder in their own backyard before the accident occurred. During the drowning, there were no adults home watching the children. 
Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages one to 14 years old. In 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States. When a drowning is non fatal, the child can suffer from brain damage that may involve long term disabilities such as learning disabilities, memory problems, and permanent loss of basic functioning. Don’t let your child become another statistic this summer. Child drownings are preventable and it all starts with a responsible adult.