Articles Posted in Settlements

I have spent several years writing about every aspect of personal injury law in Rhode Island and in so doing I have connected with many clients… and I hope helped many more people with answers to their questions. But every business is a results oriented business and for now, I will from time to time discuss some of our great results. I haven’t done this in the past, even though our office has helped recover over ten million dollars in our first five years, but I think it is helpful to see results from different cases, some of which might bear a resemblance to your own.

Just this past week I settled a case for the policy limits that was long in litigation. This young man who was involved in a serious roll over accident came to me after two years of trying to negotiate on his own with the insurance company. He sustained a serious shoulder injury that was likely to be permanent, but did not require surgery. The insurance company seriously undervalued the case and offered only $18k to my client. He realized this was a ridiculous offer and decided to hire me to represent him. We immediately filed a lawsuit. It was a long and arduous battle. The insurance company rejected our arbitration award, refused to mediate and closed the door on us at every opportunity. Undeterred, we prepared for trial and our expert witness was ready to demolish their case. Finally, on the eve of trial, the insurance company caved and offered over 4x times their previous offer. My client was very happy with the result and he was rewarded for his patience and determination.

There is no question that it can be difficult to wait so long for justice and satisfaction but it is worth it!! My client could have accepted 18k a few years ago but decided to fight for what was right and ended up with over 80k as a reward. Our office does not leave money on the table. If you have been seriously injured, think carefully before settling. Whether you have an attorney or not, if the offer is far too low for your serious injury, think about a lawsuit and willingness to fight. Call our office today for a free consultation.

Medical malpractice cases frequently stem from the delivery room. Improper delivery of a baby can result in long term permanent injury to the newborn and catastrophic damages to the family. For example, cerebral palsy is quite often a result of medical negligence. This week, however, another story came out from Alabama. The Court has upheld a $16 million dollar jury award to a woman for her traumatic birth experience. What makes this case a bit unique is that the damages were exclusively to the mother, the baby was ultimately fine, and includes considerable compensation for the psychological stresses she endured during a horrible delivery.

In this case, the woman was expecting her fourth child. A pro at child birth, she and her husband decided they wanted to do things a little differently and attempt a more “natural” child birth experience at a clinic in Alabama specializing in such deliveries. Natural birth clinics lure mothers to be with promises of cushy suites, a personalized birth plan, autonomy, etc. A nice picture compared to the usual epidural, feet in stirrups and army of nurses at the bedside. Or so she thought. Instead, this poor woman endured a hellish delivery which included being held to the bed against her will and nurses forcing the baby to stay inside her womb for over six minutes while they waited for the doctor to finally arrive and deliver the child. She suffered trauma to her sexual organs and along with these physically injuries has been emotionally traumatized. She experiences frequent panic attacks and has lost her sex life with her husband. The entire family has suffered. There was evidence of medical malpractice not just in the awful delivery and attempt to hold the baby inside her for several minutes, but the jury also recognized the “bait and switch” in that the woman was promised a peaceful and positive birth experience and was instead physically assaulted and abused.

This case was framed around an emerging concept of “obstetric violence”. This term includes anything from a condescending tone from doctors to being forced into unwanted medical procedures such as cesarean sections or episiotomy. It will be very interesting to follow cases like this in the near future as doctors will have to weigh the considerations of the mother and her body much more carefully before making medical decision. Certainly, I believe the courts will always side with a doctor if the mother or child are in danger during pregnancy and they decide to have a C-section, but will the Courts side with doctors when there is not such a medical emergency and they make a quick decision to operate? Will more cases come up charging doctors and nurses with verbal or physical trauma if they are not attentive enough to the mothers needs or otherwise physically aggressive.

If, God forbid, your child is seriously injured in an accident of any kind – bike accident, dog bite, auto accident, etc., and the settlement exceeds $10,000 in value there will be some additional steps that you will be required to take on behalf of your child. Rhode Island state law holds that any settlement over $10,000 for a minor child must be approved by a Judge.

The law is meant to protect minor children in a couple of ways. For one, the Judge will be looking to confirm that the settlement is fair to the child for the injury sustained. Second, the Judge is looking to ensure that the money will be secured for the minor child and not used by the parents.

A guardian ad litem will be appointed for your minor child. This person, an attorney, does not work with your personal injury attorney, nor does he work with the insurance company. The guardian ad litem is solely interested in assuring the best interest of the minor who can not speak for himself. He or she will do this by ensuring that the settlement offer is fair and that the parents have made necessary arrangements to put the money into a trust fund or other savings account that can be used by the minor for his or her benefit. Often, the money is designed to be accessible to the minor when he or she comes of age.

The “good hands” company which is anything but “good” has found itself in another public relations nightmare regarding a Superstorm Sandy commercial. The company which endlessly bombards the airwaves in an attempt to convince the world that Allstate cares about its customers has recently released a commercial about their efforts to “help” the victims of Sandy. As it turns out, however, Allstate did not get the permission of their clients to use their likeness or home in the commercial. The couple did not want to participate in the commercial because they are yet another victim of Allstate’s nonsense and have been ripped off by the company.

Dominic and Sheila Traina evacuated their home in advance of Superstorm Sandy. While they were away, a neighbor notified them that the roof had been torn off their house. Amazingly, Allstate determined that the damage to the house was due to FLOODING! and therefore not covered under their policy. The Traina’s do not have flood insurance. Allstate has not yet explained how flooding reached levels tall enough to tear the roof off a full size house. Despite well over $200,000 in damages, Allstate has offered their customers $10,000. And yet their commercials tell us that “cut rate” insurance might not protect you from dangers! Embarrassing!

To add salt to the wounds, the Traina family was absolutely shocked to find their home as the backdrop for an Allstate commercial. The bad publicity has forced Allstate to pull the commercial, but the damage to the company has already been done. Of course, this is absolutely no surprise for Allstate, in fact, it is their business model. Whether dealing with a property damage claim from a storm or a personal injury claim from a car accident, Allstate will do everything possible to avoid paying a fair and reasonable settlement. If they can make any argument in their favor, no matter how implausible, they will hang on to that argument until the very end forcing countless delays and forcing plaintiff’s to spend tens of thousands of dollars to obtain the money to which they are entitled.

Missouri was one of many states that impose caps on noneconomic damages (i.e. pain and suffering) in personal injury cases, specifically medical malpractice. In Missouri, an injured person could receive no more than $350,000 above his or her economic losses (medical expenses and lost wages). While that may seem like a great deal of money, it is very little to someone catastrophically injured by another’s negligence. For a simple example, consider a medical malpractice case where the doctor amputates the wrong leg. That person will spend the rest of his or her life in a wheelchair and would legally be unable to recover more than $350,000 in damages!

Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court in Watts v. Cox Medical Center, ruled that the cap on damages was an unconstitutional infringement of ones right to a trial by jury. The Federal Constitution (mirrored by the States) guarantees the right of anyone with cause to have a trial decided by a jury of his peers. It should always be the jury who decides the outcome of a case including the damages, and not lawmakers influenced by insurance companies.

It has long been an argument of the plaintiff’s bar and American Association for Justice that caps on tort awards were unconstitutional, and this Supreme Court decision affirms our position. Hopefully, this decision will influence other States to make the same decision which they should agree is constitutionally mandated. This decision should also strike a blow for the tort reform movement (although this election campaign has not brought up the topic of tort reform nearly as much as four years ago). Numerous studies, including those conducted by independent groups with no stake in the tort reform debate, have shown that medical caps and restrictions on personal injury claims do not reduce health care costs and lead to lower quality patient care.

It seems the most obvious and important question and one that I am asked in every personal injury case, namely, how much is my personal injury claim worth? Regardless if resulting from an auto accidentmotorcycle accidentslip and fall, or medical malpractice, all clients are curious what their case is worth.

The only easy answer to that question is to say: Your case is worth the amount a jury of your peers says that it is worth. Unfortunately, juries are wildly unpredictable and can return with a shockingly high award or an embarrassingly low judgment. Furthermore, waiting for a jury verdict requires several years of waiting and a long and expensive litigation process.

That said, experienced personal injury attorneys such as myself, consider a number of variables in determining a fair settlement value of your case. Attorneys and insurance companies consider recent jury verdicts in the State, recent settlements in the State, along with other variables to determine a fair value for the injury suffered. Therefore, attorneys and insurance adjusters will assign a value to the neck or back injury, fractured arm, or concussion. For instance, if a jury recently awarded $160,000 to a man who broke his leg in a truck accident, this may be a starting point for negotiations if you suffer a similar broken leg in an auto accident.

An Oregon man, Mr. Matthew Beale, has been awarded the sizable sum in a product liability suit against Kimberly-Clark which owns the company, I-Flow Corp. According to the lawsuit, I-Flow encouraged surgeons to insert a “pain pump” which supplies pain medication via a catheter to the affected area.

A jury has found that this pain pump is responsible for destroying the cartilage in Mr. Matthew Beale’s right shoulder leaving the thirty-eight year old father of four permanently disabled. The story began in 2004 when Mr. Beale picked up a muscle injury playing football with his kids. He underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the muscle at which time the surgeon also inserted the pain pump into the shoulder joint where it delivered medicine for several days. Mr. Beale began to recover but after six months found himself in excruciating pain. Mr. Beale now suffers from a condition called chondrolysis which is a severe deterioration of cartilage. Essentially, his shoulder cartilage has been eaten away leaving “bone on bone” friction.

In November, after hearing of many chondrolysis cases, the FDA stated that they have never approved such devices for prolonged infusion of medicine to joints.

Despite several weeks of litigation, the jury will not make a determination in the case of Michael Woods vs. Kent County Hospital. Prior to closing arguments, the two sides have agreed to settle the matter.

Actor James Woods and his family brought the lawsuit against Kent County Hospital alleging that their emergency room staff was medically negligent and ultimately caused the death of Michael Woods in 2006.

The full details of the settlement were not released to the public, however, the Providence Journal reports that the settlement will include the creation of the Michael J. Woods institute at Kent Hospital. Per the settlement agreement, the hospital has promised to invest 1.25 million dollars over the next five years in the institute with the intent of improving hospital care and procedure, particularly in the emergency room. In addition, the settlement provides financial support to Michael Woods surviving children, which according to James Woods, will leave them financially secure.

When we think of medical malpractice cases it is natural to think of missed diagnoses, improper treatment, etc.  But a Long Island Court has upheld a medical malpractice award of $416,500 against a psychiatrist accused of sleeping with his patient whom he was treating for depression and anxiety.  The woman initially sought treatment after her child was born with cerebral palsy.  As a result of the psychiatrists abuse of trust, the woman claimed that her husband divorced her, she lost partial custody of her daughter, and her anxiety and depression skyrocketed.

The jury, interestingly, found the plaintiff 25% at fault which raises difficult legal questions.  The plaintiff argued, of course, that because of her mental state and the nature of the doctor-patient relationship, she should not be held at all responsible for the inappropriate relationship.  Justice Rebolini disagreed:

[G]iven the plaintiff’s age and experience and notwithstanding the defendant’s professional status and the nature of the parties’ relationship at its inception (doctor/patient), it remained that the plaintiff was possessed of a will of her own and was not utterly bound by defendant’s influence or choices but, rather, free to exercise her judgment and to engage in such conduct as she chose.

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