Friday, 19 January 2018

Lavern’s Law Will Save New Yorker’s Money

Lavern Wilkinson, who lost her chance for justice before she even knew she had that chance.

Dear Gov. Cuomo:

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about why you should sign Lavern’s Law, which has been sitting on your desk for weeks now as the only bill out of 600+ that you’ve failed to act on from last year’s legislative session.

But in my list of reasons to sign a bill that starts the statute of limitations in failure-to-diagnose-cancer cases from the date the malpractice is discovered (as opposed to when the malpractice happens) I neglected to mention one thing.

Lavern’s Law will save taxpayer funds.  As it stands now, if someone loses the right to sue before they ever even knew that malpractice occurred, there’s a pretty good chance that Medicaid will pay out much of the medical expenses. And those kinds of expenses can add up.

But if suit is permitted then much of the money can be recovered from the people actually responsible for the unnecessarily diminished health of the patient.  Medicaid often recoups money paid out from such lawsuits.

And the best part, from Medicaid’s perspective, is that a private attorney is doing all the work. There is virtually no cost to the state other than contacting us every so often to find out the status of the suit, and settling up if the recovery is partial.

So the question is — aside from the moral and public policy issues I already addressed — who should bear  responsibility for the medical costs of malpractice? The party that was negligent? Or the taxpayers?

There are reasons this bill enjoyed wide support from both Democrats and Republicans and why similar laws exist in 44 states. Yes, that’s right, even deep red states have such laws.

But not New York.

 

 

 


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Friday, 12 January 2018

Phony Lawyer Awards

Last week Mockingbird Marketing made an announcement: That Lucy Davis had become a Lawyer of Distinction. Hey! I’ve received those offers too!

The problem? Lucy isn’t a lawyer. Lucy is a dog. The four-legged woof-woof kind.

Mockingbird (which builds websites for lawyers) put up its satirical posting to show the worthlessness of many  lawyer “awards” — they put in an application for their dog and it was accepted.

To practicing attorneys, this comes as no surprise. We are besieged by such companies doling out awards like fun-sized Halloween candy, with of course, a nice fancy plaque to hang in your office. Or maybe a crystal “trophy.” No, they aren’t free.

And that’s pretty much how it’s easy to figure out the difference between a phony award and a real one: Did the lawyer pay for the “honor?”

To my knowledge, these are all private companies that are unaffiliated with any recognized bar association.

I wrote about one such company a few years ago, marketing the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. I wasn’t particularly nice about it.

So, below are some of the groups/companies that have “invited” me in the past couple years aside from Lawyers of Distinction, as I tossed their literature marketing materials into a pile in a corner of my office. And no, I will not give them links — you can demonstrate your own Google-fu by researching if you like:

First up, simply because it’s on top of the pile, is America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators. The annual membership is $300. Nice badge they give you, huh?

Next up is the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys  — “10 Best Attorney” for New York. It’s $295 for the 2018, as per its website. And I love the disclaimer on their About Us page regarding warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. Nice plaque.

Then there is Corporate Vision, which “selected” me for its 2017 Legal Excellence Awards as “Best Law Firm 2017.” This comes with a pitch to be in Corporate Vision, whatever that is, along with profiles, interviews, a nice crystal trophy, digital logos, etc. The price wasn’t in the pitch, but this sure as hell didn’t look like a non-profit.

I was also “selected” as of one of AI Magazine‘s “One to Watch in Law.” Woo-hoo. It comes with a “bespoke crystal trophy” and digital winner’s logo. Never mind that my practice has nothing to do with artificial intelligence. All for just £185. You read that right. That is British pounds. No, I’m not admitted to practice law in Great Britain.

Next up, the American Society of Legal Advocates. Sounds impressive! And I was selected as eligible for the Top 100 Litigation lawyers in New York!  (What, no top 10?). It comes with a plaque and an electronic badge. All for just $200 each year.

Rue Rawlings’ Best Attorneys of America — Limited to the Top 100 attorneys in New York. The dues are $1,000.

National Association of Distinguished Counsel — Top One Percent. Annual membership is $300.

Trial Lawyers Board of Regents Litigator Awards — The fee is $1,500 if they “certify” you for inclusion. I confess to being a bit uneasy putting this company on the same list, as its marketing materials are very impressive and they ask for certification of certain verdicts and settlements. Nevertheless, if there is a fee to join, that makes it a club with a name, and not (to me) an actual award. Awards don’t have strings attached.

Some folks may ask about SuperLawyers, which I’ve written about before. I remain unclear how valuable that honor is, and while it isn’t a non-profit for sure (sold to Thomson West in 2010)  at least they’ve never demanded a fee to be listed.

Finally, there is the never-ending solicitations from plaque companies, looking to assist you in making your award look nice and fancy on your ego wall. (For what it’s worth, my office wall is mostly family pics.)

Bottom line for the consumer: There are a lot of companies out there hustling “awards” designed to make lawyers look good to potential clients with fancy badges, plaques and crystal trophies.

Don’t be razzle-dazzled. You’ve been warned.

 


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Friday, 5 January 2018

7 Common Practice Areas for Personal Injury Attorneys

When imagining a lawyer, most people hold the assumption that a single attorney can manage any sort of legal case. This is, of course, not true to reality. Every attorney has a single or set of practice areas they prefer or focus on.

When it comes to accidents, typically caused by the fault of third parties, someone who specializes in personal injury law is the best choice to hire for representation. There will be no distractions from other legal fields, such as family law or criminal defense. You should also look for a personal injury attorney who offers free consultations to evaluate their clients’ potential claims, like those you can find at Jones & Swanson. There is no harm in meeting with a personal injury attorney after an accident to learn more about the legalities of the situation. Even if they cannot take your case, personal injury attorneys can provide tremendous insight and point you in the right direction.

7 Common Injury Claims Managed by Attorneys

  • Car accidents: Everyday thousands of people are injured in car accidents all over the country. Hiring an experienced car accident attorney will provide value to your case. The attorneys at Jones & Swanson know the exact steps necessary to recover maximum compensation for your claim.
  • Slip and fall accidents: Slip, trip, and fall accidents are one of the most common occurrences that lead to premises liability claims. Even though these types of cases are not rare, it can be difficult to prove who is at fault for the incident. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel right away.
  • Dog bites and animal attacks: Dog owners in Georgia are fully liable when their dog attacks and injures someone. Oftentimes, dog attacks can cause permanent damage and scarring to their victims, especially when a child is involved. Contact an experienced dog bite lawyer who knows the specific laws and understands how to pursue a maximum settlement for your claim.
  • Commercial trucking accidents: Commercial trucks weighing up to 80,000 pounds are the cause of thousands of deadly accidents throughout the United States each year. Oftentimes, trucking companies and drivers have a team of experienced lawyers on their side to protect them from any liability in case of an accident. It is important to get your own legal representation to fight for your rights.
  • Motorcycle accidents: Although riding a motorcycle can have its financial benefits, the number of motorcycle accidents in the U.S. has grown in recent years, given many new would-be riders pause. To recover fully from these types of accidents, a maximum settlement must be attained, often through a hard-fought personal injury case.
  • Pedestrian accidents: Pedestrian accidents may involve a person walking, jogging, or simply standing who is struck by a motor vehicle. A person’s body is not equipped to handle such collision and often the injuries can be fatal. The knowledge a pedestrian accident attorney can provide to a victim will greatly increase the likelihood of a beneficial final settlement amount.
  • Wrongful death: Wrongful death is when a person dies due to the negligence of another party. Due to the sensitivity of such claims, navigating them requires precision and legal knowledge. While many persons may be affected by the unjust death of another, there are only certain people that can be compensated for their loss. An experienced wrongful death attorney to manage your claim from start to finish is highly recommended, beginning with determining if you even have the right to file such a claim.

Marietta Personal Injury Attorneys at Your Service

Jones & Swanson is known throughout Georgia for providing compassionate and focused personal injury claim representation. We know how to move a case towards success without forcing our clients out of their comfort zones. Every step we take is one with our clients’ best interests in mind, and we believe this personal approach to casework is what has allowed us to achieve so many great case results.

Would you like to know more about our Marietta injury law firm? Contact us online or call 770.884.6652 to schedule a free initial consultation.


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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Will Gov. Cuomo Sign Lavern’s Law?

Yes, a real case. Yes, the x-ray hangs in my office.

There is one bill on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk from last year. Just. One. Bill.

There were 606 bills that passed by both of New York’s legislative houses. All have been signed, or vetoed.

Except for Lavern’s Law. A law that Cuomo previously stated that he supported and would sign.

It was finally sent to the Governor during the holiday week for signature. He has 30 days to sign it.

As I bang on this keyboard, it sits on his desk.

Lavern’s Law, for those that don’t know, mimics the law in 44 other states, extending the statute of limitations in certain medical malpractice cases from the time the discovery of malpractice was made, or could reasonably have been made, instead of when it occurred

In the final hours dickering over the bill, it was watered down to apply only to cancer cases, leaving all other “failure to diagnose” cases, where the patient didn’t even know s/he was victimized, hanging out in the cold.

But still, even in its watered down state, it is something for those that have not only been victimized by malpractice, but didn’t even find out until the time to bring suit had expired.

As I previously described it:

The law is named for Lavern Wilkinson, who went to Kings County Hospital on February 2, 2010 with chest pain. A radiologist saw a suspicious mass on the x-ray. But Wilkinson wasn’t told.

When it was found again two years later when her complaints worsened, the 15-month statute of limitations had expired. As per the Daily News summary of the incident:

A chest X-ray found the cancer had spread to both lungs, her liver, brain and spine. The disease was now terminal.

She left behind family including an autistic daughter.

Lavern Wilkinson, who lost her chance for justice before she even knew she had that chance.

The bill passed the Assembly. Then it passed the Senate 56-6, that being the tougher of the two houses.

Why hasn’t the bill been signed?

It can’t be due to insurance premiums because, after all, the state’s largest insurer is being sold to Warren Buffet because it’s so damn profitable.

And at just 2 ½ years for suits against non-governmental medical facilities, we already have one of the shortest statutes of limitations in the country (most are three years or more). And that is before even considering that we don’t measure the time from the date of discovery, and that suits against governmental facilities are just 15 months.

And with some of the lowest legal fees for attorneys, the medical community has already been granted widespread de facto immunity for most acts of malpractice — since taking smaller suits simply isn’t financially economical.

And it can’t be because of a lack of caps on malpractice cases, because we not only have them, but have had them for over 200 years.

New York has become, with some of the best medical care in the world, one of the absolute worst places with respect to finding justice when that care goes wrong.

And all this happens despite medical liability insurance premiums and premiums continuing to plummet, and the costs of insurance as a percentage of healthcare costs likewise continuing to drop. From a Public Citizen study in 2017 (The Medical Malpractice Scapegoat), look at these three charts:

Under what justification does a state close the courthouse doors on its citizens before they even knew they were injured?

Under what logic do we grant further immunity to those that commit preventable harms?

For what public policy reason do we continue to withhold justice?

This bill enjoys widespread support among voters, as demonstrated by the overwhelming vote in the Senate.

It is long past time that New York get a date of discovery law. There are no reasons not to do it.

Gov. Cuomo, please sign that bill.


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Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Infant Seats Recalled by Fisher-Price

The well-known child product manufacturer Fisher-Price recently announced a recall of approximately 65,000 motorized infant soothing motion seats due to potential fire hazards. The initial recall occurred in October of 2017 on nearly 63,000 units sold here in the United States and another 2,000 sold in Canada.

There have been three dozen reports to Fisher-Price stating that the devices overheated, with one reporting an actual fire within the motor housing. Fortunately, there have not been any injuries reported as a result of the malfunction, but Fisher-Price is still urging all consumers to stop using the seats out of caution immediately and seek a refund.

There are two different motion seats that are included in the recall, which include model numbers found on the bottom of the motor housing. The affected models include:

  • Fisher Price Soothing Motion Seats: model numbers CMR35, CMR36, CMR37 and DYH22
  • Smart Connect Soothing Motion Seats: model number CMR39

Selling features of these seats are that they can bounce, sway, vibrate, play 10 different songs and sounds, and have an overhead mobile. The products have been manufactured in retail stores like Toys ‘R’ Us, Target, Walmart, BuybuyBaby and through online retailers such as Amazon. The Soothing Motions Seat retailed around $160, while the Smart Connect Seat were around $175.

Fisher-Price encourages customers who have purchased any of the recalled models to contact them for a full refund. The consumer contact number is 800-432-5437 and hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST Monday through Friday, or at www.service.mattel.com.


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Thursday, 21 December 2017

Jones & Swanson Sends Cheer to Women's Extension

Christmas is a time of giving and this year is not different! The attorneys and staff at Jones & Swanson take great pride in being active in the Marietta community. We feel it is important to give back to the community as much as possible, especially this time of year. This year, the Jones & Swanson family was happy to send some Christmas cheer to the ladies at the Women’s Extension with some goodie bags filled with personal items! The items in the goodie bags varied from toothpaste, socks, scarfs, toothbrush and much more!

The extension is a licensed recovery program serving homeless men and women within the Cobb County community who suffer from alcohol and other addictions. The women within the facility undergo a rigorous assessment to assure that they are committed to changing their lives. Teaching the women life skills and training them to be self-sufficient is the goal of the program. The Cobb County community is very fortunate to have places like this where people can go to get back on their feet.

The Extension is always in need of the following items:

  • Copier Paper
  • Coffee & Cups
  • Commercial Mops
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Twin Sheets
  • Shampoo
  • Towels & Washcloths
  • Shower Shoes
  • Bars of Soap
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Feminine Products
  • Socks
  • Gloves
  • Washers & Dyers
  • Pillows Light Bulbs
  • Shaving Razors
  • Blankets
  • Deodorant
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Paper Towels
  • Jackets & Coats
  • Umbrellas
  • Tea Bags
  • Headphones

We at Jones & Swanson were honored to provide the goodie bags to the Women’s Extension. We believe so strongly in what the program stands for and what they do in the Marietta community. Jones & Swanson is extremely proud to have such a wonderful, reliable recovery center right here in Cobb County. If you have any questions about how you can give back, please call our office at 770-427-5498.


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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Cuomo Signs NY’s New Auto Insurance Law

Last night, New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that alters New York’s auto insurance law, and it’s a win-win deal for everybody.

While the law sounds uber-wonky, it’s quite important due to a fundamental misunderstanding of how auto insurance works by the general public.

Most folks think that the insurance coverage they choose  — let’s say a 250K limit — will protect them if they’re involved in a collision. But it doesn’t. That insurance only covers other people.

You, the injured driver, must pursue the guy that plowed into you at the intersection because he was checking his texts, through the limits of his insurance policy. And if his insurance policy is only, let’s say, the bare minimum 25K because his job is flipping burgers and he doesn’t really have a pot to piss in, then you with your fractured pelvis are, as we say in the law, shit out of luck.

But wait! There is one small hope for you, and that hope lies in your own policy provisions for getting involved in a collision with an uninsured or underinsured driver. That provision is known here in New York as Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) insurance.

The problem? The default on your policy was the state minimum, just 25K. And you can’t even collect that if have received the 25K from the guy that plowed into you.

Only a savvy person — or one with a conscientious insurance broker that informed him — would know that you could elect more SUM coverage. Most don’t, because most don’t know. My own legislator wasn’t aware of this whenI discussed this bill with her a few years ago, and found out only when her daughter was injured in a collision and got caught in this trap.

That law is the one that has now changed. Now the default choice is your SUM insurance matches the underlying coverage that you picked. So if you have a 250K policy you will have 250K SUM, and get as much protection for yourself as you are giving to others.

The cost is minimal and people can easily opt out. The thing is, those that are picking more than the minimum amount of coverage are the ones who understand that they likely have the most to lose. That’s why they bought the higher coverage in the first place.

When a bill becomes a law that has no losers attached to it, it’s a win-win all the way around.

I wrote about this back in June when it passed in the closing hours of the legislative session. The vote was 62-1 in the Senate and 104-6 in the Assembly.

People complain often about dysfunctional governments.  But when they get it right we should take notice with a little golf clap in their direction.


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