Information for injured persons and Social Security disability claimants in Texas and throughout the United States. By Robert A. Kraft
About My Blog
The purpose of this blog is to provide information to people who have been injured due to negligence, and to those who have filed for Social Security disability benefits, or who are considering filing for Social Security disability benefits.
Our Dallas, Texas personal injury and Social Security disability lawyers want to help. To find answers to your questions, please use the Google search box or the Categories list below. If you still don't find what you need, just send an e-mail to me at email@example.com and I'll get right back to you.
Beginning today I am discontinuing this blog, after seven years — since April 2005. I started another injury blog at about the same time, and my original plan was to discuss different topics on the two blogs. Over time, the content became largely duplicated, and that just made no sense.
So as of today I will be posting only at my Personal Injury, Social Security Disability (abbreviation — PISSD) blog.
Please go to P.I.S.S.D. and join the conversation.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) gave some good news to disability claimants suffering from fibromyalgia recently. This explanation is from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives:
SSA has issued a Social Security Ruling (SSR) on the evaluation of fibromyalgia in disability claims. SSR 12-2p is effective July 25, 2012. 77 Fed. Reg. 43640 (July 25, 2012). This ruling states that fibromyalgia is a medically determinable impairment when it is established by appropriate medical evidence and that it can be the basis for a finding of disability. A claimant who alleges disability based on fibromyalgia must have a diagnosis by a licensed physician (medical or osteopathic doctor) and evidence of the criteria from either "the 1990 American College of Rheumatology Criteria for the Classification of Fibromyalgia" or "the 2010 American College of Rheumatology Preliminary Diagnostic Criteria."
SSA may consider additional medical evidence pursuant to SSR 06-3p. Recognizing that the symptoms and signs of fibromyalgia may vary in severity over time and may even be absent on some days, SSA will also make a longitudinal review of the doctor's treatment notes and the claimant's symptoms. Once it is established that a claimant has a medically determinable impairment of fibromyalgia, SSA will consider it in the regular sequential evaluation process to determine whether the person is disabled. Additional details about SSR 12-2p will be provided in the July 2012 NOSSCR Forum.
Final Rule Allows SSA to Skip Step 4 If "Insufficient Evidence" of Past Work
SSA has issued a final rule that gives adjudicators the discretion to skip step 4 in cases where they have "insufficient evidence" to make past relevant work (PRW) findings. 77 Fed. Reg. 43492 (July 25, 2012). The changes are effective August 24, 2012.
The "Expedited Vocational Assessment" will work as follows: If the adjudicator does "not have sufficient evidence about your past relevant work to make a finding at the fourth step, we may proceed to the fifth step of the sequential evaluation process." The adjudicator has the discretion to make the decision whether to use the proposed expedited process, i.e., deciding whether "sufficient evidence" regarding PRW exists. SSA will "not require an adjudicator to make a reasonable effort to collect additional evidence [re PRW] if he or she could use this expedited process."
Road accidents are commonplace in the United States and the constant technological advancements have proven to be insufficient in reducing the death toll over the years. If you too have been involved in an accident, it’s important to hire a car accident attorney to assist you with recovering compensation and reduce the substantial amount of paperwork, and stress related to insurance claims. Knowing when to get in touch with an expert can make the difference between success and failure.
What Should You Look For In a Car Accident Lawyer?
Lawyers who deal with car accidents cover a variety of cases pertaining to personal injury, property destruction, wrongful death, and liability. When you look for an accident lawyer in Anchorage, for example, you must make your decision based on factors such as experience, commitment, skill level, fee structure, and location.
For instance, the attorney must be well versed in national and state transportation laws, should know how to handle health and insurance care companies, and must know how to settle and prepare for a case effectively. Apart from this, it is also essential that you check the background and track record of the lawyer.
When Should You Contact an Accident Lawyer?
It is advisable to get in touch with a lawyer as early as possible to avoid any mistakes. The deadline to file personal injury claims differs from state to state. As you will need to cover lost wages and pay medical bills, the sooner you hire a legal expert the better. Generally, a person must contact an attorney within couple of weeks after the accident takes place. Also, never reach a settlement with an insurance company without a lawyer supporting you.
Questions You Must Ask a Car Accident Lawyer
Before talking to a lawyer, gather as much information and facts about the injuries, financial losses, and accident as possible. Details should be shared with your attorney after an accident including the information exchanged at the accident scene, your insurance policy, medical records, and the like.
It is wise to consult a reputable car accidents attorney Alaskaor firm in your area that can represent your case and help you get full compensation. One of the firms in Alaska that offers such services is Pentlarge Law Group. The attorneys have the expertise and knowledge to handle the most complicated cases. They can be contacted at (907) 276 1919 or http://www.pentlargelaw.com.
Gene Maryushenko of the Los Angeles injury firm Fisher & Talwar is becoming a regular contributor here. This is his latest article:
When I read Bob’s post on new safety standards for urban transit systems, I thought – well, great! Finally, some sort of federal regulation will exist to enforce the most basic safety oversight. In a nation as large and developed as ours it’s amazing that there are no official safety guidelines in place. It took a tragic accident that killed 9 people on a Metro line to finally push for a safety bill. I even started thinking about how some day we might have seat belts on a train – after all cars have them, so why shouldn’t trains? It didn’t quite click in my mind that my way of thinking about this issue was completely wrong.
Later that evening, on my commute home I tuned in to a radio station that was running a program on how the Bus Riders Union is planning to protest cutbacks of over a million hours of bus services in L.A. Listening to the program made me stop and think – if the government is willing to throw (insufficient) funds at safety programs for railroads, why wouldn’t it just restore service for buses instead? After all, thousands of people rely on bus services who otherwise have no access to trains.
At that time I also remembered what I’ve read about the safety bill:
“Among other things, the NTSB will push for minimum crashworthiness standards for subway cars, a requirement that subways carry data recorders and limits on the number of hours that train conductors can work.”
Minimum crashworthiness standards? Why wouldn’t we focus on eliminating crashes entirely? If we look at the history of train accidents in the United States, most if not all were caused by human error. Here I am thinking about which seat is the safest on a train and contemplating seatbelt use while completely ignoring the obvious – eliminate the issue of train crashes entirely. Why dedicate funds to establish “better evacuation and rescue plans” instead of focusing on completely eradicating the safety problem?
During several trips to Japan I couldn’t help but marvel at their transportation system, how efficient, punctual and safe the trains ran. Any country in the world would be envious to have a similar safety record as that of the Japanese rail system. Sure they’ve had a few snags along the way but if we compared the number of hours to the number of accidents – the record is nearly immaculate.
It turns out the Japanese rail system uses an automated safety mechanism known as Positive Train Control (PTC) – a GPS based system that allows for automatic monitoring and reaction to railway, weather and traffic conditions. According to gps.gov, “A PTC system can automatically vary train speeds, re-route traffic, and safely direct maintenance crews onto and off tracks.” It also turns out United States has a federal mandate to make commuter railroads implement this system by 2015!
Reading about the PTC system plan lead me conclude that safety bills should instead direct the funds to bus system development or at the very last resort to accelerate the implementation of the GPS-based system (to avoid passing the cost to the passengers.) I would personally complain about the cost of some rail passes as I purchase them month to month, but after hearing about the bus issues I would rather see the government direct funds to maintaining and expanding the bus fleet around the populous cities in the United States.
With the ever-increasing urbanization of our cities as the world population grows, it will be important for our country to bring our infrastructure up to date. Even though trains are useful to the masses of suburbs, we can’t ignore the fact that it is impossible to connect all of the cities with rail systems alone. Buses can and already have been solving our commuting problems for years and should be expanded heavily, or at the very least maintained.
Lastly, this morning I took my own advice and sat in my “preferred” seat only to feel awkwardly uncomfortable and moving to another front-facing seat with plenty of leg room. There is no doubt I would bounce around like a lottery ball in an event of an accident, but let’s face it – there are bigger problems to worry about, AND not to mention the Positive Train Control system is coming to my line sometime next year!
If you or someone in your family has been injured by using a product, your first concern is recovering from your injuries. But if you have bills to pay, or if you miss time from work, you may also have financial concerns. In fact, you may be able to recover the costs of your medical treatment or missed work time, or even a larger amount of money. The key is to properly establish your claim, and to act quickly.
If you can demonstrate that the product manufacturer did not exercise what the law calls “reasonable care” in manufacturing the product that injured you, you may have grounds for claiming negligence. For instance, if you fall off your treadmill because the belt didn’t stop moving when you turned the machine off, and break your ankle as a result, you may be able to make a claim that the treadmill manufacturer was negligent.
Strict liability is related to negligence. However, strict liability implies that the product itself is dangerous, rather than claiming that the manufacturer or merchant was negligent. In strict liability cases, you may be able to collect damages even if there is some evidence that the product was not used exactly the way the manufacturer intended.
In making a case for strict liability, you must prove 1) that the item was defective, 2) the defect of the product was responsible for your injury and 3) that the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous. For instance, if your child’s doll had small glass eyes with sharp edges that were easily detached, and your child swallowed them, you may be able to claim that the doll’s manufacturer holds strict liability for your child’s injuries. This is true even if your child tore the doll’s eyes off herself.
Breach of Warranty
Breach of warranty involves broken promises or claims made by companies. As long as you operate the product within the terms of the warranty, the product manufacturer or merchant is responsible for standing by that product. For instance, if your car’s brakes malfunction during the automobile manufacturer’s warranty period, you may be able to make a case for breach of warranty. However, if you were drag racing the car, that might void your claim for breach of warranty.
Misrepresentation involves false claims made by a merchant or manufacturer. Misrepresentation differs from advertising – you would have a hard time enforcing a toothpaste manufacturer’s claim that using the product would enhance your chances of romantic success. However, if the same toothpaste manufacturer claimed that the product would prevent cavities, you may be able to make a case for misrepresentation if you developed new cavities after using the toothpaste.
What to Do
If you have been injured by a product, you must hold on to the product. If you don’t have the defective product in your possession, proving your case will be very difficult, if not impossible. You should also take notes to document what happened, as well as keeping a log of lost wages as a result of missing work. Take photos of the defective product and of your injuries if possible. Keep copies of any hospital or doctor’s bills. Your attorney will want this documentation to help you make your case.
Guest post was contributed by Max Cooper on behalf of Injury-Settlement-Guide.com – Max is a freelance writer and has worked for various legal firms throughout his career. For more information on product liability lawsuits visit the website.
The arguments and concerns about the chemical referred to as BPA have been swirling for years. Now finally this month the Food and Drug Administration has declared that the chemical can no longer be used in baby bottles or cups. Here are excerpts from an article in the New York Times:
The Food and Drug Administration said that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups could no longer contain bisphenol A, or BPA, an estrogen-mimicking industrial chemical used in some plastic bottles and food packaging.
Manufacturers have already stopped using the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups, and the F.D.A. said that its decision was a response to a request by the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association, that rules allowing BPA in those products be phased out, in part to boost consumer confidence.
But the new prohibition does not apply more broadly to the use of BPA in other containers, said an F.D.A. spokesman, Steven Immergut. He said the decision did not amount to a reversal of the agency’s position on the chemical. The F.D.A. declared BPA safe in 2008, but began expressing concerns about possible health risks in 2010.
Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the agency, said the decision simply codified what the industry was already doing based on the preference of consumers and did not reflect concerns about the safety of BPA in baby bottles or toddler’s cups
The decision “solidifies legally that the use will not happen again in the future” in baby bottles and cups for toddlers, he said. He added that the agency “has been looking hard at BPA for a long time, and based on all the evidence, we continue to support its safe use.”
BPA has been used since the 1960s to make hard plastic bottles, cups for toddlers and the linings of food and beverage cans, including those that hold infant formula and soda. Until recently, it was used in baby bottles, but major manufacturers are now making bottles without it. Plastic items containing BPA are generally marked with a 7 on the bottom for recycling purposes.
The chemical can leach into food, and a study of over 2,000 people found that more than 90 percent of them had BPA in their urine. Traces have also been found in breast milk, the blood of pregnant women and umbilical cord blood.
Reports of potentially negative health effects have made BPA notorious, especially among parents, and led to widespread shunning of products thought to contain the chemical. Canada, Chicago and Suffolk County, N.Y., have banned BPA from children’s products. In 2010, the F.D.A. said that it had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.”
The American Chemistry Council said in a statement that it had asked the F.D.A. to take action because of confusion, stirred by state legislative and regulatory actions, about whether baby bottles and cups for toddlers contain BPA. It said that manufacturers announced years ago that they had stopped using the chemical in those items.
Public health advocates praised the agency’s decision, but said the chemical still presented a health risk.
“The F.D.A. is slowly making progress on this issue, but they are doing the bare minimum here,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families. “They are instituting a ban that is already in effect voluntarily.”
Some advocates also pointed out that the decision did not include BPA used in containers of baby formula. Dennis M. Keefe, director of the office of food additive safety at the F.D.A., said that a decision on the chemical’s use in such products was under review.
This summer has been so dry that our yards aren't growing as fast as normal. Still, they have to be mowed from time to time. In the old days, with manual mowers, safety was not a big issue. But with more and more powerful gas or electric mowers, there is a real chance of injury if certain precautions aren't taken. The Web site GrassTools.com not only has good tips for proper mowing techniques, but also has a page of safety precautions. Here are some of the most important ones:
Mowing the lawn can be a dangerous activity. Just look at the statistics. Each year there are more than a hundred thousand injuries due to lawn mowing. Mowing can be a safe activity – even a common activity if the following precautions are taken.
Wear protective gear at all times, especially on the feet. Most injuries with lawn mowers occur to the feet while they are not protected.
Do not mow up hills as the mower may roll backwards and create injury for the operator. Always mow across hills to ensure injuries are avoided.
Have the blade sharpened by professionals – if you choose to sharpen the blade yourself it is important to wear protective gloves while sharpening and use short strokes while filing the blades.
Never refuel a running mower. This is dangerous. Gas is flammable and should not be heated and added to a running engine.
Never leave a mower running while unattended. It is important especially with a self propelled lawn mower.
Ensure that electric mowers have no frayed cords. Frayed cords could cause shock, or severe burns. It is important to be careful when running an electric mower to not run over the cord.
Be sure to store fuel in recommended and approved containers to prevent fire hazards.
Be sure to inspect the lawn mower before each use for safety, vibration, and loose bolts. It is important to check the hardware of the mower, as well as any and all wires attached.
Use a mower with a locking mechanism in case the mower gets away from the operator.
Remove all objects and debris from grass to ensure that flying debris doesn’t get thrown up to hit the operator.
Always turn off the mower and await the cessation of the blades before traveling over any surface other than grass.
Do not allow children to operate a lawn mower.
Do not allow children to be passengers on ride-on lawn mowers. The child could easily fall and be run over by the mower.
Mowers should be refuelled and started outdoors. Gas is a very flammable substance and should be stored in proper containers and fuel never added to a recently running lawnmower. Always ensure that gas is added to a cool lawnmower – to avoid the risk of fire.
Prior to attempting the sharpening of mower blades the lawn mower should be in the off position and the spark plug should be removed. Once the spark plug is removed the power source to the mower is disconnected. There is no chance of the mower accidentally starting in this case.
Never mow in reverse, there is a chance that the mower could back onto your limbs causing bodily harm.
Never ride a ride-on mower up a slope. This could result in the operator falling from the mower and causing grave injury. Riding mowers are at high risk to roll if driven at high speeds or on rough terrain.
Always read the operating manual before performing any landscaping activities.
This guest post is from my English friend Mr. Jim Loxley of My Compensation, who is getting as frustrated as I am about the state of affairs for injured and disabled people in both our countries.
As somebody who deals with disability discrimination cases, the topic of this blog really struck a chord with me when I first found it. I have a number of friends in the legal profession who are clinical negligence solicitors and personal injury experts who also now keep up to date here. P.I.S.S.D indeed. One of the issues is that precisely that, that there are so many issues. It seems alarmingly easy to write a great many articles poking holes in both UK and US politics and the processes surrounding how injured and disabled people are treated. During a conversation with a clinical negligence solicitor about these issues I decided that this time round I would browse the Internet and see what positive action had been taken toward such issues in order to put a more optimistic spin on this difficult and often frustrating topic.
In spite of my determination to bring a positive spin on the usual frustration which is disability law, I was met with a great deal of resistance by the search engines. Browsing around the internet slowly saw me meeting with bad news after bad news story. I'd be lying if I said there was no good news whatsoever but the instances were often for countries outside the US and UK and rarely were the stories tackling the problem at the root cause or making any significant contribution to a solution.
Perhaps inevitably, I found a story which was prime material for the theme of P.I.S.S.D. It transpired that a clinical negligence solicitor report published earlier this year showed that there were some 74 deaths of disabled patients within the UK’s NHS health service. It seemed that their deaths had been caused either directly or via complications of NHS staff members who were unaware of the best way to treat these disabled people. On occasion, NHS staff members had failed in their basic task of caring and actually outright ignored disabled people who needed their attention. The report issued by the clinical negligence solicitor also held a quote from a spokesperson for a UK disabled persons organisations stating that “too many parts of the National Health Service still do not understand how to treat people with a learning disability.” Alarming stuff
The real question here for me is: what can we do to move forward so that in the future there will be more positive news stories to find surrounding issues of disability? I think that blogs such as this one are a great way to the start raising awareness and many non-profit organisations and groups are doing a great job too. With a national health service currently a very real possibility for the US, I hope that consideration of disabled individuals is higher on the agenda than it appears to be on our NHS. I’m going to put some thought into what might be done to raise awareness of these issues but, in the meantime, I can only hope that our societies get better in the future.
I've written several times about Road Rage, and how to prevent becoming a victim of it. Now we learn from a report in the Dallas Morning News that the Dallas area leads the state in fatal road rage incidents. Here are excerpts from the article:
Young drivers, in construction-heavy, rush-hour traffic, are paying little heed to Texas’ motto of friendship.
They’re the chief cause for making Dallas and Tarrant counties combined the worst place for road rage crashes statewide over the last five years, statistics show.
The accident-prone hot spots locally include Interstate 635, the spaghetti mix of highways near downtown Dallas and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Although road rage incidents represent a small part of the overall number of accidents, law enforcement officers, highway engineers and researchers are looking for more ways to keep drivers from overreacting — and avoiding the often deadly results.
“Our signs on the roadway say ‘Drive Friendly’ … but sometimes we forget our common courtesy,” said Lonny Haschel, a Department of Public Safety spokesman.
Road rage — defined as an assault with a motor vehicle or a weapon during or after a car crash — is yet another concern among safety advocates who have pressed for limits on cellphone use by drivers, texting and other distractions.
Between 2007 and 2011, law officers cited road rage as a contributing factor in more than 4,500 crashes, according to Texas Department of Transportation statistics.
Dallas County leads all other urban areas in fatal road rage accidents — five in the last five years.
Authorities have discretion to classify an accident’s cause as road rage when writing reports.
Based on those in the Texas Department of Transportation database, Dallas County had about 180,000 traffic accidents in the last five years, and 329 involved road rage. Tarrant County had 559 crashes attributed to road rage out of more than 130,000 accidents.
Together, the neighboring North Texas counties had more road rage crashes than any other area, according to a San Antonio Express News analysis of the reports. It also found:
Most road rage crashes statewide occurred between 4 and 7 p.m., the height of rush hour.
A third of all drivers accused of road rage were in their 20s, responsible for more accidents that any other age group.
San Antonio’s Bexar County reported more road rage accidents, 680, than any other single county.
Often, aggressive driving is a catalyst for road rage, but the two are different, said Lt. Scott Bratcher with the Dallas Police Department’s traffic division.
“Aggressive driving is more of an issue. It’s the people that are in a hurry that don’t care about anybody else,” he said.
Bratcher and other officials say it’s no surprise that many accidents happen on the interstates around Dallas and near D/FW Airport.
“Those are the freeways here that are subject to congestion and where a lot of people will lose their tempers,” Bratcher said.
Congestion also can push drivers over the edge, a risk made greater in North Texas by the current LBJ Freeway construction.
TxDOT’s list of most congested roadway segments includes five in North Texas.
As we get into the heart of 100 degree days in Dallas, we need to be aware of the various ways our young kids or grandkids can be affected. One type of injury some of us may not think about is burns suffered at playgrounds. Fortuntely the days of the old metal play equipment are gone now, but even the new plastic materials can get hot enough to blister young children. A good explanation of this was given by a story from a Denver TV station. Click here to watch the video.
There have been hundreds of thousands of baby strollers recalled this week dues to injuries and even one death. Details are contained in an article in the Los Angeles Times:
Peg Perego recalled hundreds of thousands of strollers Tuesday because children can become trapped and strangled between trays on them. One death has already been reported.
A 6-month-old boy from Tarzana died of strangulation in a stroller in 2004, and a 7-month-old girl from New York was nearly strangled in 2006, according to Peg Perego USA Inc. The company said entrapment and strangulation can take place, particularly among those younger than a year old, when the child is not harnessed into the stroller. If unharnessed, children can pass through the opening between the tray and the seat bottom and the child's neck and head can become trapped by the tray.
Peg Perego is recalling about 223,000 strollers, which include Venezia and Pliko-P3 strollers in various colors, made from January 2004 to September 2007.
Only strollers with a child tray and one cup holder are part of the recall. Strollers with a bumper bar in front of the child or a tray with two cup holders are not included in this recall.
The company said the strollers were made before a voluntary industry standard was implemented in January 2008 that addresses the height of the opening between the stroller's tray and the seat bottom. The voluntary standard requires larger stroller openings that prevent infant entrapment and strangulation hazards.
The Pliko-P3 strollers sold for $270 to $330, while the Venezia strollers sold for $350 to $450. The strollers were sold at various retailers, including Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us.
Consumers are advised to immediately stop using the strollers and contact Peg Perego for a free repair kit at http://www.PegPeregoUSA.com.
Separately, Kolcraft Enterprises Inc. is recalling some strollers because of potential falling and choking hazards.
The company is recalling about 5,600 of the Contours Options LT double strollers with model number ZT012 sold from February to July. However, no injuries have been reported.
The front wheel assembly can break, which could lead to a child's falling out of the stroller. And the nuts that hold the stroller's basket support screws in place can detach on strollers made in January and February. The detached nuts are a potential choking hazard.
Consumers should immediately stop using the strollers and contact Kolcraft for free replacement wheels. Those with strollers made in January and February will also receive replacement nuts. The company can be contacted online at http://www.kolcraft.com.
WUSA-TV Washington reports on its website, "After a horrific Metro Red Line tragedy in 2009 that killed nine people and injured 76, Maryland's Congressional delegation led the way in pushing for reform, insisting on national safety standards." Up "until now, there was not a single federal safety regulation for Metro trains or any other passenger train nationwide." Peter Rogoff, Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, commented, "Since 1964, there has been a gaping loophole in transit safety oversight." In addition, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman commented, "The legislators have done what they needed to do-give the authority to establish these safety standards. It's now up to Metro, the operators and the regulators to make sure that that promise is fulfilled."
NEWS 8-TV Washington, DC reports, "For the first time, there are federal safety standards for subway systems like Metro." Congress "has passed and the president signed off on the new federal transportation safety bill." The NTSB "is recommending requirements like better evacuation and rescue routes, black box data recorders, and limits on the number of hours train operators can be on the job."
The AP reports, "Lawmakers and transportation officials gathered Monday to discuss the new law, which mandates the establishment of federal safety standards for subway, bus, light rail and streetcar systems." Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari said, "This will mean lives saved." The NTSB is assisting in the development of safety standards, and "among other things, the NTSB will push for minimum crashworthiness standards for subway cars, a requirement that subways carry data recorders and limits on the number of hours that train conductors can work." Rogoff said "the government would not take the step to withhold grant funding lightly because transit agencies need money to make systems safer."
WAMU-FM, DC reports on its website, "The proposed standards, which will include guidelines for crashworthiness and improved evacuation measures in case of an emergency, will also include recommendations made by the NTSB." Officials say "regulations could take up to a year to establish."
The Gaithersburg (MD) Gazette reports, "Congressional and federal transportation officials staged a news conference Monday at Metro's training center to tout the first-ever national safety standards for transit systems, even as Metro wrestles with ongoing safety concerns." The conference had been "scheduled before the weekend's software glitch, in which personnel lost track of two trains, and dozens of trains had to idle in stations." The incident "follows the recent mishaps in which a subway car's doors opened in route and a heat-related kink in the track caused a derailment."
From the American Association for Justice news release.
Tort reform never seems to accomplish its purported goal of reducing medical costs for patients, but always accomplishes its real goals — denial of consumer rights and protection of insurance companies and corporations. This editorial in the Austin American Statesman is by the consumer group Texas Watch.
While the state is crumbling under a real health care crisis, Gov. Rick Perry and his friends in the special interest lobby continue defending a lobbyist-driven health care battle from a decade ago that has failed Texas patients.
They want you to believe that taking away the legal rights of patients is good medicine. Try as they might, though, there is no disputing the facts:
Texas ranks dead last in the quality of health care, our health care costs are soaring at a rate faster than the national average, we rank near the bottom in the number of doctors who actually see patients, and we have the highest rate of people without health insurance. These are facts, not spin-doctored anecdotes like the ones the governor and his cronies in the insurance lobby like to use.
Back in 2003, politicians and lobbyists made a pack of promises about what they alleged would happen if voters approved a ballot proposition that severely and arbitrarily restricted the legal rights of Texas patients.
Among them was that what you spend on health care would go down. Turns out, they lied. Now, they are trying to cover their tracks.
Insurance industry lobbyist John Opelt recently said, "We did not and have not led voters astray."
Really? Numerous political mailers paid for by Opelt's group during the 2003 campaign tell a different story.
One mailer said the ballot initiative would "reduce ... health costs." Another said it would make "health care more affordable and available for all Texans."
All of this comes from a playbook they've been using for decades: Claim there is a crisis of some sort, say that restricting individual legal rights is the solution, promise Texas families and small business owners the moon, and attack anyone who disagrees.
Texans are smart, though. We know when someone is pulling a fast one.
How can it be that eliminating accountability for polluters, careless nursing homes, insurance companies, Wall Street bankers and big drug makers is good for the public? The answer is that it can't be.
Numerous academic studies by independent organizations and legal scholars prove that it is a fallacy to claim that taking away the legal rights of individuals will benefit the public at-large.
Whether we are talking about patients, policyholders or small business owners, we have seen time and again that when lobbyists succeed in stripping or curtailing individual legal rights, the public is harmed.
The only ones who benefit are a narrow group of special interests.
Yet every time one of these proposals comes to the Texas Legislature, the lobbyists claim this will be good for all Texas citizens.
Texans know better. We believe that accountability is good and necessary. This is a basic value we teach our children.
When a person or corporation causes needless harm, they should be held responsible for it. Plain and simple.
When wrongdoers succeed in getting away with the harm they cause, the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces and pay the tab.
Texas faces a host of real-world problems, including a broken health care system. It has been a decade since the governor signed away the rights of Texas patients under the false promise of better, cheaper, and more accessible care.
Sadly, rather than admitting he was wrong, Perry has chosen to be campaigner-in-chief and head lobbyist for the special interests.
Texans deserve real solutions from leaders who understand the importance of personal and corporate responsibility, and who want to find answers to our state's problems that improve the lives of everyday Texans — not just a narrow group of powerful interests.
Dog bites are not what you think of first when the term "personal injury" occurs. But over the years our firm has seen many terrible injuries caused by vicious dogs, including many to young children. Now an article from Yahoo points that in 2010 alone, one insurance company paid over $100 million on dog bite claims. Here are excerpts:
State Farm Insurance, one of the nation's largest home insurers, paid more than $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide last year, spokesman Eddie Martinez said Wednesday. In 2010, there were about 3,500 claims and $90 million in payouts.
The Insurance Information Institute estimated that nearly $479 million in dog bite claims were paid by all insurance companies in 2011, spokeswoman Loretta Worters said. In 2010, it was $413 million.
State Farm is still working to determine reasons for the spike, Martinez said.
About 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year and more than half of the victims are children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. About 800,000 people seek medical attention for the bites. Less than half of those people require treatment and about 16 die, the agency said.
After children ages 5 to 9 years old, the agency said that seniors represent the largest group at risk, followed by letter carriers.
Heredity, training, socialization, health, and the behavior of humans around it can all contribute to a dog's tendency to bite, Martinez said.
The ASPCA predicts half of all children in the United States will be bitten by a dog before 12. The majority of bites will be from the family dog or the dog of a neighbor or friend.
People across the country own about 78.2 million dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association.
State Farm's figures listed the top 10 states by number of claims, claims paid and claim average.
California was tops in the first two categories, then came Illinois, 309 claims, $10 million; Texas, 219 claims, $5.1 million; and Ohio, 215, $5.4 million.
At the bottom of the claims per state list were Maine, New Mexico, Montana, Hawaii and South Dakota, Martinez said.
The average cost per claim nationally in 2011 was $28,799, Martinez said.
California had a per-claim average of $38,500 but New York came in first because the company paid an average of $45,900 per claim there. Michigan was second with an average $38,700 per claim.
In 2010, California led the way with 369 claims and total payouts of $11.3 million. But the average cost per claim in the state was $30,000, placing it second behind Florida, where the average cost per dog bite claim was $38,400. Florida had 146 claims for a total of $5.6 million.
There are ways to help a child avoid dog bites, the ASPCA says.
A youngster should never stare into a dog's eyes, tease a dog, approach a chained dog, touch an off-leash dog, run or scream if approached by a loose dog, play with a dog while it is eating or touch a dog while it is sleeping. If a loose dog comes close, children should stand very still and be very quiet. Always ask a dog's owner for permission to pet it and let the dog sniff your closed hand before you start touching it.
What does it say about the patient protection laws in Texas when a Kentucky corporation that owns 21 skilled nursing facilities in that state is willing to transfer ownership to a Texas corporation just so they don't have to worry about being sued for negligence?
The company, Extendicare, says that "tort reform" laws in Kentucky aren't strong enough, at least compared with the laws in Texas, which come close to giving nursing home operators almost complete immunity from medical negligence lawsuits.
So Extendicare is going to lease all 21 of its nursing homes in Kentucky to a Texas corporation. The homes will, obviously, stay in Kentucky. How sad that Texas has such a reputation for valuing the rights of businesses over the rights of the elderly and disabled who reside in nursing homes.