Doug / 10-01-2013 / Newsletter

On the Importance of Taking Responsibility

Many people are quick to look down on Personal Injury attorneys.  Often they are referred to negatively as “Ambulance Chasers” and it’s alluded that they prey on the weak to take advantage of Big Business and Big Insurance to enrich themselves and their clients at the cost of raised premiums for insurance carriers.  Given mainstream media examples like Saul Goodman and Bob Loblaw it’s not hard to find out where this image comes from.  And while there are real-life examples of these fictional tropes, most Personal Injury attorneys really are there to help protect people, even those same Big Businesses and Big Insurance companies.

Separating the Good from the Bad

What a good Personal Injury attorney wants is to ensure everyone is taking responsibility for actions or inaction that caused someone to be injured.  That includes taking on those same responsibilities themselves.  When a client comes to one of these Personal Injury attorneys, they will review the client’s case and discuss whether that case is worth pursuing.  Not because of the potential for financial benefit, but to ensure the claim is, in itself, a worthy claim.  By making appropriate decisions about the clients they take on, Personal Injury attorneys, help ensure others are protected from real dangers.

And these attorneys expect others to take responsibility as well.  The real goal of a personal injury case isn’t financial gain; it’s to correct a broken part of the system and ensure other members of the community in similar situations aren’t harmed in the future.  As long as the person who is being sued makes changes that ensure future clients, customers, or patients are not harmed, then they too benefit from the work done by the Personal Injury attorney.

Many will read that last sentence, and question its validity.  They’ll look at places like the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance and assume that it is because of lawsuits that this insurance continues to rise.  In part, they are right.  Lawsuits brought by Personal Injury attorneys on medical malpractice claims are one reason that insurance goes up.  But lawsuits only take a small slice of that pie.  The larger piece comes from the defensive nature of the insurance companies and the doctors paying for that insurance coverage.  Instead of changing their practices and methodology, they blame the lawyers for their plight and the high premiums.

Defending the High Cost of Insurance

Much of the blame lobbed onto lawyers for the high insurance premiums are due to a few large, news-worthy settlements.  These multi-million dollar cases receive a great deal of attention and put everyone involved under scrutiny.  While these settlement and verdicts are attention grabbing, they are rare and studies have shown these examples have little or no effect on the rising rates insurance companies.

Others will state that insurance premiums are on the rise because of all the little law suits and settlements that come through the court systems.  They will then recommend reforming tort laws to ensure fewer cases.  These “reforms” don’t’ work.  They draw the focus away from the true culprits of rising insurance costs, and have the unintended consequence of pushing the cost of insurance higher.  In states that have adopted some sort of tort reform it is typical to see more law suits being filed than would have been before the “reforms” were passed.

This makes sense in that lawyers, wanting to ensure they protect the rights of their client but without the time necessary to do proper research into who may actually be responsible, sue every person, doctor, or company that may have been involved.  This not only draws focus away from the actual injuring party, it thrusts an indignity and the added stress of a lawsuit on those that were not responsible for the injury.

Rather than lowering insurance rates for those who aren’t causing injuries, tort reform has actually assisted in its increase.  In a study conducted by Havard Law School, it is shown that reforming tort laws helps insurance companies collect higher premiums while driving down the availability of doctors and physicians in those states where the measures are in effect.

Lowering Rates and Leading by Example

As an example of what we mean we can look to one area of the medical practice and see how a group of doctors decided to fight the high cost of medical malpractice insurance and won.  Not many years ago anesthesiologists were among those paying the highest premiums for medical malpractice insurance.  Frequently those who were put under anesthesia were injured.  In the 70s and 80s estimates show that as many as 1 in 6000 patients died under the care of an anesthesiologist, and serious brain injuries were even more frequent

Then, in 1982, after a string of bad press, large verdicts, and a growing mistrust of physicians who practiced anesthesia, the American Society of Anesthesiologists went to work on the problem.  They studied the data, reviewed the practices and procedures that were leading patients to harm, and then revamped the entire practice area.  They established mandatory monitoring procedures, they insisted on shorter hours for anesthesiologists, and increased the amount of training required.  They made changes to the machines and devices used.  They took responsibility for their practice, and they made changes across the board.

The mortality rate of those under an anesthesiologist care now is less than 1 in 200,000.  The ASA continues to monitor its practices and recommends newer and safer techniques to its members on a regular basis, working to push the mortality rate of patients under their doctors’ care lower each and every year.  Today anesthesiologists are now among those with the lowest medical malpractice insurance premiums.  And all because they recognized that they had a responsibility to their patients and to the public.

Taking Responsibility

What we can learn from the anesthesiologists’ example is that by implementing good practices, training, and review everyone benefits.  By looking at the causes of problems and working hard to address those on ensure they aren’t repeated we can avoid injury to others in the future.  By focusing the blame on the correct party and ensuring they are responsible for correcting the way they work, society gets better.

While we’ll admit it is a self-aggrandizing statement, doctors, manufacturers, and even other lawyers should look at lawsuits, not as a punishment, but as an opportunity to see what isn’t working and make the necessary changes to correct the poor quality of their service or product.  These people, groups, and companies would do well to work with the plaintiff’s attorneys to find out what caused the injury and ensure it doesn’t happen to others in the future.

We make sure to take the proper responsibility in the cases we take on.  We know there are frivolous lawsuits aplenty in the court systems, and we do everything within our power to ensure we are not part of that problem.  We do not look for cases that are questionable, or that have at their hearts a motivation based in profit.  We work to ensure we provide the best representation for those who were injured in a way that could and should have been prevented.  We expect this of others in our field, and we expect this of those on the opposing side as well.

Highlights from this month’s posts:

  1. Starting a Food Fight in Federal Court
  2. How Tort Reform Causes the Problems is was Meant to Solve
  3. Another Sickle Cell Athlete Dies
  4. Attention Gun Owners
  5. Florida Widow Gets Verdict Against Big Tobacco

Wooten Kimbrough, P.A.  Orlando Personal Injury Attorneys

Disclaimer: All verdicts and settlements listed here are gross amounts before deductions for attorney fees and costs. Past results do not guarantee similar results in the future. Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result. Before choosing a lawyer, ask for written information about the lawyer's legal qualifications and experience.