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Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Hypoxic-Ischemic perinatal encephalopathy (“HIE” for short) is loss of oxygen to the brain.  In slightly less than half of the cases, HIE can cause death or brain injuries.

What Causes HIE?

Obviously, the brain is the key to neurological function.  The brain commands and controls all of our essential actions and reactions.  This includes sending messages via neurotransmitters to control all of a person’s essential cognitive and physical functions.

This blog has been nominated for inclusion in the Lexis-Nexis Litigation Community’s Top 25 Tort Blogs for 2011!

It’s certainly gratifying to see that the blog’s reputation is continuing to grow nationwide. So if you like the blog, sign up and vote!

You can do that here.

This one is courtesy of Dorothy Clay Sims. We often see expert witnesses with resumes three feet thick, full of impressive-sounding credentials like faculty appointments, society memberships, and consulting gigs. But how accurate is that expert’s C.V.?

Often, it pays to ask. Just recently, I found three inaccuracies on a defense expert’s C.V.

First, he listed himself as an instructor at a national judicial college and a guest lecturer at a local law school from “1990-present.” So I did some research. I found out that the national judicial college hadn’t even offered the course he taught in the last two years. I found out that the law school did not list him in the faculty directory (where even part-time and adjunct faculty are listed). When asked, he admitted that he hadn’t done either of these things in at least the last five years.

There is really no way to be a competent personal injury lawyer without spending an awful lot of time reading medical records. Poring through stacks of records is boring, time consuming, and we are all faced with an ever-increasing list of seemingly more important things to get done.

Many lawyers have a paralegal read and summarize these records (if anyone reads them at all)because a) they don’t want to do it; b) they think their time is too valuable to spend on it; and c) they don’t want to do it. Did I mention they don’t want to do it? I did? Good.

I am not one of them, although I have an excellent paralegal who usually does a run-through of the records and attaches a cover memo pointing out entries of interest. This is very helpful, but I read them all myself every single time, and create my own contemporaneous notes. Not just the records generated as a result of treating the injury my case is about, but also any prior medical records I can get my hands on.

Yesterday I spent some time doing a little year-end trimming of my internet favorites list.

Like most people, I keep a fairly extensive favorites list of websites that I use (or think I will). Some sites turn out to be extremely valuable, and I use them all the time. others seem promising, but end up only being sporadically useful. I make cuts at the end of the year, taking sites that are rarely used off the list.

Here are some sites that made it onto my keeper list:

Picture this: You need a medical procedure, for example, having your gall bladder removed. You arrive at one of the area’s fine local hospitals, where you are seen by a doctor and told “Sure, we can help you, as long as you sign this form giving up your right to sue us for damages if you are injured by malpractice.”

Sounds like a great deal for them and a terrible deal for you, right? The Cato Institute has issued a paper advocating that agreements like this, in one form or another, should be allowed and upheld by the courts. Surely they can’t be serious? Yes, they are, and no, I won’t stop calling you Shirley. RIP, Leslie Nielsen.

Contracts like this are generally unenforceable. They are called “contracts of adhesion”, and are not allowed because of the extreme inequality in the bargaining positions of the patient and doctor, among other reasons.

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One thing I do every month is read the list of sanctioned physicians published each month by the Maryland Board of Physicians. It can be found online here, and usually comes out in the middle of the month, covering the preceding month. Every personal injury lawyer should do this. It’s not schadenfreude. There is a very good reason.

In the last year alone, I have discovered that two of my clients’ treating physicians have had significant licensure problems during the period of treatment. In one case, the doctor’s license was suspended the whole time she treated my client. If you are planning to rely on a treating doctor as a witness, it is best to know about these kinds of problems. In my case, I was able to name a different doctor as my expert witness. I run any doctor I am considering naming as a witness through the “Practitioner Profiles” database to avoid these kinds of problems. If you start looking, you will be surprised at how often this happens.

It is definitely worth the effort, unless you’d rather find out your expert was unlicensed during the defense attorney’s cross-examination.

Hot of the presses is a new “study” on “Tort Liability Costs for Small Business” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s tort reform propaganda ministry, the dubiously named “Institute for Legal Reform.”

I found this through the efforts of Walter Olson at Overlawyered. I’m ambivalent about reading, and linking to, Walter’s site. It’s not that his site is no good. In fact, just the opposite. The site is outstanding, and is a fantastic resource for news about the legal system. Its just that Overlawyered is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Man, Inc. And you know how I feel about The Man. Nonetheless, I will continue giving credit where it is due.

The report itself is more of what I have come to expect from this source. It wears the sheep’s clothing of objectivity, but an examination of the sources and methods it uses reveals the wolf beneath. Consider this:

Medicare liens are a topic of concern for most competent personal injury lawyers. It looks like Medicare is set to begin enforcing a federal law requiring reporting on injury claims made by individuals receiving Medicare.

The key thing about this law for injury lawyers is that if you fail to protect Medicare’s interest, Medicare can go after anyone in the process to recover the payments made: the Medicare recipient, their personal injury lawyer, the defendant, the defense lawyer, or the the defendant’s liability insurer. And lets face it- we all know that the client and the defendant won’t have the money by the time Medicare comes looking. The feds are good at protecting themselves, and here they are doing it by putting a target on lawyers and insurers, which should not be a big problem as long as we are doing our jobs the right way.

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Today I saw (via Overlawyered) a blog post by WhiteCoat where WC is critical of a poorly framed law firm press release.

He criticizes a press prelease issued by a medical malpractice law firm. It reads: “Prominent Beverly Hills Law Firm Awarded $16.5 Million Medical Malpractice Jury Verdict.” The basis for WC’s criticism is that it does not mention the client, thereby making it appear as if the award was made directly to the firm.

I don’t think he believes anyone would be misled. I think he is really pointing out that it smacks of arrogance to leave the client totally out of the equation. As he says, “Screw the client.”

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