Tuesday, November 27, 2012

“Are Personal Injury Paralegals Ambulance Chasers?” You decide:
We help real people with real problems. We step in when insurance companies fail to extend reasonable offers, when facts are complicated or people need help navigating the complex legal landscape. We take cases to trial. We stand in the courtroom to ask a jury of peers to award our injured clients what they are entitled to. We hold our client’s virtual hands throughout the entire legal process. We answer questions. We provide guidance. We offer care, compassion and empathy to people when they need it most, often when they have encountered the ultimate low in life. We lift them up, help them along, encourage them, sooth them, address their each and every concern, and most importantly, represent their interests by giving a voice to their cause. We become an extension of them. We proudly represent them. We walk with them, talk with them, and at times, become like friends or family to them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In the Battle for Reasonable Compensation in Serious Personal Injury Cases, Who Are The Bad Guys? As a Knoxville personal injury attorney, a couple of quotes really resonated with me:
[I]njured clients who retain attorneys receive 3 and 1/2 times the compensation that clients who do not retain attorneys receive. Why is that? Because if a client does not retain a well-trained, experienced, "in the trenches" attorney, the insurance company will take advantage of the client, every single time. And, adequate compensation to disabled victims is important in making those responsible (and their insurance companies) for their fate, responsible for their care. Otherwise, the accident victims become a drain on, dependent upon the "system" (taxpayers) for assistance. We, the people, become responsible, instead of the wrongdoers and their insurance companies that profited from taking on the risks.

And:

To the public and the media, Insurance companies market discount pricing. They claim to have the lowest rates; they claim to be your "good neighbor", that you are "in good hands", that they are "on your side". Not a single insurance company markets or brags about how well they treat their policy holders (or those that their policy holders injure or kill); they simply do not disclose their claims-handling prowess. They only want you to know how inexpensive their product is when compared to their competitors. However, if they are not on your side, if they are a terrible neighbor, if you are in hostile hands, than their "discounted rates" are not "cheap", at all. I submit that they are worthless, without a strong, consumer friendly, claims handling policy. You see, the truth is, and most insurance executives will admit this, insurance companies are not in the business of helping people who have suffered a loss or who have suffered a devastating injury. Insurance companies are in the business of making money for their shareholders.

Finally: "While there is nothing wrong with making money, there is something wrong with making it so deceptively."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Don't drink and, uh, ride? Kentucky man on horse arrested for DUI. Ridiculous.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

As a Knoxville personal injury attorney, I am gratified to see the public outrage (see comments below statement) at Progressive Insurance over its underinsured motorist denial of liability against its own policyholder in the auto accident death of Katie Fisher two years ago. As pleased as I am to see the public finally understand how auto insurance companies operate, the sad truth is that Progressive's actions in the Fisher case are simply par for the course.

Here's the scenario: it was an intersection accident, so the question was whether Katie Fisher ran the red light or whether the defendant ran the red light. There were witnesses who said that Katie ran the red light. I have told clients for years that an insurance company will deny liability and refuse to pay a claim if there is any hint that the claimant was at fault. That's why Progressive refused to accept the claim.

Now, the way insurance works is like this: if the at-fault driver [the defendant] has relatively little liability coverage, then the liability insurance company -- in this case Nationwide -- will often offer its policy limits -- in this case a mere $25,000 -- because Nationwide sees a real danger of a jury verdict over $25,000, AND Nationwide also has a duty to protect its own insured, the defendant. By offering the policy limits, Nationwide has done everything it can do contractually to protect its own insured, the defendant. Offering policy limits gets Nationwide off the hook for being sued on a bad faith breach of contract case. Nationwide doesn't casre about the Fishers, any more than Progressive does. They don't even much care about their own policyholder who they are supposed to be protecting. They're offering the money to try to cover their own corporate posterior. That's why Nationwide offered the $25,000 policy limits

In general, an offer of policy limits will trigger the uninsured motorist coverage [UIM]. At that point, Progressive, which had $100,000 in UIM coverage, had a maximum exposure of the amount over the liability offer and its own limits: $75,000. Legally, however, if Progressive thinks that Katie Fisher had fault in the wreck, then it can deny liability and force a jury trial. Which is exactly what Progressive did. (Note: I find Progressive's actions contemptible, too. it's just that this happens all the time; it's routine.) To Progressive -- and any other insurance company, for that matter -- it's a business decision, and if they determine that they can get away with paying less, or nothing, then that is just what they will try to do.

Well, they gambled and they lost. The jury hit the defendant for $760,000. Nationwide has probably already paid its $25,000. Progressive is definitely on the hook for at least another $75,000. What the parties are negotiating about now is the additional jury verdict of $660,000. I'm sure the Fishers are contending that Progressive should pay the entire $760,000, less Nationwide's $25,000: $735,000. Progressive is trying to get the Fishers to take less, and is probably threatening to appeal the case if the Fishers don't cave. An appeal is likely to cost another year of waiting, with a very real chance the verdict will be reversed and sent back for an entirely new trial.

A couple of comments. First, if members of the public are outraged, do something about it. Elect legislators, congressmen and senators that will prtect the rights of innocent victoms, instead of trampling all over them. Serve on juries and award fair verdicts to injured personal injury victims.

Anybody notice that the Baltimore City Circuit Court jury thought Katie Fisher's life was only worth $760,000? I ought not to be surprised; Big Insurance and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been working for years -- decades -- to poison the minds of potential jurors. That's you, and everyone you know. If you want to know all about the conspiracy that's being carried out under all our noses, see Hot Coffee. Here's the trailer:

Also, go to your state government and insist on vigorous enforcement of your state's insurance laws. It's an open secret that various states' insurance commissioners are often retired insurance executives. They have no inclination to help injured victims of negligence. At the same time they have every reason, based on a lifetime's worth of biases, to favor the insurance industry. Because there is no federal regulation of the insurance industry, it's up to each state to police the insurance companies doing business in that particular state. If your governor is not protecting your interests by appointing qualified and objective commissioners, get a new governor.

Let's be very clear here: Big Insurance and the U.S. Chamber are laughing all the way to the bank at how they are manipulating the public into voting for the very representatives that are taking away their rights. Maybe this Fisher case will get some people thinking about that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A very nice Q&A on Social Security questions.
Paul Ryan: "We would have hired him at Bain."
Telling it like it is:
[T]he top priority for Washington Republicans was denying Obama bipartisan victories, so that they could come back from political oblivion. There’s a lot of fun fly-on-the-wall stuff in the book ["The New New Deal"] about meetings where Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders made this case—and on-the-record quotes from former GOP congressmen like Mike Castle, George Voinovich, and Specter complaining about it. McConnell often reminded his caucus about the 1984 election. Everyone remembers it as the 49-state Reagan landslide, Morning in America; people forget that only one Republican challenger ousted a Democratic incumbent that year. (It was McConnell, so he remembers.) His point was that there was nothing to be gained by going along with Obama. If the recovery plan worked and the economy boomed, Republicans would get re-elected even if they had voted against Obama. But if the economy was still struggling in 2010, Republicans could make a comeback if they stuck together. [emphasis added]

Journalist Michael Grunwald argues with persuasiveness that the Obama stimulus not only was similar to Republicans' stimulus proposals in 2008 (including Mitt Romney), but also that the stimulus has worked, pointing out that

Most of the money in the stimulus went to unsexy stuff designed to prevent a depression and ease the pain of the recession: aid to help states avoid drastic cuts in public services and public employees; unemployment benefits, food stamps, and other assistance for victims of the downturn; and tax cuts for 95 percent of American workers. And the money that did flow into public works went more toward fixing stuff that needed fixing—aging pipes, dilapidated train stations, my beloved Everglades—than building new stuff. In its first year, the stimulus financed 22,000 miles of road improvements, and only 230 miles of new roads. There were good reasons for that. Repairs tend to be more shovel-ready than new projects, so they pump money into the economy faster. They also pass the do-no-harm test. (New sprawl roads make all kind of problems worse.) And they are fiscally responsible. Repairing roads reduces maintenance backlogs and future deficits; building roads add to maintenance backlogs and future deficits.

Ultimately, the stimulus bill "provided a new model for government spending—with unprecedented transparency, unprecedented scrutiny, and unprecedented competition for the cash." The reason the public seems not to comprehend this state of affairs is that "the national media sucks at covering public policy."

Not to toot my own horn, but I've been saying much the same thing for quite some time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The American Legislative Exchange Council: a secretive, corporate-controlled lobby for conservative causes?
"We think Tennessee legislators are being bought and paid for by an exclusive network of corporate lobbyists and special interest groups," said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action.

I think so, too. If the legislature is supposed to be the voice and will of the people, then that ideal has been -- and is being -- perverted and subverted by this organization, which spoon-feeds to state legislators conservative ideological model bills for them to take back to their home states. Tennessee included. You don't think last year's rights restriction law was thought up here in Tennessee, do you?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Overlooking disability insurance can be costly: Worth reading.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why Has the Social Security Disability Insurance Program Grown So Rapidly? Basically three reasons: (1) The aging of the workforce -- More people are working longer, and older people are more likely to qualify for disability; (2) More women than ever are working and, therefore, potentially eligible for disability, leading to higher numbers of disabled beneficiaries; (3) the 1984 changes in policy expanded the ways in which people could qualify for the disability program. See page 7 of the report.

Note that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says nowhere that people are using disability claims as an quasi-unemployment payment. That's because it just ain't so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The dangers of personal watercraft:

On July 4, fellow sophomore and [Duke football] teammate Jamison Crowder collided with Holliday’s vessel while the two were riding personal watercraft on Lake Tillery, about an hour east of Charlotte. Holliday sustained severe head injuries and remains in critical condition at the UNC Hospitals Trauma Center, though he opened his eyes Monday. State authorities said Crowder had not completed a boater education course, and it is unclear whether Holliday had, either.

To paraphrase the late, lamented Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Hill Street Blues): Let's be careful out there.

This guy really hit the bad luck (and stupidity) DUI trifecta:
The 54-year-old New Mexico resident was booked last month on his seventh -- yes, seventh -- drunk-driving charge. This last one was a real doozy: He injured a local judge who was a passenger in a second car struck in a collision with Yazzie’s vehicle.

It gets worse: Yazzie is suspected of being involved in two hit-and-run accidents that evening before he struck the judge’s car.

And he had two teenage passengers in the car.

You just can't make this kind of stuff up.

This is how it works. First, some blowhard -- in this case, God help us, an elected U.S. Representative -- makes an outrageous and false statement. Then, when he is called on it, he denies he said it, and brands the media -- which simply quoted him -- as an "attack machine."

At sum, what is at work here, especially with the so-called Tea Party, is a variation on the big lie paradigm: prevaricate as loudly and as much as possible; if someone calls the truth of your statement into question, muddy the waters.

Contemptible.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How 1/2 an inch can make all the difference in causing a trip and fall accident:

The Lawyer As Ambulance Chaser:
The real ambulance chasers are not trial lawyers in general, or personal injury lawyers, or even personal injury lawyers that happen to advertise; there’s nothing wrong, unethical, or improper about marketing legal services, about making it known to the public your existence and the nature of what you do. The bulk of their work is nothing more than helping injured people obtain just and fair compensation. Anyone who calls that ambulance chasing is pushing an political agenda.

The real ambulance chasers are the lawyers who see terrible stories in the headlines and either send private investigators or drive out there themselves to solicit, sometimes browbeat, the client into representation by hook or by crook, making guarantees, offering bribes, et cetera. It’s a small fraction of the personal injury world. . . .

Monday, July 09, 2012

Grand Theft Cart? Ted Nugent's Drummer Charged With Golf Cart Theft, DUI
Are Social Security Benefits ‘A Form Of Modern 21st Century Slavery’?

Uh, no. As a Knoxville Social Security Disability lawyer, I get very frustrated when these talking head "pundits" blithely say that when unemployment runs out, then people go and get on Social Security Disability. Believe me, if it was that easy to get approved for Disability, then I would not be getting as many grey hairs as I am.

The fact is that it is damned hard to get approved. It takes an average of 3.5 years to go through the Social Security process. A claimant must have more than a legitimately disabling physical or mental condition even to have chance of getting approved. And even claimants who are obviously incapable of holding a job can, and do, get denied.

Given the delays and uncertainties of seeking Social Security Disability, there is just no way the unemployed are relying on disability to get by. And frankly, the big lie meme tends to make people think any claimant is gaming the system, i.e., that the claimant does not really deserve the disability benefits. The whole approach by these "pundits" is contradictory, anyway. Consider: to collect unemployment, one must certify they are ready, willing and able to work. To get disability, one must prove the obvious -- that there is no job in the national economy for which the claimant is qualified.

This whole argument is just a crock. It's a subterfuge for the real agenda: dismantling the Social Security system, piece by piece.

Friday, July 06, 2012

100 famous guitar riffs in one take. Cool!

Are DUI checkpoints constitutional? This article, from Salt Lake City, suggests that they are not if they are worded so broadly that they are like "throwing out a trawling net to see what you catch." In other words, if the stated purpose of the roadblock is to check for drugs/alcohol, then fine; if it is to check for any criminal activity, then that's impermissibly overbroad.

Which made me wonder. Here in Knoxville:

Officers "issued a total of 1,093 traffic citations during the campaign, including 94 to motorists who were cited for not wearing a seat belt or for violation of the child restraint law, Rausch said in a news release today. Officers also cited 64 motorists for driving on either a suspended or revoked license, or for driving without any license.

Now, it appears true that this Knoxville effort was not in a DUI checkpoint context. But, did the officers really have probable cause to make almost 1,100 stops in an eight hour period? Like I said: makes me wonder.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Drinkers & drivers beware -- DUI tests: Now an offer you can't refuse. I wonder how many times officers sought a search warrant to compel a blood test over the recent holiday?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Man drove through fence, onto Philadelphia runway; charged with DUI. This is a guy who really, really wanted to get out of town, I guess.

If you ever get charged with a Knoxville or East Tennessee DUI after driving onto an airport runway [or for any other reason, for that matter], please give us a call. I think we can help.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Social Security fund running out of money: totally inaccurate. "The author of the Sun Times article and all those who worry about Social Security make a classic mistake: they think the Social Security Trust Fund still exists, that it functions as it did when the program started, and that it could run out of money. That's not been so for more than 40 years."
High times living off Social Security Disability. Not.
'Stella awards' filled with falsehoods: "The 'Stella awards' are ranked lists of personal injury lawsuits that, on their face, are frivolous but resulted in large damage awards. The originators of these lists choose to remain anonymous. The reference to “Stella” comes from Stella Liebeck, now deceased, who in 1992 suffered injuries caused by hot coffee purchased at a McDonald’s restaurant in New Mexico." Here's the takeaway:

For the most part, the Stella awards lawsuits are a complete fiction. In circumstances where there actually was a lawsuit, the description of the lawsuit is incomplete and/or false in important ways. By way of example, the first-place Stella award winner every year is Mrs. Merv Grazinski who, while motoring along in her Winnebago, sets the cruise control, gets up from the driver’s seat to make coffee, has an accident, sues the manufacturer for failure to warn of the risks inherent in this activity and recovers a seven-figure damage award. This story is a fabrication. There never was such a lawsuit.

The article then describes what actually happened in the McDonald's coffee case. I'd almost bet money that the facts are not what you think they are. You, like most other Americans, have been duped by the big lie propaganda from the forces of darkness.

I also recommend the excellent -- and depressing -- documentary, "Hot Coffee," for a more comprehensive look at that Big Insurance and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are doing under the radar screen to usurp your rights in the judicial system. Why is it depressing, you may ask? Because the movie demonstrates convincingly the four-prong strategy to deny you meaningful access to the courts for redress of your legal problems, as well as the unlimited funds the above-named organizations will spend to achieve their goals.

One question I am asked fairly often as a Knoxville Social Security attorney is whether Social Security benefits can be garnished, or otherwise taken away in payment of a legal judgment. The answer is: "maybe." The key seems to be making sure that funds against which a garnishment is attempted are clearly identifiable as Social Security benefit payments. So, the best advice is to make sure the Social Security payments are deposited into their own separate account, and not mixed up with your other cash on hand.
Think you may have a Knoxville Social Security disability claim? Here's a primer on the different kinds of disability options, both public and private.
Keep Your Kids Safe from Non-traffic-related Automobile Accidents: Wise advice regarding such potential dangers as backovers in the driveway, power window dangers, uncontrolled vehicle rollaway, and heat-related incidents.
DUI and reckless driving could get you shot in California: Sheriff's Deputies Shoot Reckless DUI Driver at End of Pursuit in Cerritos

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yet another ridiculous post about the unemployed trying to make up the difference by filing for Social Security Disability. As hard as it is [very hard] and as long as it takes to get approved [anywhere from 6 months to 5 years], The real chances of anyone actually getting replacement income from Social Security is somewhere between slim and none. As lawyers handling Social Security claims in Knoxville and East Tennessee, our actual experience tells us that any such correlation is nonsense.
David Lee Roth explains the ban on brown M&Ms at Van Halen concerts:

Brown M&Ms from Van Halen on Vimeo.

They're just dumb musicians. Not.
Hey, we fooled 'em once, maybe we can fool 'em again: State Republicans seek to make it even harder to pursue a lawsuit.

Any time a lawyer takes a personal injury case on a contingency fee, that lawyer does a cost benefit analysis. Are the costs -- or is the gamble -- worth it in light of the possible benefit of a good outcome? By establishing limits last year on how much you can sue for -- no matter how bad the negligence or injury -- and by making it even more of a gamble to try a lawsuit in court [the so-called "loser pays" bill now being considered], Big Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Big Insurance are making the costs -- the gamble -- much higher. In this respect, the Republican-led Legislature and the Republican Governor are merely the tools of those pernicious Big Three.

What this is about is restricting peoples' access to the courts by making it too expensive and chancy for lawyers even to take your case. While we all snooze, our rights are being systematically taken from us. Even conservatives object to these brazen efforts to usurp the power of the judicial system.

If your state representative or senator is supporting this legislation, they are not representing your interests; they are instead in league with those Big Three named above who have the money and lobbying power to buy influence legislatures and judges. Call your representative/senator and make it clear to them that unless they represent you, then you'll be voting for anyone else come re-election time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Talk about massaging the data: Social Security Disability claims swelling in recession. Another unspported speculation that disability claims are increasing because people are using Social Security as a fallback when their unemployment ends.

Let me tell you why this is bunkum. I have been doing Social Security Disability and SSI work for almost 20 years. Never have I found it easy or routine to get disability approved. It is a multi-step, time-consuming process. The system is somewhat weighted against younger people -- i.e., in their prime working years -- which makes it even harder to get approved. Based on our experience, it is just completely fallacious to think that people can easily or routinely jump right into Social Security Disability if they're otherwise unemployed. It just doesn't work that way.

What makes me so sure? Just the time factor alone. Let's say you lost your job, and your unemployment is set to run out next month. It's not like you can just submit an application, be approved , and be in line for Social Security payments within a month or two. I just finished up a Social Security claim; it lasted five years. And my client was denied benefits.

Here's the other inconsistency about this trash talk. If you are on unemployment, you must certify that you are ready, willing and able to work. To apply for Social Security Disability, you must certify that you are unable to work. The two conditions, of course, are mutually exclusive.

To get Social Security Disability in Knoxville or anywhere else for that matter, you must actually have a disabling condition. I just do not believe that the Social Security administrative law judges would overlook that little detail to give charity to undeserving disability claimants. People who want to destroy the Social Security system can manipulate statistics all they want; we see what's happening on the ground, client by client, and year by year.

This type of editorial strikes me as more propaganda by those who have, aiming to -- again -- stick it to those who those who have not. Do not be fooled into believing that we need to make it harder to get what is already very difficult to obtain. If we let that happen, then we go from merely very difficult to essentially impossible (to get disability benefits). And believe me: it won't be USA Today's editors, or all these financially comfortable pundits who end up suffering when regular people find that one more government program that actually does some good has been ripped to shreds.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Cops: Dad was DUI when he came to pick son up for DUI. Like father, like son?

Friday, February 03, 2012

Big Boobs Blamed for Bad DUI Test Performance. Well, it has the virtue of being a creative argument, I suppose.
RIP Andrew Gold. I knew Andrew a little, and admired him enormously. He was an early online guy through AOL, sporting the username of "Q Brain." I had a brief email correspondence with him, and he was very kind to give some recording and equipment advice to a rank amateur [me]. I got to meet him a couple of times, when his band Bryndle playing in Knoxville in 1995 and in Nashville in 1996. He was funny, smart, and one hell of a musician.

I literally was stunned to learn -- by accident -- that he died last June from a heart attack, at age 59. Guitar Player Magazine, which I have taken to reading lately, apparently never said a word about Andrew's death. So I decided to reacho out to them. Here's the text of an email I just sent to Michael Molenda, Editor-In-Chief of Guitar Player:

Dear Mr. Molenda:

I have become a recent reader of Guitar Player, and am writing to you because I think there has been an injustice done.

I discovered by accident last night that Andrew Gold, a multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer, died at age 59 in June 2011. As you may know, Andrew had a profound effect on the shaping of the 1970s California country rock sound, which has affected almost all facets of pop, rock and country music today. As a sideman with Linda Ronstadt during her most popular years, Andrew to a large extent was her sound, for instance playing all the instruments on her hit cover of "Heat Wave," which I still consider to be the definitive performance of that song. As a solo artist Andrew scored a top hit with "Lonely Boy," and his "Thank You for Being a Friend" also was a big hit, as well as becoming iconic as the theme song to television's "The Golden Girls." His vocal performance of the theme song to television's "Mad About You" resulted in one of the most effective theme songs in that medium's recent history. While his instrumental versatility approached the genius level, his guitar playing alone was extraordinary and noteworthy, crossing genres effortlessly and creating unique amplifier settings and hardware configurations that have yet to be duplicated, so far as I know.

Where is his obituary in Guitar Player?

I went back and re-checked the June and July issues, but saw not one mention of his death. Perhaps I missed it, or maybe you reported on this sad passing in a later issue. If not, however, I urge you to prepare the appropriate tribute to this man. Anyone who came of age in the 1970s has likely heard and enjoyed his playing and singing. I strongly believe that recognition in Guitar Player of this loss is more than appropriate. It is required.

Thank you for your time in considering this email.

A sad loss. Very, very sad.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Continuing medical education for doctors on what they can do to properly document their patients' ailments relative to Social Security Disability claims. Continuing education for the rest of us on what our doctors ought to be doing, as well.
Defining Social Security Disability relative to a child's claim.
DUZ (Driving while Zamboni-ing)? Zamboni Driver Accused Of DUI. No, really, he, uh, couldn't keep his Zamboni in the right lane. Or something.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Misleading Headline: Rural communities have strongest reliance on disability benefits. Maybe so, but one reason for that is, as the article states, rural access to health care is limited, and poverty "begets bad health and greater rates of disability...."

A commenter also makes the very good point that the headline is "A classic case of confusing cause with effect. People on low fixed incomes tend to seek rural areas because of low costs of housing and living in general. Living in an urban setting requires far more income for everyday expenses such as food, shelter and transportation."

There seems to be this push to believe that people are applying for -- and getting -- Social Security Disability because the economy is bad and they are out of work. Wheile there are alsways some that attempt to game the system like this, our experience as Knoxville Social Security attorneys suggests very strongly that those undeserving claimants by and large are denied benefits. Unfortunately, the deserving people also are denied.

The average person does not realize how difficult and time-consuming it is to get approved for Social Security Disability. In at least 90% of the cases we see here in East Tennessee, you're looking at the initial application being denied, reconsideration being denied, and your best chance at an approval being at an in-person hearing before an administrative law judge. If denied there, you must appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council, and then to federal district court. And of course, the reward for perseverance leading to an approval is a relatively paltry amount of monthly benefits. Believe me when I say that most, if not all of our Social Security Disability clients would much rather work and make a living than go through the mind-numbing torture of a disability or SSI claim.

I just had a case conclude, that began in 2006. The client did not get a hearing until May 2009, almost three years after filing. He was denied by the ALJ five months later, despite that ALJ having all the evidence with which to make a decision right then and there at the hearing. The Appeals Council denied him in December 2009. We filed suit in federal court and submitted our brief in support of his position in October 2010. The federal court did not rule on this case until January 5, 2012, and denied the client his disability benefits. So, five and a half years after filing, and a year and three months after filing our brief, the client got the Social Security brand of justice. DENIED.

The next time you think that it's a snap to get Social Security Disability benefits, think again.
Huh? Personal Injury Lawyers Pounce on Cruise Ship Disaster: I know Mitch Proner; he went to college with my wife. My question is, how does a New York lawyer inject himself into a pretty clearly Italian case:

Legal experts said the plaintiffs will face high hurdles in keeping a lawsuit in a U.S. court. They point to clauses in Costa passenger tickets requiring that claims involving cruises that don’t touch a U.S. port be brought in Genoa, Italy, where the owner of the Concordia is based. Clauses specifying venue for lawsuits are widely used in the cruise-ship industry — and typically require that cases be brought near the jurisdiction where the cruise line is based. U.S. courts have often upheld those clauses. But Proner and Bern say they will argue that this case is so egregious that those provisions should not apply.

Well, I guess it's a creative argument that the contract should not apply because negligence or harm was "egregious," but let's say that it's a long shot argument, at best. I suppose one could make claim against Carnival in Florida, which is what one set of lawyers has done. But there seem to be contractual limitations on where claims can be filed for injury or breach of contract as a result of the shipboard experience. If so, I suggest that what we are seeing is a grandstanding PR campaign by these lawyers.

Frankly, I never once thought that I had any business trying to attract victims of this tragedy. Now maybe I would have if the ship had sunk off the coast of [landlocked] Tennessee, but, uh, that's not likely to happen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In the "best defense is a good offense" department: A man who had pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter stemming from a crash near Tampa, Fla., on Christmas Day 2007 now denies causing the crash that killed three of the four people in the vehicle he hit, and has sued the estate of the person whose death he admitted causing.

Now, when you talk about frivolous lawsuits, here's an example. By pleading guilty to a criminal offense, he essentially is admitting civil liability for the same incident. It's a bit difficult (uh, impossible) to overcome his own admission in the criminal case.

His lawyer, who is also his sister, filed the lawsuit. I wonder if she has any experience in personal injury claims or litigation, because it sounds like a real boneheaded move to me.
Man with a death wish? "A man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence Thursday over allegations he shut down San Francisco's subway system for more than two hours after driving his SUV onto the underground tracks...."

Even more seriously, he was charged with failure to obey a traffic sign. Oooh.
Some of the ways our federal government has supported the middle class.
After 16 -- yes, 16 -- years, IRS issues final regs on exclusion of damages for personal physical injury. This is not very world-shaking, but it is noteworthy that monetary recovery only relative to physical injury or physical sickness is excluded from income. In other words, if you have a recovery based on emotional distress, then the IRS regs require you to report that as income. On the other hand, "The regulations also permit the exclusion of damages for emotional distress, to the extent the emotional distress is attributable to a physical injury or physical sickness, and also permit the exclusion of damages that do not exceed the amount paid for medical care for emotional distress."

It's unfortunate that in our supposedly enlightened world, there is still a distinction drawn between bodily injury and the just as legitimate emotional or psychological injury.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Along with terrible human tragedy, a heart-warming canine rescue story.

Here's a story on the facts of the incident.
Injured in a car wreck? In Florida, if the Republicans have their way, you will HAVE to go to the ER and not your family doctor. And, if you don't go within 72 hours, your personal injury protection insurance (no fault) claim will be denied.

At first blush, this looks like just another stupid idea by politicos who obviously need to get a life. But consider. How many of us would just not go to an understaffed, overcrowded ER, regardless of how we felt? Or, how many of us would wait a few days to see if we had any real accident-related injuries before seeking medical treatment. Perhaps, those Repubs are just trying to winnow down the number of claimants who could legitimately make a claim. Devious, and heartless. And certainly not in the best interest of the constituents the claim to represent.

Shameful.
Life Care's Colonial Hills Nursing Home in Maryville loses certification: Multiple -- multiple -- violations, including sexual molestation, medication errors, and others led to this action which in essence closes the facility and forces the evacuation of the residents.

Unfortunately, when it comes to nursing homes, these types of incidents are all too common.