Articles Posted in General

The Department of Transportation recently released a study showing that teens arent wearing their safety belts when they arent supervised.

Predictably, the number of teens involved in fatal accidents who arent wearing their seat belts is alarmingly high.

Follow the link for more information, and take the time to make it clear to your teenage driver that wearing a seat belt is not optional.

Anyone who is interested in a good and thorough explanation of what “tort reform” is should follow the link below.

http://www.corpreform.com/corpreform/2003/10/what_is_tort_re.html

Have you ever noticed that those who say the legal system is “broken” or moan about “activist judges” are always the ones who are losing court cases?

Did you know that the taxi you get into every day in the District of Columbia has less insurance than any other car on the road? Its true. Our firm represents many taxicab drivers who have been injured on the road by the negligence of other motorists. Unfortunately, taxicabs cannot carry the basic insurance coverages necessary to protect their occupants from financial harm.

Somehow, years ago, the D.C. Government allowed a loophole to let taxicabs carry substantially less insurance than any other car on the road.

Every private car in that drives in the District of Columbia must carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance for each person, $50,000 in coverage per accident. That liability insurance must also cover accidents caused by uninsured motorists. In D.C., forty percent of the vehicles on the road do not have insurance! Because of that, the D.C. Law requires each vehicle to carry uninsured motorist coverages. (see our Frequently Asked Question about Uninsured Motorist Coverages.)

The American Association of Justice just released a list of the ten worst insurance companies, and Allstate made the top of the list.

In order to be rated, you have to wholeheartedly embrace a philosophy called “Deny, Delay and Defend,” which basically involves doing anything necessary to avoid paying claims.

Here is the list:

As a college student, I was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at Northeast Missouri State University. Our chapter, at the time I joined was new, small and struggling. We did had an idea: What if we did the fraternity-thing differently? We changed how a fraternity worked. We never hazed our new members, we focused on academics, and pushed our members to be active on campus, campus government, campus media, athletics, etc. We got rid of fraternity provided alcohol. What happened to our chapter? It grew three-fold. We had the highest organization GPA for three years. Our members were the president of the student activities bureau, the editor of the school newspaper, the dj’s on the school radio — and the football team place-kicker. Why did I choose this topic to write about this week? Because I read another tragic story about a life lost at a fraternity house attributed to alcohol abuse and hazing. This under-21 student, at his social fraternity house, drank entirely too much alcohol and died. I wish there was a more heroic element to this story, but there isn’t. This wasn’t an accident. The “game” is to get the pledges as drunk as possible as fast as possible. Hazing deaths, to me, are very tragic. Pledges want to fit in, upperclassmen want to entertain themselves, alcohol and drugs are being experimented with, and someone dies. The “someone” is always someone’s child, someone’s best friend, someone’s brother or sister. The “someone” is always a bright, ambitious college student — one of America’s future leaders. In college, I tried to change the hazing/fraternity system from the inside. Working with the administration of my college, I worked to get “keg parties” banned so that fraternities were not providing alcohol to underage kids. I worked to abolish fraternity “little sister” organizations, which history and experience has shown leads to more alcohol problems and sexual abuse. Now, I am a trial lawyer. Now I try to change the system another way. Those responsible for these tragic deaths will be held to account for their wrong doing. What hazing deaths are now treated as manslaughter. Good. It should. Forcing a kid to drink until he passes out and then “sleeps it off” in the trunk of a car causing his death is murder. The corporate organizations that employ hundreds of people have an interest in keeping the “alumni” donating money. These organization profess to limit alcohol in their chapters, but are shocked to learn that drinking occurrs at fraternity parties. I will continue to pursue those responsible for hazing deaths and serious injuries to account for their actions. It is possible to live up to fraternal ideals. These organizations simply need to be encouraged to do so.

WRONGLY BLAMES JURIES FOR EXCESSIVE AWARDS Here we go again, another misled op-ed columnist needs to fill column inches and goes for the easy out — criticizing the legal system. The editorial staff at the D.C. Examiner takes the odd event – a large jury award – to say “the system is broken” and then go on to advocate the “corporate interest line” that the best way to fix things are to limit your rights. The editors seem to think it is wrong that a person can collect for damages caused by corporate malfeasance when they were not wearing their seat belts, whether or not a seat belt would have saved a person’s life. The law in many places states that not wearing your seat-belt is not negligence. Perhaps not a good idea, but not negligence. So, instead of advocating for a change in the law to inform jurors of when a person is wearing a seat belt (or not), they want to limit your ability to pay for your damages. Do you see the difference? Instead of saying, “the solution to the problem is to give jurys more information” the corporate world says, “limit the jury’s ability to do its job of finding damages.” This is a BIG difference, and states their priorities. For the cases they cite, the decedents were all young heads of household. Who is going to pay for the losses to those families. If the corporate wrong-doer does not pay, who does? The victim pays, but so do taxpayers in the form of welfare, healthcare costs, and so on. Why do corporate wrong-doers deserve such a tax subsidy? Because they pay lobbyists to bribe your congressmen or bully editors at local newspapers to write these obnoxious, ill-informed essays. The same people who fight tooth-and-nail to execute criminals as fast as possible, and trust juries to set that punishment, complain that juries are not capable of making a rational decision after hearing evidence of the impact a death or seriously disabling injury can have on a family. Those same people don’t trust a jury to decide how much a person’s life is worth, and how much it will cost to replace that life. Those same people also forget that the law provides for a mechanism to reduce damage awards that are excessive. I guess the judge on the case is also incapable of making an informed decision? Who is? The editors at the Examiner?

In a recent web-news article, criticism has been leveled against D.C. Superior Court’s new electronic case management system. Our firm uses technology to manage its cases, and we believe that everyone, including the Courts, should as well.

Our site has links to the electronic case mananagement systems we frequently are required to use. My experience as a litigator is that these electronic case management systems are excellent. While learning anything new can be a little frustrating, the ability to electronically file documents with the court, as well as check the date and time of the filing, is very helpful.

Electronic filing simply requires an attorney, rather than photocopy and mail or deliver a document to the court, to scan a document and upload that document to the court. This saves a tremendous amount of time and money. No more paper copies, no more postage, no more courier fees, and no more waiting in line at the clerk’s office.

It appears that Congress, in its paternalistic view, now has an opinion as to how the District of Columbia should handle its taxi cabs. According to NBC 4, Congress has passed a law that will require metered taxi cabs, and abolition of the zone system, within one year. Lewis & Tompkins, PC has long represented taxi drivers both in personal injury matters and before the D.C. City Council on matters relating to taxi cab business and insurance. While we do not have a strong opinion on whether taxis should have meters or use the zone system. What concerns us is the very vibrant, dynamic and entrepreneural spirit that makes D.C. taxi drivers unique in America. Most taxi drivers are independent owner/operators. Most taxi drivers are self employed. Many taxi drivers work other jobs and supplement their income by hacking. We worry that making meters required will drive many of these part-time or self-employed drivers out of work. Meters are expensive, and expensive to maintain. Most part time drivers can not afford a large capital expense to install a meter. We also worry that meters may lead to the consolidation of all taxi cabs into large, undemocratic corporations to the detriment of the taxi drivers. It would be a shame to make a unique and exciting part of the city just another part of corporate America, making self-employed entrepreneurs just another wage-slave. We also resent the attitude of Congress when it imposes these very imposing their federal priorities on what is a very local issue. The D.C. Council has been looking at issues relating to taxi cabs more often, and have heard from their consitiuents, something Congress refuses to do on this issue. There were no committee hearings on how this “attachment” to an appropriations bill would affect our independent operator cab drivers in the District. Frankly, Congress does not care. Congressional representatives are all commuters, not residents who must live with the consequences of this type of legislation.

A study by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the majority of medical malpractice claims were closed without payment to those claiming injuries. The study assessed claims from seven states identified as having comprehensive medical malpractice insurance claims databases. In the states of ME, MO and NV, only one-third of the malpractice claims closed resulted in a payout. You can read the article in the Insurance Journal here: http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2007/03/26/78097.htm As always, doctors want to cry that paying malpractice claims are driving them “out of state” or out of business. Yet, the Insurance Industry, and George W. Bush’s Justice Department (now featuring only crony Attorney Generals) have found the facts don’t back up their insurance industry propoganda. Remember these facts when politicians want to take away your rights, even if you don’t think you will need them. The so-called crisis is false. Doctors and insurance companies are making more money than EVER. Don’t give up your rights just to make them more rich and you less free.

In 2006, the D.C. Council passed legislation making it a crime for anyone to solicit business for lawyers or medical providers. This bill was aimed at so-called “runners” who would call or visit car accident victims, medical malpractice victims, or other other negligence victims and market for attorneys. These runners were paid to refer cases to lawyers. The entire system was a little seedy. The City Council heard testimony that some runners were very aggressive and engage in really questionable conduct. The DC Dept of Insurance is now actively investigating lawyers who are contacting by phone or in person, people who have recently been in accidents. Several specific complaints are currently under active investigation. And they are looking for more cases to bring, which will be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution. If you have been called by a runner, you can report the behavior to the D.C. Government here:http://www.disb.dc.gov/disr/cwp/view,a,1299,q,632362.asp. I have my issues with this legislation. First, the D.C. Bar is a branch of the D.C. Judiciary, and is governed by the D.C. Court of Appeals. Last year, the D.C. Court of Appeals amended the Rules of Professional Conduct to punish the lawyers that use runners. As a self regulating profession, I believe this is the way to handle things. The D.C. Home Rule Act does not allow the D.C. Council to manipulate or regulate how the Courts or Attorneys govern themselves professionally. Second, I don’t like runners. They are scum. They use really nasty tactics to get clients, like bad-mouthing other lawyers (slander, really), making false promises regarding the merits of cases, and just about anything to get the prospective client to sign with the “runner’s lawyer.” Most of these runners would like to think of themselves as attorneys, but they give incorrect legal advice frequently. These runners are not regulated in any way. The way to handle this is to cut off the ability for lawyers to pay for referrals, which is exactly what the D.C. Court of Appeals did. Lastly, the proponents of this bill are two — the insurance industry, who cried to the D.C. Council that they have to pay claims; and the big money, big advertising firms, who spend a fortune to have ads on cable TV during the day and placards on the tops of taxicabs in D.C. This is simply an anti-competitive issue for these groups, and the D.C. Council took their money and did their bidding. So, for now, report all runners that call, and let’s see if we can put an end to this practice.