our plane
Michaels & Smolak’s new publicity campaign is taking off!  Starting today, April 1, 2016, many commercial airlines around the country — and beyond — will feature the Michaels & Smolak personal injury law firm name and tagline, as shown in the photo above.

Not everyone is excited about the new ads.  One passenger interviewed as she was boarding a Michaels & Smolak plane was quoted as saying, “while I realize Michaels & Smolak is one of the top personal injury law firms in the nation, their logo on this plane with the tagline ‘for serious cases‘ makes me a little uneasy about boarding to say the least”.

Most airlines nevertheless jumped on board the innovative campaign.

Doctor's writing a prescription with a pen.
In a few days — March 27 — New York will become only the second State (after Minnesota) to ban handwritten drug prescriptions and instead require e-prescriptions.  And unlike the Minnesota law, the New York one has real teeth: Docs who use a paper and pen to prescribe drugs instead of a computer will face serious fines and even possible jail time. In other words, if they use a pen they may end up in the “pen”.

Why this law?  Why now? Two reasons:  (1) To avoid drug abuse through fraudulent prescriptions and (2) to avoid prescription errors due to physicians’ infamously illegible handwriting.

As for number 1 (fraud), opioid abuse is rampant these days.  And handwritten prescriptions are a recipe for opioid abuse.  Drug abusers are able to alter handwritten prescriptions to increase the quantity or dosage stated. But with e-prescriptions they won’t even touch the prescription.  The e-prescription goes directly from the physician’s computer to the pharmacist’s, by-passing the patient completely.

index$55 Million. That’s a lot of money. I can’t claim to have ever gotten a verdict that big. Not even close. Almost no one has.

What is more stunning is that the verdict was purely for emotional, not physical harm. No amputated arm or leg. No paralysis. No scars. She is still beautiful. She still has a stunningly successful career as a sports broadcaster for Fox.

Yes, I am blogging about the Erin Andrews verdict.

doctor badMedical Malpractice is rampant. You’ve probably been hearing about it in the news. It is now the third leading cause of death (after heart disease and cancer) in America. But, readers, we bear good news: Although you can’t avoid all malpractice, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the likelihood that you or your loved ones will be victims:

  1. Buddy up. Always bring a trusted friend or family member with you to a hospital surgery. Having someone act as your advocate throughout your stay is crucial, especially if you will be medicated or anesthetized. Sign any legal paperwork needed so your “advocate” has permission to know the details of your treatment and to discuss it with your doctors and nurses.
  2. Let’m Know. Make sure your healthcare professionals have your correct health information, including pre-existing conditions and allergies. Never assume they already know.

ladywithdollarbillI just read an article in the New York Times about a woman charged with stealing her 11-year-old daughter’s medical malpractice settlement to pay for liposuction, a “tummy tuck” procedure, online shopping, plane tickets, restaurant bills – you name it. She was using her child’s settlement money like her own private piggy bank!

The settlement was for medical malpractice that had left the child with severe, lifelong limitations in the use of her right arm.  The settlement was “structured” so that the victim would get payments every five years or so starting at age 18. She’ll need the money because of her severe income limitations! (We at Michaels & Smolak have set up countless structured settlements like this one for injured children.)

But some $67,000 of the money was placed in a judicially protected savings account. Such a court-approved account is set up for the child to access – with accrued interest — when she turns 18. A parent can withdraw money from the account on behalf of the child before the child turns 18, but only for important educational or medical needs of a child, and only with a court order. To access the money on behalf of her child, a parent would normally seek the judge’s approval, and then present a signed court order to the bank to make whatever withdrawals the judge has approved. (We at Michaels & Smolak have also set up countless court-protected bank accounts like this one for injured children).

thSeal of the State of New York

Here is a letter I recently wrote to a client who suffered a serious injury caused by the negligence of the State of New York.  I’ll call my client “Joe”, though that’s not his real name:

Dear Joe:

NYCMGEICOPROGRESSIVEAs a New York car accident lawyer, I have been on the other side of car insurance adjusters for decades now.  So I know the score.  I know our respective jobs.  They are supposed to try to pay a little as possible to save their employer money.  I am supposed to get as much for my injured client as possible.  I get that.

But what I don’t get is why a few of the auto insurance carriers — not all — seem to believe that offering my client an unreasonably small amount of money to settle actually saves their employer money.  Most of them understand that, if they offer me something on the short side of reasonable, but still within the range of reasonable, my client will probably take it to avoid having to go through protracted litigation and a stressful trial.  This saves the insurance carrier money because they don’t have to pay a lawyer to defend a lawsuit and because they don’t have to risk a big verdict at trial.

But a few “bad” car insurance companies don’t get that. Instead, they feel that unless they make my client settle for  1/2 or even 1/3 the value of the case, they have not done their job.  That just makes me sue them, and then they have to pay their lawyer to defend the case, and on top of that they have to pay my client the reasonable verdict the jury will likely give my client and which they should have offered me to begin with!  So they end up making their employer pay more, not less.

jury verdictHere at Michaels & Smolak, on any given day, you are likely to find, on our attorneys’ desks, piles of dog-eared, highlighted, and marked-up volumes of the New York Jury Verdict Reporter. The Reporter summarizes jury verdicts on a weekly basis from around New York State. (Actually, this publication is now called “VerdictSearch“, but old-timers like me, and most New York personal injury lawyers, still call it the “Jury Verdict Reporter“.)

Why do we read it?  To help us represent YOU in YOUR CASE.  True, every case is different, including yours, so the New York Jury Verdict Reporter provides only limited guidance.  Every case, including yours, has a unique set of facts, lawyers, and jury members. All of these variables can and do affect the result of a case. Therefore, in one sense, the result of a single case reported in the Jury Verdict Reporter literally tells us nothing about how your case will end up.

But if you keep reading the jury verdict reports week after week, as we do, certain patterns emerge that are very helpful to both predicting the result of, and guiding our handling of, your case. Here are five main lessons that come out of the jury verdict reporter:

mountain-of-trashI was sad to learn of the accidental death of a Seneca Meadows employee last Saturday. Seneca Meadows is a local (Seneca Falls and Waterloo, Seneca County, NY) landfill which (controversially) takes in tons of trash from all over the Northeast.  It is a huge operation involving many machines and vehicles.  This is not the first fatality there.

The victim, employed by Seneca Meadows, was operating a “tipper machine” when he was struck by a tractor trailer being backed up to unload garbage onto the tipper machine. The driver of the tractor trailer was not employed by Seneca Meadows, but rather by another company, which is good news for the victim’s family.

Why is that good news?  Because the family — unlike the families of most on-the-job wrongful death victims — has a good chance of getting fairly compensated. Most victims of on-the-job injuries are not fairly compensated because their only resort is workers’ compensation, which offers only an embarrassingly small sum of money for the loss of a father, husband, and breadwinner.

doctor badYour Central New York medical malpractice lawyers, Michaels & Smolak, have a quiz for you: What percent of doctors do you think end up paying 32% of all medical malpractice claims? In other words, what percent of doctors are so bad, so careless, so negligent, that they account for nearly 1/3 of all medical malpractice payments to patients? Do you think it might be 20%? 10%?

Wrong. One percent! That’s right, 1% of docs end up paying 32% of med mal claims. That’s because they are TERRIBLE doctors. That means that if the American Medical Association and medical malpractice insurance companies (“the medical establishment”) would be so kind as to boot out only one in one hundred doctors, medical malpractice payments would go down by 1/3. Insurance companies would save millions of dollars. The medical malpractice premiums the remaining doctors pay would conceivably be reduced by 1/3.

And get this: Ninety-four percent of all doctors have no medical malpractice claims brought against them. None! So conceivably if the medical establishment would weed out the “bad” six percent, medical malpractice claims would cease to exist.