Medical Errors are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. Trailing Only Cancer and Heart Disease

If you were put on the spot, and asked what the top three leading causes of death were in the U.S., what would you say?  Cancer, right?  Check.  Every single person on this planet has been touched or affected by cancer.  I can name multiple family members and even close friends who have succumbed to this horrible, awful disease.  Heart disease?  Check.  Much like cancer, heart disease has affected untold people.  Our eating habits, lack of exercise, and culture undoubtedly play a huge role, but regardless of the cause, we all are way too familiar with heart disease.

But number three?  Hmm.  Toxin exposure?  Drunk drivers?  Nope and nope.  Medical errors.  A recent study performed at Johns Hopkins found that there are upwards of 251,454 deaths in the United States EACH YEAR as a result of medical errors.  That is a group of people greater than the population of Little Rock killed by medical errors.  EACH YEAR.  And the researchers feel that this number is on the very low end of statistical data, given that a large number of errors go unreported.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found in 2008 there were 195,000 deaths by medical error among Medicare patients alone.  These include the elderly and disabled, those that we value and want to protect the most.  The Johns Hopkins researches urge modification and reform in the way deaths are recorded and reported by requiring all death certificates to have a space to mark that the death was a result of a medical error.  It is the researchers' belief that such a change would lead to a staggering number of medical error deaths that they hope would eventually lead to widespread reform in medical care.  

An article from CNN is linked below.  Please read it and all information to educate yourself about the dangers of medical errors.  You and your loved ones could be affected or killed.  As you read, ask yourself "How many deaths due to medical errors is an acceptable amount?"  And then ask "How many deaths of MY family members is an acceptable amount?" These situations are more widespread than many would like to admit, even to themselves.  


Please, Please, Please Do Not Disclaim Medpay, Underinsured, and Uninsured Coverage

Often, when I meet with clients, it is days or weeks after the worst days (or one of them) of their life.  Either they or a loved one has been in a horrible accident, and they need lots of medical care.  Or they are injured due to someone else's negligence, but quickly learn that the person that hit them only has the statutory minimum insurance coverage of $25,000 per person, and they are faced with bills 5 times that amount.  Or even worse yet, they are hit by someone with no insurance coverage at all.  

Sometimes when faced with these situations, and I ask "What kind of insurance coverage do you have?" I am met with blank stares because they don't know.  This is entirely common.  Most folks buy insurance because they are legally required to, and never give it a second thought.  This is an easily solvable problem.  The real tragedy occurs when I locate their declarations page and discover they have disclaimed med pay (PIP) coverage, Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage, or Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage.  This decision saved them a few bucks every six months when they purchased their policy, which sounded like a great deal.  Little did they know that they might need that coverage in case the worst happened.  When someone injures you, and you need additional insurance coverage to help pay for medical care or lost wages, those few bucks seem wholly insignificant.

I try to educate my clients one at a time of the value of purchasing the most med pay, UIM, and UM coverage they can afford.  As you might guess, I am insured out the wazoo, and my med pay, UIM, and UM coverage is about $40 every 6 months.  So don't skimp.  Don't try to save what is the equivalent of a pizza dinner for your family.  Spend the money and get as much med pay, UIM, and UM coverage as you can afford.  You only need it when you need it, and old Benjamin Franklin is right in this regard.  An ounce of prevention is worth (MUCH MORE) than a pound of cure.  #arlx


Jesse Gibson Speaking at Upcoming CLE in Fayetteville, Arkansas on November 13, 2015!

See this guy speak about case selection at the ATLA Trial Strategies in the Ozarks CLE at the Chancellor Hotel in Fayetteville, Arkansas on November 13, 2015.



Just a friendly heads up about a very cool CLE event that is happening up in Northwest Arkansas in a few weeks on November 13th.  This is a hell of a CLE event at a reasonable price and for you Northwest Arkansas folks, it’s right in your backyard at the Chancellor Hotel right off the square in Fayetteville.  


Also, and perhaps most important, this gives young lawyers the nuts and bolts, meat and taters guideline about how to intake and screen a case and how to work it up.  For young lawyers and those starting out in solo practice, this CLE will affect your bottom line and help you to learn how to turn your law degree into an income stream.  I know it can be daunting as a young lawyer when a guy comes in with a broken arm or a sore neck, and you are unsure of what to do or how to proceed.  Here is a list of things you WILL learn how to do at this CLE:


1.    How to objectively look at a case and decide whether or not it’s a case you can and/or should take.

2.    How to take a treating doctor’s deposition and present his or her testimony.

3.    How to effectively mediate a case.  

4.    How to persuasively voir, dire, open, and close standing before a jury.  


When you are trying to develop your personal injury practice, these issues often come up and it can be uncomfortable to ask for assistance.  You can get all of your questions answered at this CLE!  In addition, you will hear from a federal judge, the Honorable Tim Brooks, and hear his observations from the bench.  Here is a registration link.  I think this will be a very good CLE at a great price.  Please register today, or better yet, sign up for your season ticket!    

Carroll County Wrongful Death Lawsuit May Be Headed to Supreme Court

Gibson Law Firm recently defeated a motion for summary judgment, filed by the Arkansas Municipal League on behalf of the City of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in a wrongful death lawsuit pending in Carroll County Circuit Court.  The case involves the Estate of Laura Wooldridge, who died as a result of medical negligence committed by multiple parties, including employees of the City of Eureka Springs and Air Evac EMS, Inc.  The City of Eureka Springs has a liability insurance policy, which under established Arkansas law would foreclose any claim of governmental immunity it may have.  However, the mayor and city council members alleged and swore under oath in the city's motion that they had no knowledge of the existence of the policy and that former fire chief Rhys Williams obtained the policy without their knowledge or authorization.  As such, they claimed that the policy should be voided and the city dismissed based on immunity.  To make a long story short, the city attempted to back out of its own coverage in an attempt to be dismissed from a lawsuit.  Who would be harmed by such an act?  The innocent victim, who would have no recourse against the city.

Luckily, the city's assertion was quickly proven to be false.  The policy had been in place for almost 20 years and had been renewed through at least three insurance companies.  In addition, four fire chiefs and multiple mayors had renewed the policy and paid for it.  Who had signed the checks renewing the policy for the past several years?  Mayor Morris Pate, who had previously sworn, under oath and penalty of perjury, that he knew nothing about its existence.  Discovery in this matter should be interesting, to say the least.

Based upon the foregoing, the court properly denied the motion for summary judgment.  This tragic and horrible case has been reported on by the Lovely County Citizen, the local newspaper in Eureka Springs.  Please read page 5 of the attached link.

The City all but threatens to tie the case up in appeals for years instead of allowing a Carroll County jury to hear the case and render a verdict.  It does not even appear to deny its share of liability.  This appears to be more what has become an all too common refrain of "deny, delay, defend" instead of a admission of a wrong that resulted in the ultimate loss.  Laura should be here today, sending her children off to their first day of school.  Instead, her children have no mother to wave goodbye to, and a hole has been placed in her family's heart forever.  

Gibson Law Firm is committed to pursuing wrongdoers and will ultimately obtain justice in this case.  Regardless of how long it takes, or whether the defendants attempt to delay through years of appeals, Gibson Law Firm will remain steadfast in seeking justice for all of those harmed by such a careless act.   

Arkansas Workers, Your Legislators Are Trying to Give Your Benefits Away

Arkansas' 90th General Assembly is committed to injuring working Arkansans in every possible way.  I recently blogged about HB 1907, which would abolish the "made whole" doctrine and force injured Arkansans to become indentured servants to their insurance company for the sole reason that they were an innocent victim of someone else's negligence.  I recently blogged about HB 1907 and its awful results for Arkansans. 

But the damage to Arkansans does not stop there.  Representatives Matthew Shepherd and Jeremy Gillam, as well as Senators John Cooper, Jonathan Dismang, and David Sanders have filed HB 1768.  This is another horrible bill that places the interests of insurance companies that write workers comp insurance above those of injured Arkansans.  

Now, what does this bill propose to do?  We are all familiar with workers compensation laws, right?  If you are injured on the job, your employer is required by law to provide workers compensation benefits via workers comp insurance.  In return for the requirement of providing this coverage to employees, employees give up all rights to sue their employers for negligence.  Workers compensation is the employees' sole remedy.  Workers compensation is not perfect, and it does not provide full compensation for injuries suffered.  However, it is also no fault and provides medical insurance and some small measure of wage loss (often only a percentage and only for a short amount of time) for individuals who suffer workplace injuries.  

However, there are some situations where a worker's injury may be the result of a third party's negligence instead of a workplace hazard.  For example, lets say a worker is driving a company vehicle doing company work and is hit by a drunk driver.  Those actions were still within the "course and scope of employment," and workers' compensation will pay for the medical care.  However, the worker may still have a negligence case against the drunk driver.  Under existing law, the "made whole" doctrine applies.  The made whole doctrine provides that unless and until the injured party is made whole from his injuries (pain and suffering, permanence, lost wages, etc) then and only then does the workers comp carrier have a right of "subrogation."  Subrogation is when an insurance company, despite being paid premiums on the front end, double dips into any settlement or verdict to get repaid for the benefits it paid.  It gets paid on the front end in premiums and on the back end by getting into its own insured's pocket.  

This was the law in Arkansas for years and years.  But this bill seeks to abolish made whole in the workers comp context and provide that the first person who gets paid out of any third party verdict or settlement is not the worker who was injured through no fault of his own, but instead the workers comp carrier.  Oftentimes, an individual may be permanently injured or disabled, but under this bill, that is not important.  HB 1768 wants to make sure that the comp carrier gets a windfall.  

Why is this bad?  Several reasons:

1.  Injured or disabled workers are made indentured servants to their insurance companies under this bill.  If they pursue a case against a third party tortfeasor, they are doing so only so the insurance company can come take it.  This bill would deprive these injured workers from any form of complete recovery. 

2.  This bill will likely force individuals onto government programs that the taxpayers will pay for.  If someone is disabled and no longer able to work due to a workplace injury, a third party settlement or verdict will assist them in obtaining suitable medical care they need.  If HB 1768 passes, disabled workers will often have nowhere to turn than Medicare or Medicaid.  These programs are funded by us, the taxpayers.  This bill would give money away to multi-billion dollar insurance companies and let the taxpayers pay for the medical care these workers need.  This is the definition of big government.  

3.  This bill puts profits over people.  It values the insurance company's bottom line over the workers that are out there sweating and toiling to put food on the table.  This bill sends a clear message that those workers are less valuable and less important than a nameless, faceless, heartless insurance company.  

4.  Insurance companies are allowed to double dip.  They make a net PROFIT when their insureds get hurt.  How?  They get all the premiums up front and then they force the workers to go out and get their money back on the back end.  Do they refund the premiums if they get subrogation?  Of course not!

This is another horrible bill that is currently before the Arkansas Public Health Committee.  This is bad policy.  This is a bad bill.  It hurts working people.  Please contact your legislators and tell them to vote NO on HB 1768.

Recent Victories at the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Southern Farm Bureau v. Parsons.

Gibson Law Firm, PLLC was recently victorious for a client before the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.  The firm represented a man named Stuart Parsons in a suit for Uninsured Motorist Benefits owed to him by his own insurance company, Southern Farm Bureau Insurance Company.  Mr. Parson was seriously injured while riding his motorcycle by a man with no car insurance.  Mr. Parsons made a claim for his policy limits of $50,000.00, which was far less than his medical expenses.  Instead of honoring the insurance contract, Southern Farm Bureau interpled the money in Pulaski County Circuit Court and gave notice to medical providers to make a claim for the money.  In effect, the insurance company threw its own insured's money into a trough and invited the hogs to come and be slopped.

We sought to dismiss the interpleader, and argued for the court to honor the insurance contract and immediately award all of the policy proceeds to Mr. Parsons.  The court agreed and held that Southern Farm Bureau should have instead looked out for the well-being of its insured and immediately paid Mr. Parsons his money.  Mr. Parsons was awarded summary judgment against Southern Farm Bureau, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney's fees, and 12% penalty.  During the pendency of the case, Southern Farm Bureau sought a writ of prohibition from the Arkansas Supreme Court and was denied.  Ultimately, once a final judgment was entered, Southern Farm Bureau appealed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. Parsons and affirmed the trial court's rulings.  Southern Farm Bureau should have paid Mr. Parsons his insurance proceeds instead of trying to pay them out to medical providers who had not taken any steps to protect their own rights or interests.  The court ultimately ordered all proceeds payable immediately to Parsons and awarded Gibson Law Firm, PLLC its full statutory attorney's fees and costs.

Here at Gibson Law Firm, we are well versed in ways to make insurance companies keep their promises.  If you are experiencing problems with your insurance company, or if your carrier will not keep their promises, call us today.  Southern Farm Bureau turned a $50,000.00 policy into nearly twice that.  Call today if you need help in making your insurance company follow the law and keep its promises.