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9 posts from February 2008

February 23, 2008

Dog Bites: Physical and Emotional Devastation

Dog Being bitten or attacked by a dog can prove to be one of the most devastating experiences of a person's life. You may find that, after being bitten, the love that you once had for dogs suddenly turns to fear and mistrust. The emotional and physical scarring that result from a dog bite oftentimes requires extensive medical treatment, scar removal or reduction and psychological counseling to restore you to the person that you were before this unsettling event.

There are nearly 5 million Americans that are bitten each year by dogs with almost one million causing injuries which require medical attention.

In California, if you are the victim of a dog bite or attack, you are entitled to compensation for your hospital and medical expenses (past, present and future), loss of earnings (past, present and future) and the pain, suffering, fear, embarrassment and humiliation that you may have experienced as a result of this unfortunate and often life-altering experience. It is our job, as your attorney, to find the responsible party or parties and seek out the available insurance coverage which is available to compensate you. It is not uncommon for a dog owner to deny insurance coverage for the devastation that his or her dog has inflicted upon you. It is also not uncommon for that denial of insurance coverage to be false for a variety of reasons.

It is our experience at the Law Offices of Lowell Steiger that many dog owners initially deny (1) that their dog even bit or attacked the person and/or (2) that they have an insurance policy that covers the event. However, aggressive representation of clients in such situations uncovers the truth and affords you the justice to which you are entitled.

In California, there are special laws that protect the victims of dog bite attacks. Contrary to popular belief, there is no "one free bite" doctrine in California. In particular, California Civil Code §3342(a) states

The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner' s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.

The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

February 18, 2008

Case of the Dangerously Icy Sidewalk: Broken Ankle, Six Figure Settlement

Ankle_fracture Miss May T., a then 17 year old girl, slipped on black ice outside of a convenience store and suffered an excruciatingly painful bimalleolar fracture of her right ankle.  Her injuries were so severe that massive swelling ensued and the doctors were unable to operate on her ankle for over a week!  While May writhed in unspeakable pain and doctors were unable to do anything more than give her pain pills (which she was reluctant to take), the insurance carrier for the convenience store denied liability!

A massive liability dispute arose.  I hired a meteorologist, a slip and fall expert and a private investigator to get sworn statements from the convenience store's own employees.  The sum and substance of the case is as follows:

My meteorologist advised me that weather reports attested to the fact that it had been snowing during the evening and entire night of the evening prior to the incident, possibly extending into the early morning hours of the morning of the actual incident, with the existence of sub-freezing temperatures during the night and early morning hours. The day of the accident presented mostly sunny conditions throughout the daytime hours. The incident occurred at approximately 9:00pm at which time there was an accumulation of ice from the previous night’s weather conditions which could, and should, have been treated, melted and cleared.

Private_eye My private investigator obtained sworn statements from store employees which substantiated the fact that, throughout the day, customers complained of the icy conditions on the sidewalk outside of the subject convenience store. Those statements provided testimony that the assistant store manager, Vickie, was advised a multitude of times of the customer complaints but failed to remedy the dangerous condition. Vickie repeatedly told employees that customers "just needed to be careful." Vickie further told the convenience store employees that the store had no rock salt with which to remedy the situation in its possession. However, subsequent to May’s fall, and then upon further investigation, the convenience store employees discovered that rock salt did, in fact, exist in the the convenience store storeroom. At that point, the rock salt was utilized to de-ice the subject sidewalk and thereby remedy the dangerous condition. Vickie’s failure to timely investigate and make safe a very dangerous condition was the actual and proximate cause of May’s injuries (see, for example, Langhorn Road Apartment v. Bisson, 207 Va. 474 (1996) where an apartment owner was found liable when the plaintiff fell on an accumulation of ice and snow).

The egregious and uncaring conduct of Vickie resulted in this dangerous condition persisting throughout the day and, ultimately, into the night when an unsuspecting May T. exited the convenience store, slid across the sidewalk and was stopped when her foot slammed into a concrete device which was intended to stop a moving vehicle!

Danger Where was the danger sign?  Where was the simple repair that could have saved May from such excruciating, and unnecessary pain?  The answer is: No where to be found and this lack of action on the part of the convenience store was a breach of their duty to May, their customer, to protect her from an unreasonable risk of harm.

May suffered a fracture of her ankle as well as a torn ankle ligament all of which which required major surgery with the placement of a five-hole plate with two screws above and below the fracture line.  To this day, Miss T. suffers pain in that ankle and is expected to ultimately develop arthritis.

After months, and months, of argument and negotiation, I was able to convince the insurance carrier for the convenience store that, yes, their insured did bear the responsibility in this matter.  The insurance carrier made a six figure offer to settle May T's case. 

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The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

Glorious Insults Without Four-Letter Words!

Wonderful Insults: The following assortment of clever insults was sent to me by my good friend Gregg Seaman of Creativer Services Advertising, Inc. who writes "These glorious insults are from an era when cleverness with words was still valued, before a great portion of the English language was boiled down to four-letter words! I hope you enjoy these!"

Lady_astor1  The exchange between Churchill and Lady Astor:

She said, "If you were my husband, I'd give you poison,"

and he said, "If you were my wife, I'd take it."

Gladstone, a member of Parliament, to Benjamin Disraeli:

"Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."

"That depends, sir," said Disraeli, "On whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.²

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

- Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about." - Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." - Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

- Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas

Lincolnportrait_2

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." - Abraham Lincoln

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."

- Stephen Bishop

He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright

Mark_twain

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"

Mark Twain

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."

- Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."

- Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up" - Paul Keating

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure. "

-Jack E. Leonard

Oscar_wilde

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

- Oscar Wilde

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt." - Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." - Thomas Brackett Reed

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."

- Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker

Maewestphoto

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork. - Mae West

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder

Groucho

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." - Groucho

"You are either being deliberately obtuse or are invincibly ignorant."

"I'd walk out of that movie on an airplane" -Gregg Seaman

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The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

February 16, 2008

State Farm Sued for Sham "Independent" Medical Exams

New York Personal Injury Lawyer Eric Turkewitz Reports The Following in his Blog:

State Farm Hit With Civil RICO Claim Over Sham Medical Exams

State Farm has been sued for racketeering in New York with a claim that it conspired with "Independent Medical Exam" companies and medical practitioners to produce fraudulent and sham medical reports. The suit, filed January 30th in the Eastern District of New York, is brought under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). (This story has not been previously reported.)

State Farm acted in concert with "IME" companies and doctors to furnish fraudulent and boilerplate reports, according to the suit. The objective was to procure "scientifically dishonest reports in order to terminate benefits." The Complaint is here: McGee-v-StateFarm-RICO-Complaint.pdf

Of particular interest is that the plaintiff is not an injured accident victim that was wrongfully deprived of insurance benefits, but John McGee, a physician practicing rehabilitative medicine. The physiatrist asserts that claims submitted to State Farm are being wrongfully denied, thus depriving him of the revenue he should be receiving for the treatment he rendered. He alleges that "sham" examinations were done by the defendants to procure false findings so as to cut off the benefits, resulting in the claims he submitted being denied.

The Complaint alleges that State Farm and the other defendants communicated that the evaluations and reports must deny that its insureds needed future treatment and that there was a lack of medical necessity for prior treatment. The Complaint goes on to state that State Farm engaged the other defendants with the expectation that reports received would be favorable to the insurance carrier, and to the detriment of the insured.

McGee states that "State Farm made it known to the other defendants that if they did not provide sufficient denials within the evaluation reports then State Farm would not use their IME services."

The defendant "IME" companies are Independent Physical Exam Referrals, Inc., and Metro Medical Services, LLC.

According to the website of Independent, they play no role in the production of the report:

We have addressed the "independent" part of the examinations by requiring all reports to be independently processed by the medical provider, typed and forwarded on their own stationary. IPER does not participate in the production of the reports, thus ensuring an arms length transaction for our clients. IPER reviews all reports by a registered nurse only to ensure that essential components of the report are present and that your questions are answered. The medical opinions rendered are those of the examining physician and based upon his/her clinical assessment and review of medical records.

This description, however, is directly at odds with the allegations of the complaint, which states that "boilerplate medical evaluation reports" are used. That may be an easy thing to prove if identical language is used in many different reports.

Whether these companies are like Integrated Risk Services Inc. -- a company I wrote about Tuesday that specifically states it doesn't want information favorable to the plaintiff included -- remains to be seen. (See: How to Fool a Jury (Is It Insurance Fraud?))

Another part of the Complaint alleges that State Farm pays an excessive fee to the IME company for the doctor's services, and that the money is then shared with the IME company or a kick-back is given to non-medical personnel. The complaint sets forth (in paragraph 19) that felonies have been committed with respect to the sharing of medical fees with non-medical personnel.

Thanks to my anonymous tipster for the heads up.

The plaintiff is represented by Bruce Rosenberg of Bellmore, New York.
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Related Links:

Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Gary McCallister's Injuryboard discusses this and other related issues

Tipsheet: Independent Medical Exam

Wikipedia: Independent Medical Examination

The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

February 15, 2008

President's Day 2008

George_washingtonQuoting directly from Wikipedia,  "Presidents Day (or Presidents' Day), is the common name for the federal holiday officially designated as Washington's Birthday, and both variants are among the official names of a number of coinciding state holidays. It is celebrated on the third Monday of February.

"As the official title of the federal holiday, Washington's Birthday was originally implemented by the federal government of the United States in 1880 in the District of Columbia (20 Stat. 277) and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices (23 Stat. 516). As the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, the holiday was celebrated on Washington's actual birthday, February 22. January 1, 1971 the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. A draft of the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968 would have renamed the holiday to Presidents' Day to honor both Washington and Lincoln, but when signed into law on June 28, 1968 simply moved Washington's Birthday.

Abraham_lincoln_2 "In the late 1980s, with a push from advertisers (see detail below), the term Presidents Day began its public appearance. The theme has expanded the focus of the holiday to honor another President born in February, Abraham Lincoln, and often other Presidents of the United States. Although Lincoln's birthday, February 12, was never a federal holiday, approximately a dozen state governments have officially renamed their Washington's Birthday observances as "Presidents Day", "Washington and Lincoln Day", or other such designations. It is also interesting to note that "Presidents Day" is not always an all-inclusive term. In Massachusetts, while the state officially celebrates "Washington's Birthday," state law also prescribes that the governor issue an annual Presidents Day proclamation honoring the presidents that have come from Massachusetts: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge, and John F. Kennedy.[1] (Coolidge, the only one born outside of Massachusetts, spent his entire political career before the vice presidency there.) Alabama uniquely observes the day as "Washington and Jefferson Day," even though Jefferson's birthday was in April.[2] In Connecticut, while Presidents Day is a federal holiday, Abraham Lincoln's birthday is still a state holiday, falling on February 12 regardless of the day of the week.

"In Washington's home state of Virginia the holiday is legally known as 'George Washington Day.'"

Other interesting related links:

Biography of George Washington on About.com

Official Site for Mt. Vernon, Home of George Washington

Biography of Abraham Lincoln in Roots Web

Roots Web's Happy President's Day is a fascinating site with short biographies of George Washington and Abraham Lincon.  The site also has a myriad of links about George Washington such as History of the Man, The American Revolution, Early Life and Career, and on and on.  They have a plethora of links as to Abraham Lincoln, as well, such as Early Life, Illinois Legislator, the Slavery Issue, the Civil War and the Gettysburg Address.

The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

February 11, 2008

Rear-Ended By Drunk Driver: Leads to Surgery, Large Settlement

Rearend_collision How horrific it was for my client, Mrs. F., an innocent woman legally slowing down for a stop to be suddenly, and without warning, be rear-ended by a drunk driver.  Otherwise in great health, this lovely lady's life was turned asunder by the flagrant disregard of a guy who was more concerned with his afternoon cocktails than the safety of other people on the road on which he drove.

The physical impact to Mrs. F's car was so severe that it was deemed a total loss.  In particular, the insurance company felt that it would cost more to repair her car than the $30,000 that it would cost to replace it! 

Discectomy Mrs. F., was so seriously injured that she required neck surgery to remove and replace the discs in her cervical spine at two different levels in an effort to relieve the symptoms of the herniated discs in her neck.  The herniations were deemed to have been caused by this accident.

Medical Bills: Over $100,000.  The drunk driver's insurance policy had a limit of $25,000 which was paid very quickly to Mrs. F.  However, what to do when her medical bills and pain and suffering far exceeded the drunk's policy limits?  Fortunately, Mrs. F. was savvy enough to have Uninsured Motorist Coverage which is also known as Underinsured Motorist Coverage with a limit of $500,000.  Simply put, Mrs. F's insurance policy "stepped into the shoes" of the drunk driver and treated this case as though they were insuring the drunk driver. 

Our office prepared a detailed settlement demand package which included all of the details of the accident, injuries, treatment (and all relevant medical reports, surgical reports, treatment reports) and what Mrs. F could now expect in her future.  With that in mind, we demanded the entire $500,000 from Mrs. F's insurance own company under the provisions of her Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Policy.  Due to the severity of the injuries, her insurance company tendered the entire $500,000 less a credit for the $25,000 that she received from the drunk driver's insurance carrier.

I routinely advise my clients that it is imperative that they carry as much automobile insurance as they can afford -- and very importantly, Uninsured Motorist Coverage.  I hope that what happened to Mrs. F. never happens to you but, in the event that it does, it is best to be covered to the greatest extent possible.  In another posting I will discuss Medical Payments Coverage.

The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

February 10, 2008

Ed Heads: Where You Are The Virtual Surgeon!

Edheadsorg_2 EdHeads.org.  What an incredible site! You are the surgeon as you perform a virtual hip replacement, hip resurfacing or knee surgery.  You are the crash investigator at an accident scene.  Try it out.  It gives us all an appreciation for the role of a professional in these intense circumstances.  Hipsurg_2 Having handled many accident cases wherein my clients have had to have hip and/or knee surgeries, this website was of great interest to me. 

The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

February 08, 2008

Ninth Circuit: Private Debt Collectors Under Contract With Prosecutors Are Not Shielded by Sovereign Immunity

Consumer Law & Policy Blog, an incredible blog which keeps you up to date on many aspects of consumer law such as the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis, has posted the following article of interest:

by Deepak Gupta

Ninthcircuit_2Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Marsha Berzon, ruled that American Corrective Counseling Services (ACCS), the nation's largest operator of "check diversion" programs, may not shield itself from a consumer class action over its aggresive debt-collection practices by invoking the doctrine of state sovereign immunity.  (Information about the case, including the briefs and opinion, is available here.)

I've blogged here before about so-called check diversion companies -- private debt collectors that use their contracts with prosecutors to gin out collection demands, on official prosecutor stationary, threatening consumers who have written bad checks with criminal prosecution or jail unless they pay exorbitant collection fees.  Passing a bad check is only a crime where there's knowing and intentional fraud, but these companies demand fees regardless of whether a crime has been committed. It's a lucrative and shady business that essentially criminalizes civil debt collection.

Judge Berzon's opinion is the most thorough and scholarly treatment to date on the question of private entities and sovereign immunity.  In a sweeping rejection of ACCS's arguments, the Ninth Circuit characterized sovereign immunity as “strong medicine” that should be carefully limited, especially in the case of for-profit corporations that are not democratically accountable to the public. Quoting the philosopher Gilbert Ryle, the court called the argument that a private company could enjoy sovereign immunity a “category error,” like “inquiring into the gender of a rock or into which day of the week is reptilian.”

ACCS has insisted throughout the litigation that it is not a debt collector and is therefore not covered by federal law protecting consumers from abusive collection practices. But in its ruling, the court cited a case holding that companies like ACCS may be held liable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and described ACCS’s practices as “debt collection rather than law enforcement.”

In an era of increasing privatization of public functions – from private prisons to Blackwater in Iraq – this decision is an important reminder that private contractors will be held accountable by the courts and cannot simply hide behind the cloak of government authority.

You can read more about the case in today's San Francisco Chronicle (here) and San Jose Mercury News (here)

The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

February 04, 2008

Strip Search: Outrageous Police Conduct and Abuse Video

Sheriff This video of the brutal strip search by male and female Stark County, Ohio deputy sheriffs of a young woman speaks for itself.  I am so outraged and angered by what this video depicts that I had to post it to my blog.  I hope that this never, ever happens to you or a loved one.  What is truly galling is that the sheriff himself says that his deputies did nothing wrong -- in spite of the fact that their own procedural handbook demands that strip searches be conducted exclusively by members of the same sex as the strip searchee.

USA Daily summarizes the story as follows:

A woman called 911 in Stark County Ohio after being assaulted only to find herself arrested and savagely stripped of all her clothes by seven male and female police officers.

The videos below show this woman screaming as male and female officers forcibly tear off the woman’s clothes in what looks to be a sexual assault without penetration.

The 125 lbs woman was hand cuffed and pinned face down on the ground. Screaming and asking what the officers were doing. The does not appear to be any reason that police officers woul conduct a strip search on the assault victim
The woman was then left naked in her cell for six hours and was forced to use toilet paper to cover her self up. She claims that she was also denied medical attention after the assault. When finally being taken to booking the woman’s husband says she was forced to where nothing but a weighted vest.

The victim is suing the Stark County Sheriff’s office in an attempt to hold the seven police officers accountable.

Amendment VIII of the U.S. Bill of Rights states:

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

Here are some additional related links:

WKYC.com

RawStory.com

Broadband Reports

WUSA9 News

Crooks and Liars

The Law Office of Lowell Steiger Represents Injured Victims

If you have suffered a Personal Injury, Call for a Free Consultation

Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger at (323) 852-1100

or via e-mail at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

www.steigerlaw.com

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