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June Newsletter 2009

Submitted by jrlaw on Jun 26th, 2009

Contact the Rasansky Law Firm | Representing Clients Across Texas & the Southwest

Welcome to the June 2009 edition of Legal Matters: the e-Newsletter of the Rasansky Law Firm. We know - it's been several months since you've heard from us. And it's been several months since we've heard from you. But never fear: we've been transitioning our vision to better serve you, our clients.

And with this vision comes wholly new ways to stay in touch with the Rasansky Law Firm. Maybe you have a pressing legal question. Maybe you need some advice. Maybe you're just looking for entertainment or just to know what's on the bleeding edge in the law world. We've put together several resources for you to connect with us, including:
Rasansky Law Firm Facebook Fan Page
Rasansky Law Firm Twitter Feed
Rasansky Law Firm Blog
And now introducing a Yelp Review page for the Rasansky Law Firm.
Check out these resources, fan us, friend us, and please, help others like you find us by writing a review of your experiences with the Rasansky Law Firm. We greatly appreciate your feedback and are always working to serve you the best we can.

Below you will find our staff updates, commentary on the latest legal rumblings, and what's to come in the future. We look forward to connecting with you and staying involved in you and your families lives.



Health Care Reform & You: What It Means for Your Next Doctor's Visit, Hospital Stay, Pharmacy Prescription, and More
Much has been made over soaring health care costs. For the first time in history, the US government will spend 18% of its total economic output on health care - nearly $8,200 per person in the United States. The stimulus bill passed in January 2009 provides for an additional $634 billion dollars over the next ten years to remake the healthcare system, a crucially needed boost in order to restructure Medicare, Medicaid, and other government-run health initiatives. Additionally, in May 2009, representatives of doctors, hospitals, drug makers, and insurance companies pledged to cut costs by $2 trillion over the next ten years.

But where does this leave you?

Right now, there's a very delicate balancing game going on: how to cut costs without cutting services. Thousands of ideas have been floated into the ether of the media and politics, but one idea rings hollow - severely medical malpractice lawsuits.

We know, we hear the same tired arguments you do, and it's hard not to be persuaded by them. It makes sense, right? Doctors can't practice medicine if malpractice insurance costs are too high due to extravagant jury awards to able-bodied, fit as a fiddle clients. Every time we turn around we hear another story of a jury awarding huge amounts of money, practically throwing it at people, and we hear about the so-called frivolous claims that generate this cash.

Frankly, it just ain't true.

In 2006, an insurance law professor Tom Baker from the University of Connecticut published a book titled "The Medical Malpractice Myth." (It's a great book if you're very interested in the topic; law professors typically have an innate inability to get to the point clearly and consicely though, so we'll hit the highlights below.) The conclusion, after reviewing mountains of data and a plethora of scientific studies, is simply this: the hype about medical malpractice is nearly all urban legend. As proof, Baker cites several sources including:

  • A comprehensive study conducted by Harvard Medical School in 1990, which reviewed 31,000 sets of medical records. A team of medical professionals (doctors and nurses) reviewed each record in its entirety, each record receiving multiple reviews by different team members. Using a conservative methodology, the study found that doctors were injuring one out of every twenty-five patients - and that only 4% of these injured patients pursued legal action. This study merely got the ball rolling, however. Some injuries are frivolous, some serious, some life-altering, some resulting in death.
  • And so it took a 2006 study at the Harvard School of Public Health to determine the extent of frivolous cases in the legal system. These researchers - also medical and legal professionals - reviewed nearly 1,500 medical malpractice lawsuits within the past three years. More than 90% of these cases showed true evidence of medical injury - ruling out frivolous claims. In 60% of claims, the injury resulted directly from doctor wrongdoing; in 25% of claims, the patient died. But what about those 10% of frivolous claims? The researchers involved in this study definitively showed that the courts were highly efficient in throwing them out. Only six cases where researchers couldn't detect an injury received token compensation. What troubled researchers, however, were the 236 cases thrown out of court despite clear evidence of injury and error to patients at the fault of the doctor. This study put a nail in the coffin of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits, but what about the massive jury awards?
  • In 2003, a government study looked at the growth of malpractice awards between 1960 and 1999. What this team found was shocking: average malpractice jury awards had grown less than average real income over the past forty years. Even more striking: all the growth in awards is explained by case characteristics and claimed economic loss, not in jury sympathy or anger.

But what about caps on medical malpractice awards? You may be amazing to find that no matter the extent of your injury - even death - your non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of companionship, et cetera) are limited to a maximum of $750,000 (that's if there were multiple doctors or medical facilities involved in the malpractice) in Texas.
Seems like a lot of money, right? But let's say you were seriously injured at age 45 but still expected to live to at least age 75. Assuming you were awarded the maximum - $750,000 - one third will go to attorney's fees for bringing the case (about $250,000). The remainder of the award goes to the victim. That's thirty years to live on a maximum of $500,000 - or about $16,700 each year. Is that going to cover your cost of living, retirement or even an inability to work, any health-related issues not stemming from the original injury, care for your family, and all other costs? Often times, absolutely not.
Texas is often cited as an example for health care reform, but since 2003 (when these reforms were passed):

  • From 2003-2006, health costs jumped 27% in Texas.
  • From 200-2007, health insurance premiums for Texans jumped nearly 87%; wages only rose by 14% during this time period.
  • The average medical malpractice jury award are reduced, on average, by 47% - meaning that juries are awarding higher amounts of money to victims of medical malpractice, but victims aren't allowed to claim the money due to award caps.

In several instances, it's not economically feasible to bring a medical malpractice claims. Lawsuits are expensive, and given expert witnesses, investigations, court costs and more, a typical medical malpractice claim may cost a law firm $125,000 to $150,000 to even bring to trial. If there weren't multiple doctors or facilities involved in the claim, caps on the case may be as low as $250,000 - a third of which ($83,000) go to attorney's fees, which cannot cover the basic costs of the case.

The necessary cost-cutting mechanisms surely aren't on the legal side, but instead the medical and insurance side. Public insurance alternatives provides significant stability to the insurance market, and proactive programs to openly investigate errors and apologize for mistakes has been met with tremendous success. For a long time, anesthesiologists were hit with the most malpractice lawsuits - until a professional group launched a project to investigate each claim of medical error and develop new ways to enhance quality of care. These days, anesthesiologists have one of the highest professional safety ratings, despite the risky nature of their work, and their malpractice insurance costs are among the lowest of any medical group. If independent experts could come together to draft a set of professional guidelines - something transparent for all patients, doctors, and lawyers to read and understand, not only would we know when true error occurs, but then design new ways to prevent or avoid the same error in the future.

The goal for medical malpractice lawyers is simple: to keep the interests of clients safe and ensure no person is worse off because of preventable error or negligent care. Restricting legal rights harms the patient, harms the patient's medical insurance company, and results in higher health costs across the board. We applaud President Obama and his mission to cut health care costs - but stand in vigilance, always, for our clients.

In the past few months, we've added several new staff members to the firm, including:


David Cervantes now serves as our new Information Technology Director, responsible for not only keeping our servers, email and Blackberrys up and running, but also creating and maintaining all our websites and technological offerings. Be on the lookout for new and improved changes in the coming months as David revamps all our systems to best serve our clients. David has more than fifteen years of experience in design, advertising, and technology, and is currently in the midst of renovating a house with his family.

Alex Prescott, a senior at the University of Texas in Austin majoring in Economics, is currently serving as our office summer intern. Following graduation, Alex plans to study law. He is a member of the Zeta Beta Tai fraternity and the Texas Cowboys. Alex is also involved with the Jewish community in Dallas and is a fan of the local professional sports teams and the Texas Longhorns. Although you might not see Alex when you come by and visit our office, you can find him researching legal topics or working hard on one of our many projects.

Krisha Tankersley is our new receptionist. Her hobbies include reading, spending time with her family, and working out. Krisha is very proud of her two children - her son, Joshua, 8, and her daughter, Jordyn, 3. Krisha's son Joshua keeps her very busy as he is an avid baseball player on a select team. When you call our office or come by and visit us, Krisha will likely be the first to greet you and is always willing to help assist you with your needs.

Another recent addition to our firm is Rachel Flatt. Rachel is a third year law student at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth. She received a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Texas A&M University in College Station in 2006. Rachel is an avid sports fan, published photographer, and enjoys cooking and baking in her spare time. She currently serves as our legal intern, responsible for all legal correspondence, writing, and editing here with the firm.

Finally, as the "longest serving" of the new staff members, Anne Hollander joined the firm in February as our new Director of Legal Media & Advocacy. Anne received her bachelor's degree in Biochemistry, and is now finishing her law degree, but has traveled through many states, working in technology, media, sales, and marketing - and is thrilled to find her niche in legal advocacy. You'll meet Anne throughout your interactions with the Rasansky Law Firm, engaging past, current, and future clients in conversations about their legal experiences with sunny optimism and an upbeat demeanor.