Monday, July 22, 2013

Car Accidents & Insurance


On average, you will have some type of car accident once per decade. As an injury lawyer, I see the most serious car accidents.

Many, if not most car accidents are minor. Most are so-called “fender benders.”  In these less serious accidents, such a bump in parking lot without any visible damage, it will be tempting to just let it go.  However, take photos and at least exchange information (name, address, phone, license plate, number driver's license number, insurance information and any witness contacts).

If it was just you, and you simply backed into a tree in your yard, or your own garage door, and the damage is close to your deductible amount, there is no need to report it to police or your insurance.

However, hitting another vehicle can lead to unforeseen consequences. Damage to cars are often may be much worse underneath than they look from eye level.  Many of my clients suffer soft-tissue injuries they themselves did not even think they had at the scene.

If you feel tight, sore or at all affected by the accident, allow the EMS ambulance to take you to Emergency Room. You are in no position to diagnose yourself. While the ER will only rule out the most obvious injuries, it documents your complaints. This can be important later if you injuries prove much more serious than you initially suspected.

Specialists are needed to evaluate back and neck problems, often relying on an MRI scan. Sometimes, inflammation can increase to such an extent that it impinges upon a nerve. This is often the case with someone noticing numbness and tingling in the hands, or down the legs into the feet. These symptoms should never be ignored.

Insurance companies try to get recorded phone statements from the injured parties very early on. If they succeed, only the initially noted injuries will be recorded. This makes it more difficult to tie in later appearing problems later. As such, giving a statement to the opposing insurance company should be viewed for what is. It is a chance for that opposing insurance company to minimize or even deny your claim.

The earlier the wise counsel you obtain, from doctors and an injury lawyer, the less regrets you may have.

Monday, July 15, 2013



With all the news surrounding the Zimmerman case, you may wonder what rules we have in Tennessee. Since I am an injury lawyer, the only shooting cases I handle personally are accidental shootings.

However, as a concealed carry permit owner in Tennessee and a practicing attorney for 17 years, I am familiar with the laws in my home state regarding the regrettable use of deadly force.  You can read our statute, called Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 39-11-611, online. 

But here it is its most basic form:
Deadly force may only be used if you or another have a reasonable belief of imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.

Statutes are strictly construed.  That means that each and every one of these elements must be present or you will be in the wrong. Let’s work through each word in the pertinent section above.
“Reasonable belief” means that 12 jurors, two years later better believe that you were reasonable under the circumstances.

“Imminent” is derived from the Latin: “to project, threaten, from mountain.” This is the vivid idea of a large overhanging slab of rock projecting from the mountain, just above your head. If it begins to slide, you have no real time to react.  That’s the idea. So if Bubba says on the phone he is going to kill you after work today, that’s not anywhere near imminent. If, on the other hand, he corners you in a dark alley, and puts a knife to your throat telling you he is going to kill you, this is “imminent.”

“Danger of death or serious bodily injury” would not normally include merely a fat lip.  Also, we are talking of life, not stuff.   Your junk in your shed cannot fear for its life, so it cannot be protected with lethal force. However, that may lead to a confrontation that does threaten your life, or the life of another.   No warning, or warning shot is needed. You need not retreat. If a break in occurs to your home or car while you are in it, the danger is presumed.

If in a shooting, leading criminal defense attorneys seem to agree that you simply ask for your counsel, and then remain silent. Medical care would be a good idea, to make sure you do not have a heart attack. It may also verify the lack of alcohol or drugs in you.  By the time you are released, your lawyer can talk with you.

As for gun control making us safer, my stance is that “if guns cause crime, then matches cause arson and spoons make us fat.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

15.2 Million Dollar Medical Malpractice Verdict


Weakley County attorney Roy Herron and Nashville attorneys Randy Kinnard and Mary Ellen Morris have achieved something no one else can recall ever having been done in Dresden, Tennessee: Winning a medical malpractice verdict. 

And what a verdict it was: a record $15.2 million!

If you believe everything that you hear, you might assume this happens all the time.  In fact, the exact opposite is true, which is why it is so newsworthy.

It took a month of trial, but my friend, Roy Herron, and his excellent co-counsel, were able to convince a rural jury that Dr. Susan Lowry of Martin, Tennessee was 60% at fault and the company that owns HealthSouth Cane Creek Rehabilitation Hospital 40% was at fault in a tragic matter.

According to the lawsuit, a 17-year old high school senior had a serious car accident that caused him to have to breathe with a ventilator through his tracheostomy tube surgically inserted in his throat.  After his initial care, he was discharged to Cane Creek and at some point became a patient of Dr. Lowry.   

But, he was to be returned his surgery clinic for a follow-up later, something the lawsuit alleges never occurred.  According to the lawsuit, his tracheostomy was removed there at Cane Creek without consultations with the surgery center.

Reportedly, the patient developed progressively worse breathing over the next couple days, but he was never put back on the ventilator, nor was he transferred to a hospital. At some point, it appeared that a respiratory arrest caused such a lack of oxygen to the patient’s brain that he suffered permanent brain damage.  As such, he is projected to be confined to a bed or wheelchair, and on a ventilator for life.

This verdict, if it stands on appeal, will allow a far greater standard of life for this victim.  But it also benefits others, as over Two Million Dollars will pay back the health insurance and the State of Tennessee for the care they have paid for.

Most doctors and rehab facilities do their very best and are quite careful. When they are not as careful, the results are often life-changing tragedies. Some of the medical malpractice cases in which I am involved resulted in death or long-term injuries.  It is only the jury system that can cause providers to more careful and to prevent more tragedies.

Monday, July 8, 2013



When any event happens with a plane, the company is generally liable for the injuries and deaths that occur. The recent San Francisco crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 killed few of the 307 onboard.

Still, many fear flying. That is understandable. Archie Bunker, the fictional grouchy father, on the old TV show “All in the Family” was once confronted by his son in law he called “Meathead,” with statistics showing air travel is much safer than driving. Archie famously retorted, “That may be so, but nobody ever fell 35,000 feet out of a De Soto!”

While flying has always been safer than driving, based on miles traveled and deaths, the few crashes on planes proved fatal for the majority involved.  Between 1962 and 1981, for instance, 54 percent of people in plane crashes were killed.

But a lot has improved. Fire retardant chemicals and materials help to prevent fires and smoke inhalation after an incident. Radar and traffic control is worlds better than in the past and allow pilots to see through fog and storms. That is why few planes crash into mountains or each other anymore.  Of course, the death rate on those types of collisions is 100%.  The current planes have been designed with better exits, stronger fuselages, and the crews are better trained than once was the case. Most accidents now happen below 200 mph on a runway and can be survived. Captains are quite experienced logging a lifetime in a particular couple of jumbo jets.  We all recall the 2009 US Airways jet that had a bird strike and heroic Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger landed that plane elegantly, without a single death, on the river creating the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson."

Terrorism has taken lives tragically, but they are usually not classified as air accidents.  Current numbers indicate about two accidental deaths worldwide for every 100 million commercial flight passengers.

The drive to the airport is the most dangerous part of your trip. You are many times more likely to die driving to the airport than on a flight. That being said, it is odd that climbing into a pressurized aluminum tube, seven miles in the sky, moving at 600 mph in weather that is 65 degrees below zero could ever be considered as routine as it now seems.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013



The minimum insurance limit is never enough. In Tennessee, it is only 25,000 for personal injuries. An air ambulance bill from the scene and the emergency room visit for just one person can eclipse that in less than 24 hours.  You can be sued for the rest.

This auto coverage is a must! Tennessee is overrun with underinsured drivers or those with no coverage at all. Protect your family and buy the highest limits you can afford.
It pays even if you are riding with someone else, or you have a hit and run or you are hit as a pedestrian.

If an earthquake destroys your home there is no coverage unless you have an earthquake insurance policy.  Same with floods, unless you have a flood policy. West Tennessee has earthquakes every week and one day there be some severe ones.

Landlord's insurance won't cover the contents in your apartment or rental home. Renter’s insurance provides a temporary housing and covers your contents so you can get on with life after a fire.
Also, you need liability coverage. If someone is injured while visiting you and sues you, your landlord's insurance won't cover that either.

Follow your mother’s advice and tell the truth.  Honesty is the best policy and if you lie on the application, your beneficiary will get nothing.

Term life insurance is a great, affordable way to pay off that mortgage and provide for your surviving spouse and children at your death.  Whole life and its cousins actually include term, but the additional savings element is not a strong enough rate of return for me.

While some things can be locked away at the bank,  your life insurance policy should not be in a safe deposit box. Only the person whose name appears can open it. Then only the executor of your will can open it.  This delays use of money that might be needed by family members.