Monthly Archives: October 2013
Doctors are currently working on an experimental MRI based test at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center. High Definition Fiber Tracking allows doctors to actually see a representation of the brain fibers responsible for different parts of the body, which helps doctors understand what happened to the brain’s white matter (the connective parts) in a traumatic brain injury (a concussion). This type of image shows where and how many of those connections are disrupted, something the doctors could not see before.
Learn more about this exciting new development:
On November 28, 2011, a victim of human trafficking filed a lawsuit against a “john”—the man who sexually assaulted her after paying a pimp to get access to her. This is the first lawsuit to make this kind of claim in the US, and is a huge step forward in helping victims of human trafficking recover for the harm done to them.
Victims of sex trafficking are left severely traumatized—physically and emotionally—while the pimp and the john walk away, generally without a second look back. Even in the criminal justice realm, the sex trafficking victim is more likely to be charged than the pimp or the john. That is beginning to change as victims find their voice in civil courts.
The lawsuit was filed under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Basically, that law makes compelling people into commercial sex acts a crime or even allowing a minor to engage in commercial sex acts a crime. It also gives the victims of the crime a right to sue the criminals for the harms they suffer.
This kind of lawsuit, against the johns and the pimps, is the next logical step in a growing movement to understand and combat “domestic sex trafficking”—where children are used in commercial sex acts, or adults are coerced into the sex trade. Commercial sex acts include everything from “prostitution” to stripping to pornography (or often all three combined). Pimps make huge amounts of money through their control of these women and girls and selling them to willing johns. (We use the phrase women and girls because most are female, however, there are many men and boys in the same situation and subject to the same force, fraud, or coercion.) Pimps are constantly on the prowl for “fresh meat” to add to their “stable,” and the younger the better. The methods pimps use to control the victims are as varied and nuanced as the victims themselves. Sometimes it’s straight violence, sometimes the threat of violence against family, sometimes forcible addiction to drugs, sometimes through psychological manipulation.
Pimps are very skilled at forcing their victims into the right look. More johns want to buy a girl or woman who is smiling and flirtatious than one who is sobbing, so pimps find ways to force their victims to present the right image.
The johns, who fuel the demand and make sex trafficking profitable, ignore the background where they find the victims. Studies show that johns justify their use and abuse of women and girls by telling themselves that the victim enjoys “the attention” and wants to do whatever it is the john demanded. The johns are wrong.
These women are pearls without price. They are stronger than most people can even imagine, surviving in a situation beyond nightmares. Each one is a gem, precious and unique, who should be respected and cherished.
This kind of lawsuit is a step in the right direction for the minors in the sex trade and those who were forced, defrauded, or coerced into the sex trade. It seeks justice and accountability from those who cause uncountable harms. People escaping sex trafficking should speak with an attorney regarding their rights and whether a civil claim is an appropriate choice for him or her.
- Why do we punish someone who didn’t mean to hurt someone else?
- Why are damages for pain and suffering okay?
Punishment v. Personal Responsibility
Deeply embedded in the values of this country is the idea of personal responsibility.
The roots of the American civil justice system go all the way back to the law of Moses.
If you break something, if you cause harm, if you did something wrong and it hurt someone, you make it right, even if you didn’t do it intentionally. Personal injury suits do not punish the person who hurt the victim, they merely hold the wrongdoer accountable for the harm caused. Punishment is what criminal law accomplishes. We buy insurance to cover our negligence, but there is no insurance for criminal acts. Negligence is compensated by money equal to the harm. Criminal acts are punished by imprisonment.
The law in a personal injury case tries to make the victim of wrongdoing “whole.” What the legal system means by “whole” is that we are trying to give back to injured person the value of what was negligently taken. Unfortunately, courts do not have rewind buttons that can undo such harms. Until someone invents that machine and places it at the disposal of a court, we must make do with a different, less perfect form of justice. What that means is we have to evaluate specific injuries and decide how much they are worth to the person who used to be healthy.
Why pay for pain and suffering?
Okay, since we are just requiring personal responsibility for harm done unintentionally, and not punishing the negligent party, why does the law require payment for pain and suffering? Because righting the wrong requires more than just paying the medical bills and lost wages, and there is a very good reason for that. Most people have heard and agree with the statement “Life is not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.” Taking away someone’s ability to enjoy life, replacing their favorite activities with pain and inconvenience, does serious and irreparable harm to that person. There is no way to give back the time lost to the pain. There is no way to give back a healthy, undamaged body part. There is no way to rewind the clock and return the pleasures of life that have been wrongfully taken.
Human history is full of examples of cultures trying to deal with this very problem. Many societies initially chose the “eye for an eye” system, but that did nothing for the person harmed. In Exodus 21 and 22 the Bible provides for damages in injury cases. Exodus 21:18-19 (NIV)—“If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.” Notice the language says loss of time—not loss of wages, but loss of time. Time lost working, time lost getting treatment, time lost sitting around instead of doing one’s favorite activities, time lost with one’s children, time lost because doing the dishes takes twice as long due to pain—it’s all covered by the concept of lost time.
America has decided that justice in an injury case requires looking at the victims’ injuries, looking at their pain, looking at how they have been limited, looking at the harm done, and then use money to “compensate” or to “balance” the harm suffered by an equivalent value of money. Although this is as an imperfect solution, this is close to the biblical concept of “loss of time.” The Founding Fathers concluded that this is the fairest way to deal with the problem of people hurting other people. Recognizing the fact that each individual is precious, unique, and invaluable, the 7th Amendment forever guards every person’s right to a jury trial:
“In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” – – The 7th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
For more information on the biblical basis for the American civil justice system, check out these resources:
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” This idea is attributed variously to Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Dostoyevsky, Truman, Gandhi, Jesus, and others. In the United States right now, there is a rampant problem with how we are caring for the elderly, particularly for those suffering from dementia and other disabilities. In-home care is one of the most common forms of long term care in Oregon right now and problems are increasingly becoming evident.Helping an elderly patient
A recent study by Northwestern University examined the screening practices of agencies that hire and place “formal” in-home caregivers for older adults. The interviewers questioned the agencies about their hiring methods, screening measures, training practices, skill competencies assessments, and supervision. After reviewing the data, the researchers’ conclusion was “Using an agency to hire paid caregivers may give older adults and their families a false sense of security regarding the background and skill set of the caregiver.”
Inadequate screening, inadequate training, placing a caregiver with a drug problem or criminal background, or many other problems with the caregiver could lead to abuse or neglect of an older adult. If you believe you, a parent, or a loved one have been abused or neglected by a caregiver, contact an attorney. We offer a free initial interview and can advise you about your rights.
Concussions can occur in car collisions or accidents, from falls in nursing homes, or many other scenarios. Concussions are serious injuries and can create long term problems and require expensive medical care.
Public awareness of the seriousness of these injuries is growing, in part due to veterans coming back with concussion injuries, and the recent claims against the NFL by players in the legal area. In response the NFL has set out new health and safety policies for football games to protect players, including immediate examinations by team physicians after symptoms of head trauma appear.
Whether playing in the NFL or high school football, whether at work or driving a car, concussions should be taken seriously by everyone.
Symptoms of a concussion (as explained by the NFL) are: “loss of consciousness; unresponsiveness; disorientation or an inability to respond appropriately to questions; amnesia; headache, nausea and/or dizziness; abnormal neurological findings; or progressive, persistent or worsening symptoms.” NFL, union try to change culture on concussions, by Barry Wilner, http://www.seattlepi.com/sports/article/NFL-union-try-to-change-culture-on-concussions-3964608.php#ixzz29n4r01At.
If you or someone you know has suffered from a concussion due to the negligence or fault of someone else, call our office for a free consultation.
The National Highway Safety Administration released a new app last week that “will provide real-time vehicle safety information to consumers from NHTSA’s SaferCar.gov site.” The app will allow users to:
* Search NHSA Safety Ratings for vehicles by make and model;
* Locate car seat installation help;
* File a vehicle safety complaint with NHSA;
* Find recall information; and
* Subscribe to automatic notices about vehicle recalls.
Very handy, though NHSA still recommends you put away your cell phone while you’re driving.
The Oregon Legislature is considering House Bill (HB) 2821. This bill changes the way auto insurance works in Oregon in a couple different ways to protect the consumer who buys the insurance rather than the insurance company.
This bill deals with PIP (personal injury protection) which pays for your medical bills after an auto collision regardless of who is at fault. If the other driver caused the collision, your insurance company will usually be reimbursed by the bad driver’s insurance company. That should only happen when there is enough insurance money to go around—otherwise the injured person should have priority over an insurance company! That’s why we buy insurance—to protect us from loss, not the company! This bill will change that priority to give the injured person primacy over their insurance company when it comes to payment from a bad driver’s insurance.
The bill also seeks to extend the time period for payment of PIP benefits from one year to two years. Frequently one year of treatment simply is not enough after a car accident. Everyone’s body is different and takes different times to heal. That healing process can take a very long time and creating an artificial limit year-long on medical treatment harms the most fragile and easily hurt among us (think your grandmother recovering from a car accident—it takes longer for her back to heal than a 21 year old Marine). While no limit would be best, a two year limit is better than one.
Overall, this bill will bring great benefits to the consumers in Oregon by putting their interests first, before the insurance company’s, and by at least extending the deadline for people to obtain medical treatment covered by their insurance after a collision to a more reasonable two years.
We do not have time to write about every bill the legislature considers that impacts our clients, but this one is so fundamental and would help so many people that we needed to address it.
Support this bill by contacting your state representative (find their contact information here) and telling them: I’m a consumer and a constituent, and I urge Rep. ___ to support HB 2821. We all pay good money for our auto insurance coverage and we should get what we pay for!
“Cost and frequency of lawsuits/threatened lawsuits” was ranked 71st out of 75 business concerns according to the August 2012 National Federation of Independent Businesses publication Small Business Problems and Priorities (8th ed.). How to use Twitter was ranked as a more pressing concern for small businesses (the 70th ranking concern was “using social media to promote business”). Based on the reporting to their own organization, facing lawsuits is not a huge problem for small businesses. NFIB categorized lawsuits as one of the “10 least severe problems for small-business owners of the 75 business problems assessed…”
So where is all the outrage against lawsuits coming from? Many “citizens against lawsuit abuse” groups are actually funded by large corporations even though they claim to be grassroots movements. See http://centerjd.org/content/fact-sheet-citizens-against-lawsuit-abuse-groups. The US Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit run by giant corporations that seeks to fight “lawsuit abuse” against its members, sues the federal government about 150 per year by itself. But lawsuits by people seeking justice on the courts? They are disappearing. In Multnomah County, Oregon, the judges actually set up a committee called the “Vanishing Civil Jury Trial Committee.” According to the Oregon State Bar, some counties in Oregon go years without having a single civil jury trial.
The right to seek justice in the courtroom before a jury is a right enshrined in the 7th Amendment to the US Constitution. To quote the Oregon State Bar: “If trial by jury in civil cases is — as James Madison said in 1789 — ‘as essential to secure the liberty of the people’ as any right of nature, our liberty is in peril.” If there is a problem, it’s not that there are too many civil juries, it’s that there are too few.