Frivolous Lawsuits – Not So Fast: A Lifecare Planner Speaks Out
Published On: February 21, 2009
Victoria Powell is the founder and current President of VP Medical Consulting. She has been providing nursing education and consulting services for 14 years. Ms. Powell is a Registered Nurse and holds specialty certifications in Case Management, Legal Nurse Consulting, Life Care Planning and Ergonomic Assessments.
She wrote Frivolous Lawsuit: Not So Fast. Her insight and analysis of large jury verdicts in catastrophic cases are excellent and well taken. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know that I believe that there is no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit and that the phrase is a misnomer. In fact, the idea of frivolous lawsuits are nothing more than a myth. Read here, here and here.
Here is Ms. Powell’s article in its entirety (reprinted with her permission, of course):
I have enjoyed the legal environment for many years. Since becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant, I have especially been intrigued with medically related cases. I have come to understand that the media spin that surround medical cases does not always adequately reflect the issues of the case.
When the general public hears the millions of dollars that is sometimes awarded, they do not know what makes up the award. As a Life Care Planner I can tell you that future medical is oftentimes in the millions of dollars for what on the surface might seem like a minor medical problem. What you don’t see is the hours of assistance, medical devices used, and frequent follow up with medical providers to keep the patient moving and an active member of society.
The famous McDonald’s coffee case is one such example. This was not a frivolous case. It was just that the major findings were never made public by the media. Since that case was settled some facts have been made known. You can read about these in this article or in another by the Wall Street Journal.
My Twitter friend, Lowell Steiger, an attorney from Los Angeles, writes about another such case. A Manhattan Jury awards $3.5 million to a young man who lost his leg when an MTA train ran over him while he lay on the tracks. In a closer look, Steiger points out that the jury actually found fault with both parties and the award was decreased to $2.3 million. You can read more about this case on his law blog.
As a Life Care Planner, $2.3 million for a below knee amputation, does not mean this young man has been hit by the gravy train. Prosthesis are tens of thousands of dollars and require regular maintenance and replacement. The skin problems due to wear and tear due to the prosthesis can be numerous and expensive to treat. The medication regimen for an amputee with phantom limb pain results in hundreds of dollars in prescription costs each month. Add to this the physician appointments and the associated mileage. When you are finished with those calculations multiple those dollars by the many years of life expectancy for this young man and you should have close to $2 million plus in medical expenses.
The media does not always follow through on a case. The reporters are often looking for a quick story and sensational headlines. They do not have the advantage of this nurse, to enter the home of the injured and see how their life and the lives of those around them are affected. Do not be too quick to judge based solely on the size of the award or the headlines you have read.
If you were injured and received a large award, how would you want the headlines to read?