Here are some recent headlines in the news:
“Colorado Jury Awards $15 Million in a Medical Malpractice Case”
“Louisiana Jury Awards $17 Million to Woman in Ambulance Accident While Pregnant”
“Maryland Jury Awards $21 Million in a Medical Malpractice Case”
What do these cases have in common? Each headline focuses on dollars awarded rather than the injuries to the innocent victims. These are innocent victims whose lives have changed forever due to someone else’s negligence.
In the Colorado case, the headline could have read: “Misdiagnosis Leaves 36-year-old Man a Quadriplegic”
The man is paralyzed from the chest down because of a medical misdiagnosis. The man went to the hospital with severe neck pain and numbness in his arms and legs. A doctor diagnosed the condition as neck strain and discharged him. Within hours, the man was completely paralyzed; he suffered from a herniated disk that was compressing his spinal cord and causing progressive neurological injury.
In the Louisiana lawsuit, the headline could have read: “Woman Rendered Physically Helpless At The Hands of a Negligent Ambulance Driver”
A woman who was 7 months pregnant was severely injured in a 2010 accident while riding in an ambulance. The driver was found negligent, distracted while reaching for a tracking device that fell on the floor and traveling at excessive speed without emergency sirens. The driver also had a poor driving record and the ambulance service failed to have policies in place for educating drivers. The woman suffered lifelong disabilities – a traumatic brain injury and severed spinal cord that has left her with limited use of only one arm. She will need ongoing medical care the rest of her life. Her baby was born prematurely, but fortunately survived despite weighing less than 3 pounds.
The headline in the Maryland case could have read: “Child Suffers from Cerebral Palsy and is Wheelchair Bound For Life Due to Hospital Negligence”
A child was born with cerebral palsy and will spend his life in a wheelchair because the hospital staff failed to recognize that the child was not receiving enough oxygen during birth. When the mother went to the hospital in premature labor, the doctor failed to recognize that the baby was at risk of oxygen deprivation because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, a clear sign that doctors should have performed an emergency C-section.
While money can’t heal the physical and emotional trauma to these innocent victims, it can help pay for their medical expenses, present and future care, and alleviate some of the financial burden. It also holds the negligent party responsible for alleviating that financial burden. The tort reform alternative of punishing less and compensating inadequately shifts the financial burden to the taxpayers in the form of Medicaid, SSD or SSI and other forms of public assistance.
Who among us would give up all feeling from the chest down? Who among us would give up the ability to care for him/herself, to walk, to feed oneself, to do everything and anything any energetic child would do? Would any amount of money make you want to give up these things? Would you give up your basic life functions for $15 million? $17 million? $21 million? The reporting of these cases should be about the wrongs perpetrated on innocent people and precious children. The reporting should be about righting wrongs and providing financial justice so that the burden of carrying forward with serious disability and/or a death in the family is made just a little bit easier. Reporting should not depict a situation in which a reasonably healthy person got a financial windfall without serious physical, mental and financial consequence.
There are very few “windfalls” in the civil justice system. When you read that this victim or that one received a seven or eight figure verdict, read the fine print. That victim is seriously disabled, in a vegetative state, paralyzed or worse. And, yes, the judges and juries will attempt to provide fair and reasonable measures of financial compensation to innocent victims whose lives have been dramatically altered by the senseless negligence of a drunk or texting driver or a doctor who made a devastating mistake. However, is any amount enough to make a victim desire to spend the rest of his/her life in a wheelchair, eat through a feeding tube, or deliver and care for a child unnecessarily afflicted with cerebral palsy?
Money does not replace life or quality of life. Life and good health are precious gifts that can be substantially altered or eliminated in an instant of neglect. To deter future negligent behavior, our society must focus on the victims and the negligence that made them victims. Only then will we begin to prevent the suffering of others at the hands of the same negligent drunks, texters and/or professionals. Lawsuits act as deterrents to bad conduct; they encourage individuals and corporations to put safety first by punishing negligence and deliberate bad conduct and holding the perpetrators accountable. Lawsuits also result in the implementation of necessary changes that prevent other innocent parties from being injured or killed in the future. Now that's a headline!
Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.