Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can Shrink the Brain

The Journal of Neurology has reported that common forms of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can shrink the brains of post-menopausal women. Researchers performed brain scans on 1,400 women aged 71 to 89 who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative, A major American Study.

The Study found that women who were being administered HRT had smaller brain volumes in two key areas than those given a placebo. Brain volume was lower in the frontal lobe and in the hippocampus. Both of these areas of the brain contribute to thinking and memory skills. Shrinkage of the hippocampus is a known risk factor for dementia.

This Study was ironically renowned for finding a link between long term HRT use and increased stroke risk. The question that must be examined is whether the Pharmaceutical Industry is going to continue to be allowed to obtain approval of their products without greater scrutiny.

The conventional wisdom is that the American F.D.A., which regulates the Pharmaceutical Industry, has the most stringent and arduous approval process on the planet. However, conventional wisdom appears to be nothing more than American Corporate propaganda as the overwhelming number of drugs that have been recalled or that have caused significant health problems has been staggering over the past ten years.

Too, often, we learn of the politicizing of the F.D.A., which is given its marching orders to treat the pharmaceutical industry with kid gloves. Former industry personnel end up working for the agency that is supposed to regulate the very same industry they just left, and are going to return to after this government stint.

We are supposed to have a government for the people, not for the corporations. Hopefully, the pendulum will be shifting back.

Medical Malpractice and Uninsured Florida Doctors

Were you aware that pursuant to Florida law doctors are allowed to treat patients in our state without any insurance coverage? Not only are they allowed to do so but they have been allowed to go without malpractice coverage for decades. As a result, the following percentage of doctors opt out of medical malpractice coverage:

• 1/4 of the doctors in Broward and Palm Beach Counties;
• 1/3 of the doctors in Miami; and
• 1/8 of the doctors statewide.

Florida law states that doctors can go uninsured if they post signs in their offices and promise to pay up to $250,000 per malpractice award, with a maximum of $750,000 per year. Their penalty for not paying pursuant to statute is revocation of their medical license.

Ultimately, the victim’s desire is twofold; to ensure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to someone else in the future and to be compensated for the severe injuries that they have sustained at the hands of a doctor who rendered care that substantially deviated from the professional standards. Although revocation of the at fault doctor’s license is a remedy that is warranted in some instances; the amount of compensation mandated by the Florida legislature doesn’t begin to cover the damages of a catastrophic injury caused by medical malpractice.

This practice has left patients with valid malpractice claims unable to retain counsel to represent them in claims against these uninsured doctors and obtain financial compensation for their injuries. As a result, malpractice victims are less likely to sue doctors who don’t carry insurance and are paying the highest price of all…loss of their health, loss of their ability to earn a living, loss of their quality of life…all due to the malpractice of a doctor who is uninsured.

It’s amazing to believe, but despite the fact that medical doctors are allowed to practice without insurance coverage, Florida does require the following medical professions to obtain malpractice insurance: chiropractors, podiatrists, midwives, some nurses, acupuncturists and optometrists. Where is the logic in this?

South Florida Citizens To Be Charged Fees For Automobile Accidents

In a misguided attempt to find other sources of revenue, cities throughout South Florida are actually considering charging a fee to those citizens who are involved in auto accidents within their city limits. This month, the town of Davie will likely vote whether to bill non-residents who are involved in automobile accidents in their city.

The Florida Sun Sentinel reports that Davie is defending the fee as “a way of recouping tax dollars that are spent on non-residents”, town spokesman Braulio Rosa said. Davie is considering an average charge of $840.00. Miramar, Plantation and Southwest Ranches are still undecided as to what to charge, if anything, and under what circumstances.

There are those that are worried that this will start a fee war between the cities. The city of Weston has already threatened to respond by passing a similar ordinance if their residents are charged. The American Civil Liberties Union may challenge these ordinances on constitutional grounds. Brandon Herslan, a spokesman for the ACLU of Florida, stated that by singling out non-residents, proposals being considered in Davie and Miramar “raise questions about equal and fair treatment of citizens” and could spur lawsuits.

The cities are responding by saying they will bill the driver’s insurance companies. Michael Connolly, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, the state’s largest private insurer, responded by saying automobile insurance premiums will rise.

This issue represents a microcosm of the problems that have been caused by the cuts in our state’s budget. These cuts have left local governments in a desperate search to make up the lost funds that they were once receiving from the state. Compounding this problem is the decrease in the local tax base caused by the pop of the real estate bubble and the significant increase in foreclosures.

However, by creating these quasi tax schemes, the citizens of all cities are the ones that are harmed. With the state and national economy causing widespread problems for everyone, it is time for the cities to slash even more fat out of their budgets.

Cities should retain independent companies to analyze their budgets and recommend reasonable cuts that will force the cities to operate more efficiently. Disparate tax schemes, like the one discussed in this article, are not the answer and may in fact be unconstitutional depending on how they are framed.

Does Cell Phone Use Cause Florida Car Accidents?

Where do you stand on this issue? It seems wherever you go, people are on their cell phone even while driving their cars. This has caused many to wonder whether cell phone use should be permitted while operating a motor vehicle. There are three sides to this issue:
1. A ban on cell phone use by drivers due to the fact that many Florida car accidents happen when a driver is distracted while talking on the phone.
2. No ban on cell phone use due to the opinion that it is possible to drive safely while speaking on a phone and no one should dictate that drivers should not be able to talk and drive.
3. A compromise – allow cell phone use only with a hands-free headset or ear piece.

Earlier this year bills were introduced by Florida Legislators which were aimed at reducing cell phone calls in moving cars, none were passed. One bill was aimed at banning all Florida drivers from sending a call, texting, dialing, listening or speaking on a wireless device without a hands-free device. Another would have banned teen drivers from driving and talking on hand-held devices.

We have found in our practice that there are more and more accidents that are caused by drivers who are on there cell phones and there are statistics that do seem to suggest that legislation is needed. The leading cause of fatalities for teenagers and drivers in their 20’s and 30’s reported by the CDC are car accidents. In addition, it is well known that car accidents also cause many serious injuries to drivers and passengers. The following studies have found a link between fatalities and injuries in vehicular accidents and cell phone use by the drivers:
1. In 2002, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study, found that about 2,600 fatalities each year are caused by drivers who are distracted by cell phones at the time of an accident.
2. The California Highway Patrol also conducted their own research in 2001 and found that during a nine month period 4,699 car crashes were linked to drivers distracted by their cell phones.
3. Another study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones had the same response times as drunk drivers. The drivers using cell phones, the research revealed, were 9% slower to brake and 19% slower to return to normal driving speeds.

It’s almost impossible to believe that our Florida legislature decided five years ago to make it illegal for local jurisdictions to ban cell phones. The studies listed and data from our own Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reveal that in 2006, 26 car accident fatalities and 1,364 car accident injuries in Florida involved driver distractions. We all need to let our legislature know that the citizens of Florida want their streets and highways to be safer and legislation that limits the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle will help to accomplish that goal. This is not about convenience or taking away our rights, it is about saving lives that are needlessly cut short as a result of drivers who are unnecessarily distracted while operating a vehicle.

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

On July 23, 2008, the head of a prominent cancer research institute issued a stunning warning to his faculty and staff:

Limit Cell Phone Use because of the possible risk of cancer.

The director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, is convinced that while the date is still equivocal and incomplete, there is enough evidence of a possible link between cell phone use and cancer.

Dr. Herberman has concluded that it often takes too long to get answers from science and rather than wait for a definitive study to come out, it is better to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to children. Studies have proven that children’s developing brains are more susceptible to electromagnetic waves, which penetrate deeper into a child’s brain. Because of this, Dr. Herberman has recommended to parents that children should use cell phones only for emergencies.

He also recommends that adults should keep the phone away from their head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset. We have been recommending to our clients that they purchase devices that limit the radiation emitted trough cell phones. These devices are often the size of a penny, fit over the cell phone ear piece and reduce radiation by as much as 97 percent. There are several companies that sell these devices and one that we recommend that you go to is www.waveshield.com. (No one associated with our law firm has any relationship, financial or otherwise with anyone associated with these companies that sell these devices.)

This article will not discuss the number of studies that have found no link between cell phone use and cancer. While we acknowledge that these studies exist, some of them are not recent and they appear to run contrary to an international trend over the last several years where cancer researchers in several foreign nations have also found a link between cell phone use and cancer. In fact, many of these countries have already issued warnings similar to Dr. Herberman.

The point of this latest warning and this article is it is the first credible finding by a renowned American Cancer Institute and it merely concludes that while the data is inconclusive, it is better to err on the side of caution and use all safety remedies at your disposal. No one, in their right mind, who does not have an agenda, can argue with the logic in this warning. We are not, and I repeat, NOT attempting to procure litigation cases against the Cell Phone Industry and their various companies. We are merely using this opportunity to educate our friends and neighbors and advise them to exercise caution, especially when it comes to their beautiful children.

South Florida Hospitals Fined for Lack of Specialists in ER Care.

In 2006 Palms West Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center failed to appropriately treat a child who was bleeding into the brain after being hit by a softball. As a direct result, the State of Florida has fined both St. Mary’s and Palm West Hospital hospitals and they have agreed to pay a combined meager $17,500.00 to the state. Although the settlement is a minor expense to the parent companies of Palms West and St. Mary’s, it is the largest state penalties levied against any hospital in this area over the past two years. In addition, both hospitals have changed how their emergency rooms handle emergency patients due to this and other incidents in which the hospitals failed to provide specialists in local emergency rooms.

After a thorough investigation of the incident, state inspectors fined St. Mary’s for their failure to adequately document how it handles emergency transfers from other hospitals. St. Mary’s was also was fined for their failure to provide emergency neurology services. (This was the type of specialist that was needed to render the proper treatment to the child at issue in this investigation.)

Several other local hospitals have been cited over the past five years for similar problems. In addition to fines and citations levied by the state, these patients and their families may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and /or death. Recently, another case of note is that of a Boca Raton woman who died after two hospital’s emergency rooms, West Boca Medical Center and Delray Medical Center were unable to find a neurosurgeon to render treatment to her following her stroke. Her family filed a medical malpractice suit and has received almost $2 million in a settlement.

It is clear that pursuant to state and federal “patient dumping” laws, hospitals that offer a specific service to insured and self-pay patients, also must offer the service for emergency patients. The reasoning behind this law is that hospitals that benefit financially from offering these specialists to their elective patients cannot refuse to provide them to their emergency room patients, some of whom may lack insurance coverage. This law prevents patients from being “dumped” onto other hospitals due to lack of insurance.

Lack of insurance should not determine the quality of care one receives when they are in need of emergent care in the hospital. Patients with severe and life threatening inures do not have luxury of time to shop around for the hospital that will have the necessary specialists to treat them with the degree of competence they deserve. If a patient who electively chooses a hospital for the high quality of their doctors can seek a specialist’s services, then an Emergency room patient in that same hospital should have the same right to be treated by the same high quality specialist. The practice of transferring ER patients to other hospitals at the expense of that patient’s well-being is morally repugnant and can not be justified by payment issues. This is emergent care- in many cases these patients must be attended to quickly in order to save their lives. Every second counts…their life depends on it.

Florida Personal Injury Checklist

You are driving down the road in Broward County, wearing your seatbelt and obeying all traffic signals and laws. The last thing you thought would happen is a car running a red light and striking your vehicle at the intersection. You advise the Officer at the scene of your statement and the other driver is cited at fault for the accident. You are injured so you go to the ER. You are waiting to be seen and so many things are running through your mind…am I going to be OK…what about my car…how am I going to get to work…etc… These are questions our South Florida firm answers everyday when we speak with our prospective clients for the first time. In an effort to help our prospective clients we have compiled a checklist of sorts that can be used by anyone who is injured in an accident in the State of Florida.

1. Be truthful to everyone about any physical limitation you now have. In order for your doctors and attorney to help you with your case we need to know about all of your symptoms.

2. Don’t accept a check or sign a release from an insurance company for your property damage claim unless you are sure you know exactly what it covers. Sometimes insurance companies will attempt to get you to release “any and all claims” – including your personal injury claim when you are only settling your claim for property damage. Please check with your attorney if you’re not sure.

3. Do not hide past accidents or injuries from your lawyer. Insurance companies have access to accident information in a central database, so the other insurance company will more than likely find out about your prior medical history and accident.

4. We find that it is extremely helpful when clients keep a record of how they feel. A diary is an excellent way to organize this information. The diary should contain notes of their doctor and therapy appointments, medications, and inability to work and enjoy any of the activities that were enjoyed and participated in before the accident. In real life there are few “cant’s” after an accident. Most people recover the ability to perform most activities, unless they are bedridden. But generally, if they have limitations, it’s because they can’t do the activity as long, as hard, or as strongly as they used to. A diary which reflects these limitations is important to your injury case because they can really show the adjuster how you have been affected on a daily basis as a result of the accident.

5. Do not try and deal with pain. See a doctor or go to the ER immediately after your accident. Tell your doctor everything: about how the accident occurred, and advise him or her of any past accidents or medical conditions.

6. Video cameras can be hidden anywhere. You may not know you are being videotaped and it could be at anytime or in any place. We have seen this many times. You will lose all credibility if you claim you cannot perform a certain way and then are caught “on tape” doing those exact things or something similar. If you are honest and truthful about your injuries and limitations this invasion of your privacy will only bolster your case. Go on as usual if you see someone following you and let them record for all to see how your injuries have affected your ability to perform your normal everyday functions. This will be your best evidence.

These are just a few of the things we routinely go over with our clients so they can be educated on what they can do to help us to obtain the maximum recovery possible for their individual case. Insurance companies are for profit businesses and in order for us to obtain fair, speedy and just compensation to persons injured through the fault of another (the insurance company’s policyholder) we have to do everything we can do to present a case in the light most favorable to our clients and convince the Insurance Companies that our clients are entitled to be paid a fair, speedy and just settlement as a result of their insured’s negligence. If you want to read more about what not to do after you are in an accident you can read an article in our blog : “Florida Auto Accidents: The Mistakes People Make” dated June 26, 2008.

Florida Auto Safety: Move Over Law Saves Lives

On Monday, June 23, 2008, a statewide campaign was instituted by the Florida Highway Patrol to spread awareness of Florida’s Move Over Law. This law is designed to protect Police Officers, Emergency Workers and Pedestrians at the scene of accidents from being struck by vehicles on Florida roads. The Move Over Law states that a driver must vacate the lane next to where a law enforcement vehicle has stopped on the side of a road with its lights flashing. During the weeklong campaign officers will issue warnings to motorists through Wednesday and on Thursday will begin issuing tickets for violations.

Florida’s Move Over Law was meant to prevent tragedies such as these:

• A case in Miami recently when Rescue crews amputated a man’s leg on a Miami highway after he was crushed between two vehicles. The accident occurred while the man was checking the damage to his car after he was struck from behind by a sport utility vehicle. Another vehicle then crashed into the SUV, pinning the man.

• According to Florida Highway Patrol three people were killed since the Memorial Day weekend while checking their vehicles for damage after a crash in the middle of a road.

• A Road Ranger was critically injured while assisting a motorist on the Palmetto Expressway. The Road Ranger was assisting a vehicle that was disabled when another car struck the Ranger’s truck, which then in turn struck the Road Ranger.

Tragedies such as these can be been avoided if all drivers adhere to the following safety precautions:

1. Drivers should move their cars to the side of the road before checking for damage after minor accidents;
2. Drivers should vacate the lane next to where a law enforcement vehicle has stopped on the side of the road; and 3. Drives should vacate the lane next to the scene of an auto accident.

Florida Auto Accidents: The Mistakes People Make

Quite often during meetings with our clients in our Fort Lauderale and Weston offices, we are frequently asked the question: What do I do when I am injured in a car accident in the State of Florida? The answer to that question in our opinion is better answered by providing our clients with a very short list of things they should never do. These are the mistakes that we are often faced with when clients first come to our office and we find that they have:

1. Failed to report the accident to the Police and to the insurance company;
2. Failed to document their Injuries to the Police, Rescue, and the insurance company;
2. Failed to take photographs of their injuries and property damage;
3. Failed to go to a doctor to document their injuries;
4. Made a signed or recorded statement to their own insurance company without first seeking legal advice; and 5. Made a signed or recorded statement to the party at fault’s insurance company without first seeking legal advice.

These may seem like fairly simple things that need to be done at the time, but at the time of an accident most people are upset, anxious and sometimes injured and as a result may not be thinking clearly. If you take our tips and follow them you will at least have ensured that the necessary information is being documented properly at the outset of your case. This documentation is essential in helping our offices to be better able to resolve your case either through settlement or litigation.

Nursing Home Negligence: South Florida Patients Are Signing Away their Rights to Sue Nursing Homes

South Floridians are placing their loved ones into nursing homes and are increasingly signing away the patient’s rights to sue for nursing home negligence over sub standard care.

How can this happen? Easily, it occurs when nursing homes place arbitration clauses and/or agreements in the documents that patients and their family members sign upon admission to the nursing home. These admission documents are signed at a time when the family members and patients are in distress and not fully aware of the magnitude of the binding contractual terms they are agreeing to and the legal rights that they are forever waiving.

As a result, the patients are unknowingly signing away their legal rights to a trial by jury. This is the reason why a number of lawmakers are pushing legislation to make such agreements unenforceable. The lawmakers in the Senate, consumer advocacy groups and trial lawyers, take the position that families shouldn’t be giving away their ability to hold the nursing homes accountable for poor and substandard care in a court of law.

On Wednesday, June 18, 2008, a Senate committee will hear from the family of William Kurth. He fractured his hip and leg and contracted numerous pressure ulcers in a nursing home before he died. His family attempted to sue the nursing home for negligence, and a judge dismissed the case because Mr. Kurth’s wife signed admission documents which included a binding arbitration clause that required all claims go through an arbitrator. It is important to note that Mrs. Kurth was under extreme duress and on medication when she signed the papers that allowed her husband, a stroke victim, to stay at the nursing home. Kurth family members will appear before Congress and testify to the fact that their father, a World War II veteran, died at age 84 from infections that occurred because excrement and urine were not cleansed from his bedsores for days at a time.

A panel in the U.S.Senate is investigating the increasing use of binding arbitration by nursing homes. Their search of court records revealed that more than 100 lawsuits have been filed in the past five years challenging these types of arbitration agreements.

There are some that argue that arbitration has become a shield for large corporations to hide behind and decrease the quality of care given to their patients. Some companies actually conduct a cost benefit analysis and determine that it is economically more profitable to continue to provide substandard care and address any claims made by the patient and their families at a later date on a case by case basis. In the end, the companies benefit because the cost of arbitrating a negligence claim is minimal compared to an increase in daily costs at the nursing homes for more doctors, staff, supplies…etc.. Binding arbitration minimizes the nursing home’s expenses and forces patients and their families to resolve their disputes without any further redress. The ones who suffer from this “strategy” are the patients who are either seriously injured or die from the negligent care and their families.

This point was very well understood by Mr. Kurth’s children and well stated in written testimony provided to the Associated Press:

“It is economically more profitable to let people like my father suffer than to provide proper care. And now that our family is trying to hold the nursing home corporation accountable for its actions, Kindredcare is trying to bury our case by forcing us into a mandatory, secret, and binding arbitration process that they chose.”

Nursing Homes take the position that the arbitration program was designed to achieve several goals, including prompt resolution of legal disputes and lower costs to both residents and their families.

Binding arbitration does have a place in the American Judicial System and it should not be precluded as an option, but the decision has to be made by both parties after a dispute occurs. “Many incoming residents lack the capacity to make even simple decisions, much less judge the legal significance of an arbitration agreement,” Sen. Herb Kohl, D.-Wis., said. “Most are unaware that they are signing away their right to go to court.”

The AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association support legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., that would make arbitration agreements for nursing home patients unenforceable.

Our firm supports legislation which would make binding arbitration agreements for nursing home patients unenforceable. It is time that these arbitration clauses and /or agreements are removed from all admission documents in Nursing Homes. These binding arbitration agreements are one-sided and strip patients of their legal right to pursue their negligence claims in a court of law against nursing homes for substandard and poor care that results in serious injury and/or death.