Articles Posted in Tort Reform

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Any political battle is also a public affairs fight. In an ideal world both sides of any issue would provide fair, accurate, and honest information about their position, respond fairly to valid points made by the other side, and concede when those opposing arguments are stronger. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world. Instead, misinformation, distractions, and “gotcha” one-liners dominate the landscape. That means that many community members are drastically misinformed about the real facts about any situation.

The sad reality is that this dynamic means that dangerous and downright harmful legislation is passed. Many of these bills take away rights and harm communities as a whole–only benefitting certain powerful interests. The ability of lobbying arms for those interests to convince community members otherwise is the key factor that allows this bad legislation to become law.

Disinformation Campaign

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Last week we shared information regarding the Center for Justice & Democracy’s “Briefing Book” on tort litigation. The takeaway from each post was that there remains serious misunderstandings about how many suits are filed and resolved as they relate to various “injury” cases–including lawsuits alleging nursing home abuse and neglect. While those calling for tort reform laws present an image of a justice system run amok, the data shows otherwise. Most people who are injured do not file suit, and even when they do, only a very small percentage go trial. Following a trial, the average verdict amount is usually far lower than the tort proponent supporters suggest. Similarly, punitive damage awards (always touted as a reason that the civil justice sytem is broken) are rarely given out, and, even when they are given out, the total is far lower than any figure that makes newspaper headlines.

In short: don’t believe what you hear about the current state of the system as promulgated by those seeking to “reform” the system.

On top of that, however, it is a mistake simply to play defense on these issues. It is one thing to say that things “aren’t as bad” as others are suggesting. But it it is another to say forcefully that not only is the system “not that bad,” but it is working as exactly as intended and thriving as a critical societal institution. That forceful case is exaclty what we should be making.

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The right to a jury trial in tort cases–including some nursing home lawsuits–remains under assault. The good news is that those in favor of protecting the unencumbered right to have impartial members of the community settle disputes have the facts on our side. Most of the claims made by big political interests about the need to take away consumer rights are either greatly misleading or sometimes downright false. That is why one of the main ways to fight back against these efforts is to become educated in the reality of tort litigation in America today.

To help, the Center for Justice & Democracy, a long-standing champion of civil justice rights, published its latest report to help provide succinct, accurate, and important information on the topic. The full report can be downloaded here.

The Truth About Tort Litigation

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may increase the number of events they refuse to reimburse nursing homes and negligent hospitals for carrying out. Currently nursing home residents who develop pressure ulcers and urinary tract infections are not able to have Medicare and Medicaid cover their treatment costs. This is an effort to require adequate nursing home care and to prevent nursing home abuse on elder patients. Currently, CMS is discussing the addition of hospital errors and surgical errors to the list of events that are not redeemable via insurance. If this passes nursing home residents may be impacted since many undergo pressure sore debridement in hospitals relating to the poor elder care they receive in nursing homes. To read more about the possible changes to be implemented by CMS, click here.

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The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care is holding its annual meeting in October. The meeting is to be held close to Chicago, in a neighboring state. The organization prides itself on make advances in the care received by nursing home residents and works to prevent nursing home abuse, nursing home neglect and nursing home failures to supervise for patients. Organizations like NCCNHR are crucial to help obtain changes in nursing home reforms and to improve the quality of care that elder residents receive. To register for the conference or learn more information how this organization is working to improve nursing home care and long term care facilities click here.

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The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, also known as the Nursing Home Arbitration Bill has been passed by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial Law and Administrative Law. The nursing home legislation, if passed by the Senate will prevent nursing homes in Illinois and all across the nation from requiring the elderly residents in nursing home to sign an arbitration agreement to gain admission. Amendments did not pass that attempted to exclude nursing home employees and nursing home physicians from the bill. To read more about this piece of nursing home legislation that may bring a change to Illinois nursing home residents click here.

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A recently passed Medicare Bill in the Senate may help provide relief to those who are insured by Medicare. Elderly Health Insurance is a very important topic in today’s world as the nation is facing an increasingly higher age population of seniors. Without the bill payments to physicians would have been cut placing higher costs on elderly patients to pay for their hospital bills, medical bills and even nursing home facilities. Proper elderly treatment and adequate elderly care can only come if the population is financially secure and can afford proper nursing home care and health care. Without insurance coverage or other sources of financial aid the elderly faces a terrifying decision to enter into a neglectful nursing home environment or an abusive nursing home environment. To read more about this bipartisan bill click here.

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A recently passed Medicare and Medicare rule will require all nursing homes to be operating in safe conditions that require nursing homes to be outfitted with sprinkler systems. The use of a sprinkler system could alleviate serious personal injuries and a nursing home fire from breaking out. Nursing homes across the nation fall prey to older facilities where nursing home care suffers as facilities lack proper sprinkler systems and proper nursing home supervision and care needs. To learn about this change occurring in the right direction and to see how homes in Chicago, Illinois will one day benefit click here.

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In response to two recent Chicago Tribune articles regarding horrific abuse and neglect in an East Peoria, Illinois nursing home and the lawsuit brought against the home by Levin & Perconti for the serious neglect of one patient, Jason Held, Staff Director of the

Center for Justice & Democracy in Illinois raised an important, but overlooked point. He stated that the East Peoria abuse and neglect is just one example of a serious, statewide problem but that state agencies are unable to sufficiently deter carelessness, neglect and abuse or fairly compensate victims due to a lack of resources. Regardless of the state’s inability to punish nursing homes and compensate victims, operators of the facilities are allowed to operate without carrying liability insurance. Mr. Held recommends that we demand that the Illinois legislature require nursing home operators to carry liability insurance in order to deter wrongful action and hold the homes responsible for their actions, or lack thereof.

The Center for Justice & Democracy is a non-profit, tax-exempt group, founded by consumer advocates to protect the civil justice system. Click here to visit Center for Justice & Democracy website.

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The Illinois Senate will be voting on HB 1798 this week. We need you to contact State Senator Susan Garrett now and urge her to vote YES on HB 1798. HB 1798 would allow damages for grief, sorrow, and mental anguish for the wrongful death of a loved one. Senator Garret has indicated that she has heard from many doctors regarding their opposition to this bill. Senator Garrett’s phone number is (847) 433-2002.

For more information on the bill.