No one ever wants to spend time in a hospital. It can be overwhelming, scary and difficult to navigate a complex system that includes doctors, nurses, technicians, laboratory testing and many other complexities. Once discharged and back home, it oftentimes only becomes more confusing once the hospitals and doctors bill for services. The reason for this is because although a patient may have all of their care performed at one hospital, every doctor seen may bill separately for the care provided. And while the hospital may take the patient’s insurance, there is no guarantee that each doctor covers the same plan. This post attempts to explain how to avoid being a victim of “surprise billing.” Continue reading
At Leopold & Associates, we represent families fighting for their rights against insurance companies and other corporations who have caused injury or other harm. The cornerstone of our American system of civil justice is the idea that any person who feels that have been wronged can file a lawsuit in a court of law and have that suit heard by a jury of their peers. However, over the last decade, billion-dollar corporations have been making it harder for consumers to have their day in Court through a process known as arbitration.
A recent study by the University of California Davis Law School found that 81 of the largest 100 corporations in America stick legal clauses in the fine print of their customer agreements that bar customers from suing the company in Court if a dispute arises. Instead, consumers are forced into out of court arbitration where a single arbitrator, often picked by the company, can decide everything from whether a consumer can be compensated for a terrible injury caused by a defective product to whether an employee can seek relief for unpaid wages or discrimination. Last month, the United States House of Representatives took the first step in banning this practice and ensuring people’s rights to allow their disputes to be heard before a court and a jury. Continue reading
Modern medicine can literally rebuild a patient’s body. Like a car needing new parts, doctors can replace hips, joints and even limbs in people with critical and serious injuries. In fact, one of the most common surgeries in hospitals are artificial knee replacements. As the Chicago Tribune reported earlier this month, “rates of the surgery doubled from 1999 to 2008, with 3.5 million procedures a year expected by 2030.” But as the Tribune article also makes clear, these knee replacements are not a guaranteed cure.
Recent studies show that two thirds of knee replacement recipients still deal with chronic pain and one out of every five are dissatisfied with the outcome of their surgery. A study by the BMJ medical journal found that patients with osteoarthritis who received a knee replacement felt that the surgery “had minimal effects on quality of life.” Coupled with the fact that numerous artificial knee products are under medical recall should leave patients questioning the surgery and electing to proceed as an absolute last resort. Continue reading
Perhaps it seemed of little consequence to the doctor at the time. A simple lunch to learn about the latest prescription pain killer medication on the market. Later it was a fee to speak at a conference about the use of that drug at the doctor’s practice. Six months later it was an all-expenses paid trip to a conference put on by the drug manufacturer to further market the medication. These situations have become common place in medicine and these payments are a major component of drug companies marketing agendas. So common, in fact, that the Washington Post highlights a new study that “found 434,754 payments totaling $39.7 million to 67,507 physicians — about one in every 12 doctors.” Alarmingly, a subset of this study found that “one in every five family physicians had received this kind of marketing.”
The payments have consequences. A recent, first of its kind study from doctors and researchers at Boston Medical Center and New York University School of Medicine, found a direct correlation between drug company payments to doctors and overdose deaths associated with the opioid epidemic. Michael Barnett, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who concentrates his research on the correlation between physicians and the opioid epidemic told the Post that these findings are “deeply concerning for the raging [opioid] crisis that we’re all quite aware of.” Continue reading
Happy New Year and welcome to 2019! The start of every year brings all sorts of changes to the State of Illinois. A new governor, new attorney general and new members of Congress in the Chicago suburbs. Also new to the state are several laws that took effect at midnight on January 1, 2019. In fact, the Chicago Tribune noted that more than 250 new laws are now in effect and on the book in the state. These laws effect everything from transportation and traffic tickets, to public safety initiatives involving car seats or even gun ownership. Included in this post are of some of the new laws that may affect your everyday life. Continue reading
As 2018 comes to a close, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) has released their annual “awards” for the worst corporate conduct of 2018. This annual report highlights some of the most egregious acts of corporate greed by misleading and taking advantage of consumers in an effort to maximize profits. The report also demonstrates how these companies will continue their often-predatory practices unless they are healed accountable by our justice system. AAJ is an incredible, non-profit organization aimed at protecting the rights of consumers while ensuring equal and fair access to our courts.
Given the current political climate, Washington seems unlikely to put people’s needs ahead of corporate wishes. Therefore, our civil courts are often the only way for Americans to hold bad actors accountable and change the way they do business. Here in Chicago, we are proud to represent and fight for people, not corporations and are equally proud of our successes against some of the very companies identified in the AAJ report. We have sumarized some of the most disappointing conduct in the AAJ report below: Continue reading
This January, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner will depart the governor’s mansion having lost his bid for reelection. In one of his final legislative acts, Governor Rauner actually vetoed a bill that would help the families of veterans receive reasonable financial compensation for the deaths of their loved ones. Fortunately, on November 28, the Democratic controlled legislature overrode the Governor’s veto. Had this veto remained in effect, the compensation these military families would have received would have been limited to $100,000. Continue reading
In 2007, the Carlyle Group, one of the wealthiest private equity firms in the world, purchased ManorCare, the second largest nursing home chain in the country. A recent investigation by the Washington Post details how the purchase made ManorCare a for-profit business that prioritized financial return for investors at the expense ManorCare’s 25,000 patients. The results were devastating. As the Post investigation revealed, in the years following the purchase, health code violations rose by 26 percent. Serious violations, which can be categorized as issues placing a patient in “immediate jeopardy” increased by 29%. The nursing homes were chronically understaffed by nurses. This past March, ManorCare filed for bankruptcy.
Behind each of these violations is a human being with a real story. The Post investigation details several and each are heartbreaking. They include stories of patients left unclothed with visible bedsores and infections; limited mobility patients forced to walk unaided due to lack of staff who would fall and suffer fractures or brain hemorrhages; and patients who “were so poorly staffed that some residents regularly soiled themselves while waiting for help to the bathroom.” We all have loved ones who currently or in the future may require, skilled nursing care. It is vital for family members to have faith and trust in the care providers. The unacceptable situation at ManorCare highlights a scary trend where regulations failed, and actual harm resulted. Continue reading
If you have State Farm automobile insurance, check your policy. A recent investigation by a Louisville, Kentucky television station revealed alarming concerns: multiple policyholders are finding that they coverage they thought they had and thought they paid for was not in fact included on their policy. And subsequently, when the policyholders questioned State Farm about this discrepancy and demanded to see their policy documents State Farm claimed they signed, the policyholders found their signatures were forged.
Across television, radio and the internet, Illinois headquartered State Farm claims that “like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” But this is a story where actions speak louder than words. If the allegations raised by WAVE3 News and a parallel lawsuit are true, the actions of Chicago’s corporate neighbor are anything but good. Continue reading
At Leopold & Associates, almost all of our cases deal with fighting insurance companies. Insurance companies are paid premiums to provide coverage, reimbursement and protection to people when things go wrong. We all know mistakes happen and we all also hope to be covered by insurance to help guard against the unforeseeable. Sometimes that can be reimbursement for medical expenses after a car accident or coverage for future medical care if a doctor makes a mistake. At its most basic, we carry health insurance to guard against catastrophic medical expenses such as a serious injury or cancer diagnosis. We count on the insurance that we, or an employer, pays for to cover those expenses. When an insurance company denies you coverage, trying to fight for your benefits you are entitled to while battling an injury or illness, can feel like fighting the weight of the world.
Last week, in a story similar tof John Grisham’s fictional book, and later movie, The Rainmaker, Aetna, one of the largest health insurance companies in the country was hit with a $25.5 million dollar verdict for denying lifesaving cancer treatment to an Oklahoma woman. As CNN reported, in 2014 Orrana Cunningham, was diagnosed with stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer near her brain stem. Doctors wanted to treat the cancer with proton beam therapy, a common form of radiation. Aetna denied the claim arguing that this treatment was “experimental.” Orrana died of complications from the cancer in 2015 at the age of 54. Continue reading