We will do everything we can to work with your doctors and healthcare providers to assure them that the bills will be paid. It is against the Rules of Professional Responsibility for an attorney to pay those bills directly. Personal Injury Protection or No-Fault coverage is available to pay some of the initial bills. Likewise, once Personal Injury Protection or No-Fault is gone, your health insurance can step in to help pay the bills initially until the settlement occurs. If health insurance isn’t available, then we have many doctors who will work with us on a lien basis whereby they will wait to get paid until the settlement occurs because you will have signed an agreement to pay them out of the settlement. Some healthcare providers will not wait for payment. In those instances, it may be necessary for you to make monthly payments to them in order to keep them from turning your account over to collections. They are entitled to get paid, and there is nothing in the law that stops their right from trying to collect the money that is owed. However, we are successful in most instances in getting the creditors to wait to receive their money. Unfortunately, the entire process usually takes several months before everything is sorted out and resolved and the money paid. Because we work on a percentage basis, we don’t get paid until the case is closed, and so we try to work as fast as we can. However, in some instances there is simply nothing we can do to speed the process up any faster. The time period between the accident and the time the settlement comes is often stressful and frustrating. Still, we can make it much better and give the doctors and hospitals and ambulance companies a great deal of confidence in knowing that they will be paid and everything will work out. The insurance company that insures the party who caused the accident will generally not make payments in advance of the entire case settling. Such interim payments are extremely rare within the industry. Still, stick with us and be patient and things will probably work out just fine.
A variation on this question is also “Will I be harming the person I’m bringing a claim against if I make a personal injury claim?” In either situation, whether there is or is not litigation involved, the person who caused the accident has already had their record tarnished by the occurrence of the accident for which they are at fault. It does not matter whether or not any person injured in that event brings a claim or files a lawsuit. Whatever negative things come, if any, which may happen to the person who caused the accident has already happened as soon as the insurance company involved realizes that its insured caused an accident. Many insurance companies do not have anything negative happen to the person unless the accident is one too many. Some insurance companies allow “one free accident” without any adverse effects on the person’s insurance rating. If there is anything negative that happens to an individual who causes an accident, it will either be that his insurance rates or premiums increase somewhat or the insurance company may actually drop him as an insured. If the person who caused the accident also received a ticket from any law enforcement entity, he may also have to pay a fine for receiving the ticket. This is the way it should be. When someone causes an accident that causes injury or damage or harm to another individual, he needs to be accountable and responsible for whatever harm or injury he caused. Because of the existence of insurance, the person generally will not have to pay anything out of his own pocket for the damages caused to the party who was injured. However, if he has to pay a ticket, that will be out of his own pocket. Still, that is a fairly light responsibility for injuring another individual in our society. Nevertheless that is the way our system works.
Check out http://www.lorimertz.com/ for the wonderful new book “Successful Surgery and Healing”. Lori Mertz has written an incredible book with amazing ideas for successfully getting through surgeries and the healing process. It is a practical guide for patients, caregivers, and advocates. You can go to the website for a copy or contact us for a special discounted copy. Her website also has great tools for patients, which you should definitely check out.
Successful Surgery and Healing is your definitive guide, no matter where you are in the surgical process – beginning, middle or end. There is information here to help you! Simple, direct, easy to understand and follow.
The ideas, checklists, templates and worksheets are intended to aid and support anyone preparing for or recovering from surgery. The information is also applicable for anyone taking on a supportive, caregiving or advocacy role such as a spouse, partner, family member, relative or friend.
It has been a while since we have shared the facts of the infamous “McDonald’s Hot Coffee” Law Suit, so we felt that it is time once again to share the facts about what really happened, how the case was settled and why the case was settled the way it was. Many of the details get lost over time as to what really happened. Here are the facts:
FACT SHEET: MCDONALD’S SCALDING COFFEE CASE
Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car when she was severely burned by McDonald’s coffee in February 1992. Liebeck ordered coffee that was served in a Styrofoam cup at the drive-through window of a local McDonald’s.
After receiving the order, the grandson pulled his car forward and stopped momentarily so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. (Critics of civil justice, who have pounced on this case, often charge that Liebeck was driving the car or that the vehicle was in motion when she spilled the coffee; neither is true.) Liebeck placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap.
The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next to her skin. A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body, including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafting. Liebeck, who also underwent debridement treatments, sought to settle her claim for $20,000, but McDonald’s refused.
During discovery, McDonald’s produced documents showing more than 700 claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebeck’s. This history documented McDonald’s knowledge about the extent and nature of this hazard.
McDonald’s also said during discovery that, based on a consultant’s advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain optimum taste. Other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.
Further, McDonald’s quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforces a requirement that coffee be held in the pot at 185 degrees, plus or minus five degrees. He also testified that a burn hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 degrees or above, and that McDonald’s coffee, at the temperature at which it was poured into Styrofoam cups, was not fit for consumption because it would burn the mouth and throat. The quality assurance manager admitted that burns would occur, but testified that McDonald’s had no intention of reducing the “holding temperature” of its coffee.
Plaintiff’s expert, a scholar in thermodynamics as applied to human skin burns, testified that liquids, at 180 degrees, will cause a full thickness burn to human skin in two to seven seconds. Other testimony showed that as the temperature decreases toward 155 degrees, the extent of the burn relative to that temperature decreases exponentially. Thus, if Liebeck’s spill had involved coffee at 155 degrees, the liquid would have cooled and given her time to avoid a serious burn.
McDonald’s asserted that customers buy coffee on their way to work or home, intending to consume it there. However, the company’s own research showed that customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while driving.
McDonald’s also argued that consumers know coffee is hot and that its customers want it that way. The company admitted its customers were unaware that they could suffer third-degree burns from the coffee and that a statement on the side of the cup was not a “warning” but a “reminder” since the location of the writing would not warn customers of the hazard.
The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20 percent at fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages, which equals about two days of McDonald’s coffee sales.
Post-verdict investigation found that the temperature of coffee at the local Albuquerque McDonald’s had dropped to 158 degrees Fahrenheit.
The trial court subsequently reduced the punitive award to $480,000 — or three times compensatory damages — even though the judge called McDonald’s conduct reckless, callous and willful. Subsequent to remittitur, the parties entered a post-verdict settlement.