Mandatory Arbitration-Unfair to Military Families and Consumers

March 17th, 2015

When men and women of the United States Armed Forces are deployed in service to their country, they should not have to worry about their families being victimized by legal and financial schemes at home. To prevent lenders and others from taking advantage of a military service member’s absence while on active duty, Congress passed the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act. The Act provides certain legal protections to service members, by assuring that they will not miss their fair day in court because they are deployed.

Some companies have found a way around this protection for military families. It is called “mandatory arbitration,” and it effects soldiers and civilians alike. “Mandatory arbitration” does an end around the mostly level playing field provided by the courts, and requires that legal disputes between corporations and consumers be decided by an arbitrator hand-picked by the corporation. Sounds fair, if you are the corporation. Not so much if you are one of the rest of us.

A recent news story exposes some of the abuses that result from “mandatory arbitration.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/17/business/wronged-troops-are-denied-recourse-by-arbitration-clauses.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0.

A “mandatory arbitration” clause can be slipped into any consumer contract without most of us ever noticing. If there is ever a dispute with the corporation over the transaction, “mandatory arbitration” means that dispute will be decided entirely on the corporation’s terms (where, when, how and by whom.). We think our legislators should rein in this growing practice; and, that consumers should be wary of doing business with any company that puts a “mandatory arbitration” clause in the contract.

Do you think “mandatory arbitration” is a fair way to resolve disputes? We’d like to hear.

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Workers Compensation Is Becoming a Very Bad Deal For Workers/A Worse Deal For Taxpayers

March 5th, 2015

When you think of an “injured worker,” remember that is you on a bad day; or your husband; or, your sister or, your son or daughter or neighbor.

Legislatures around the country are squeezing injured workers in order to add to the bottom line of employers and their insurance carriers.  Listen to a few minutes of an NPR investigative report exposing the unfairness that has descended upon the worker’s compensation systems across the country.   http://www.npr.org/2015/03/04/390441655/injured-workers-suffer-as-reforms-limit-workers-compensation-benefits

These “reforms,” that purport to “rein in the high cost of worker’s compensation insurance” only shift an even greater burden onto the injured worker and his/her family.  This additional financial distress is dumped on the worker at the worst possible time–when he/she is already down, and struggling to figure out how to make ends meet until the injuries heal.

And one more thing:  When the injured worker is unable to work, and the employer, through worker’s compensation, doesn’t provide enough for the worker to keep the lights on and the kids fed, do you know who else pays?  You and me and every taxpayer in this country, when we finance the food stamps and other public assistance our brother/sister will require to get by because his employer compensates him so little.

The American worker performs valuable service for the employer and makes the business profitable.  When the worker is injured or disabled by the work, it is only fair that the employer or its insurance carrier provide meaningful assistance to allow the worker to recover and thrive.  It is wrong to leave the injured worker to fend for himself.  And it is wrong to put the burden on the taxpayer to pay this cost of doing business.

If you have a relationship with your legislator, tell them you expect them to look out for working people.  That’s what I think.  What do you think?

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Kansas Personal Injury Attorney Says Some Hospitals Add Insult to Injury

August 7th, 2013

You are in an accident and suffer serious injury.  You are taken to a hospital and admitted for several days of medical care.  You have paid high premiums over the years for health insurance, and the hospital accepts your health insurance plan.  So the bill is covered by your health insurance company, right?

The unfortunate answer is, “not necessarily.”  Some hospitals are choosing not to submit your bills to your health insurance company for payment if they think they can get more out of you.  You see, when your health insurance company pays the hospital, it pays at a discounted price that was negotiated between the hospital and the insurer.  On a $30,000 hospital bill, for example, the hospital may have agreed to accept, say $8,000 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  But, from you the hospital wants the entire $30,000.

This pernicious practice happens most often when your injuries were caused by the fault of another—like when a drunk driver blows a red light and crashes into you.  The hospital sees that you might have a pretty viable claim against the responsible driver and his insurance company, so the hospital rejects your health insurance, with its discounted reimbursements, and comes after your anticipated settlement with the drunk driver to recover its full charges.

So, what is the problem?  If you are recovering the bill from the drunk driver, why shouldn’t the hospital be able to collect its full bill out of your settlement?

Consider if the drunk driver has only $25,000 in liability insurance.  That is all the money you are ever likely to see from him.  Now, the hospital wants $30,000 out of the settlement to pay the bill that it had agreed with your health insurance company would be paid at a discounted rate.  The hospital takes the entire $25,000 toward its bill, leaving you with another $5,000 to pay.  There is nothing left to reimburse you for your lost income or to compensate you for a lifetime of disability inflicted on you by the drunk driver.  This, after you had already paid thousands of dollars over the years in premiums for the health insurance the hospital now refuses to accept because they can get more from you.

If you find yourself in this situation, your next call should be to an attorney with experience handling injury claims.  That attorney will know how to deal with all of the complicated insurance issues that arise when you are injured by the fault of another.  We work on these kinds of cases every day.  If we can be of assistance to you, just give us a call.

For an interesting article on this terrible injustice some hospitals are engaging in, go to http://www.kansascity.com/2013/08/03/4387796/area-hospitals-are-being-sued.html and read a good article by Kansas City Star reporter Steve Everly.  We’d like to know what you think about this.

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Packing Kansas Courts

July 24th, 2013

When King George III sent his hand-picked judges to preside over American Colonial Courts, the colonists rebelled.  They knew the King would choose only judges that would side with him on every issue.   These judges owed their positions to the King alone, and “the King can do no wrong. ”  If allowed to pack the bench with those loyal to him alone, the colonists knew their monarch would have unchecked power over them, and they would be denied all hope of fair, impartial and independent courts.

Sixty years ago a Kansas Governor, defeated at the ballot box, resigned his office before the end of his term so that his Lieutenant Governor could appoint him to be Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.  The public was understandably outraged at this self-serving abuse of power.  A new system for appointing judges was put into place.  A nominating committee of citizens–some appointed by the Governor, others not–was instituted to vet interested candidates; assure their professional qualifications; and, to submit the best and least ideological to the Governor for consideration.  The system served the public well.  Independent business and consumer groups alike have long given Kansas courts high marks for the quality of the state’s judges and the fairness of its judicial system.

Fast-forward to 2013.  This session, the Kansas Legislature dispensed with the time-tested and independent judicial nominating committee; once again handing the Governor the power to appoint whomever he likes to the appellate courts.  The temptation for a governor–any governor–to pack the courts with sycophants and political allies is easy to imagine.

In most countries around the world, the power of the majority is absolute.  The recently elected government of Egypt thought its mandate was to do whatever its supporters liked, without regard for the views of the opposition.  As we now read in the papers, the citizens of Egypt thought otherwise and are, once again, in rebellion.

In the United States, we charted a different course.  Here, the majority in power gives respect to minority rights as well. These rights are enshrined in our Constitution–the supreme law of the land that protects individuals and minority groups from the excesses of the majority.  Independent courts play the important role of standing in the way when a party in power–whether Democrats or Republicans–governs like a monarch, without regard for the rights of all citizens. In America, we saw the King actually can do wrong, and that it takes an independent judiciary to tell him so.

It seems to me that independent courts are our safeguard against any majority that would oppress the minority.  By giving one person all of the power to choose its judges, Kansas endangers the independence of its courts and that important safeguard.  I would be interested to know what you think.

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Tips for Sharing the Road with Motorcycles in Kansas City

April 30th, 2013

Spring is here, and summer is around the corner.  It is motorcycle season inKansas City!  For all the joy we feel on the back of a bike, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves how vulnerable we are out there, sharing the road with cars and trucks.

It goes without saying that motorcycles and cars can be a deadly combination on the road. Thousands of bikers are killed and injured every year in accidents with cars.      A few sensible precautions can help prevent a tragedy.

Tips for Car Drivers

  • Allow extra room when driving behind a motorcycle.  Motorcyclists have a much shorter slowing and stopping distance than cars.  That is simple physics.  Also, even a slight collision from behind can have devastating results for the biker because two wheels are less stable than four, and the rider is entirely exposed, i.e. no bumpers or fenders to protect him;
  • During this season especially, check your blind spots before changing lanes, and then check them again! The number one reason for motorcycle crashes is a car changing lanes or turning into the motorcycle.
  • Before continuing into an intersection from a stop, check for oncoming traffic, and then check again!  Obviously, motorcycles are harder to see than cars.  But, as responsible drivers, it is our responsibility to see what is there to be seen;
  • Always use your turn signal so the motorcyclist (and anyone else, for that matter) can understand your intentions and respond accordingly.

Tips for Motorcyclists

  • WEAR A HELMET!  WEAR A HELMET!  WEAR A HELMET!  I don’t care what your state law says.  Wear a damn helmet!  I know you like that wind rushing through your hair.  But the #1 cause of death and serious injury in motorcycle crashes is head injuries.  Protect yourself.  Wear a helmet.
  • Ride like you’re invisible to other drivers.  While tooling down the road, have you ever looked a stopped driver dead in the eye; then watched as they pulled right out in front of you?  I hope it was just a near miss, because otherwise it was a disaster.  I know they should see you.  But, always assume they don’t.
  • Don’t ride between lines of slow cars and don’t linger beside them when you pass.  Remember, you’re invisible to them.

I’d love to hear your tips for keeping us all safer.  Have a safe motorcycle season.  If you need information on my personal injury services, call my office today at 913-281-3221 for a free confidential consultation.  For more than three decades I have helped accident victims throughoutKansas City receive fair compensation for their injuries.  I would be happy to provide you with personalized, superior legal representation.

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Tips for Sharing the Road with Semi-Trucks in Kansas City

April 15th, 2013

Two interstate highways intersect in Kansas City, and a third will soon be added.  Interstates mean heavy traffic and large semi-tractor trailer trucks.  And those beasts can kill you if you aren’t careful.

Some accidents are bound to happen no matter how carefully you drive, because you can’t control what the other guy is going to do.  There are, however, some special precautions you can take around large trucks to reduce the chance of a tragic collision.

  • Keep a good safe distance between you and the semi-trailer when following.  Some people think “drafting” behind a truck, that is using it to cut wind resistance is a neat way to improve fuel economy.  Not so neat.  Have you ever noticed those large hunks of tire tread along the interstates?  Those probably flew off of one of those 18-wheeler’s tires.  If one of those flies off into your windshield, it won’t be pretty.  It’s dangerous to “draft.”  Don’t do it.
  • When passing a truck, use your signals when you go around; and most definitely when you pull back in front after you’ve passed.  Those signals are there for a reason.  They let your fellow travelers know your intentions and adjust their driving accordingly.  It is never more important to let the other guy know what your about to do than when his vehicle outweighs yours by a few tons.  That is one collision you really, really do not want.
  • Also, when passing a semi-tractor trailer truck, pass on the left if at all possible, and don’t dally.  The trucker has much less of a blind spot to his left than to his right.  Getting around the trucker quickly will reduce the time you may be in a blind spot.
  • Do not cut in front of semi-trucks. As the country song says, “those big trucks don’t stop on a dime.”  Their size and weight give them much greater momentum than a car, making their slowing and stopping distance much greater.  That’s physics!

Be extra cautious and vigilant around semi-trucks.  Be aware that they have limitations in visibility and maneuverability that you do not have.  If you can think of other tips to help us all share the road with semi-trucks more safely, I’d love to hear them.

If you need further information on my personal injury services, call my office today at 913-281-3221 for a free confidential consultation.  For more than three decades I have helped accident victims throughout Kansas City receive fair compensation for their injuries.  I would be happy to provide you with personalized, superior legal representation.

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Poor Road Conditions Cause Serious Accidents in Kansas City

March 28th, 2013

There are a number of reasons why auto accidents occur.  However, many people don’t realize that poorly designed and improperly maintained roads lead to thousands of serious car, truck and motorcycle accidents throughout theUnited States.  With respect to poorly designed roads, have you ever avoided a specific intersection with a reputation in town for being an accident hazard?  Or, have you ever read the editorial section of your local newspaper where people are screaming for something to be done about the poorly designed merger lanes on your local highway?  For several reasons, poor roadway design can lead to an increased incidence of auto accidents, such as by (i) making it difficult to see other drivers or pedestrians, (ii) having inadequate or confusing signs and signals, (iii) not being properly lit at night, (iv) having uneven or inadequate surface material, or (v) containing roadway material that creates hazardous driving conditions during inclement weather.

Not only can poor roadway design be hazardous, the failure to properly maintain a road can also be a major factor in causing an accident.  Have you ever driven on a road that has more holes on it than a piece of Swiss cheese wondering for years why it has never been repaired?  Or, have you ever been involved in an accident because the state transportation department failed to properly clear ice and snow on the roadways in your town?  Whether it be the existence of potholes, poorly maintained trees and bushes that obstruct driver visibility, or areas – due to disrepair – that are susceptible to flooding, these conditions can lead to serious, and fatal, car accidents.

It may be difficult to pursue a claim for poorly designed and/or inadequately maintained roads, given that most roads are public.  As such, a defense of “governmental immunity”, defined as an exemption to liability when a suit is brought against a government without their consent, may be available when claims arise due to the government’s failure to take action to either prevent or address the alleged hazardous condition. Issues of improper notice may also be raised, given that the governmental entity may claim that they are either unaware of the dangerous condition, or have not had adequate time to respond to address the safety concerns.

In dealing with car accident claims against local and/or state governments, it is crucial to speak with aKansas City personal injury attorney who is familiar with the defense of sovereign immunity and how to properly challenge it.  At the Law Offices of Roger W. Mclean, our skilled auto accident lawyers have the knowledge and experience necessary to handle any case, no matter how challenging or complex.  When facing personal injuries, don’t take chances with attorneys who promise results yet lack the skills necessary to deliver them. Call our office now at (913) 281-3221 to schedule your free confidential case evaluation.

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Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet in Kansas City Will Save Your Life

March 7th, 2013

 In many states across theU.S., motorcyclists must wear a helmet, and it makes perfect sense why.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, between 1984 and 2006, motorcycle helmets saved almost 20,000 bikers’ lives who were involved in accidents.  The NHTSA also provides that if all of these motorcyclists and their passengers had worn helmets during this time period, an additional 12,000 lives could have been saved.

In most cases, other drivers are to blame for causing serious motorcycle crashes, especially in high density areas in theUnited States.  Many times, drivers fail to notice motorcyclists in their vicinity and as a result, do not give them the space necessary for them to safety maneuver.  While motorcyclists cannot always avoid accidents, they unequivocally can take control of their safety by wearing a motorcycle helmet.

It goes without saying that motorcycle helmets offer the most effective form of protection, in that they can prevent serious head and brain injuries from occurring as a result of an accident. Understandably, motorcyclists involved in accidents are at a greater disadvantage than other drivers given that they have little to no defense from another vehicle that can weigh several thousand pounds.  At least a motorcycle helmet can cushion a motorcyclist’s head in the event that he or she strikes the pavement or other hard surface, such as a car, truck or guardrail.

The NHTSA has compiled some important statistics demonstrating the effectiveness of wearing a motorcycle helmet.  These are as follows:

  • Head injuries are the most common form of death for motorcyclists involved in accidents.
  • A biker who chooses not to wear a helmet is at a forty percent greater risk of suffering from a life threatening head trauma and fifteen percent more likely to suffer nonfatal injuries than a biker who wears a helmet during a crash.
  • Motorcyclists that wear a helmet have a 35% lesser chance of being killed in an accident.
  • Helmets are more than 65% effective in helping bikers avoid serious injuries to the head and brain.
  • Bikers that do not wear helmets have a much greater risk of suffering from serious and life threatening brain injuries.
  • In a major study analyzing 3,600 motorcycle accidents, helmets were the leading cause of why people survived.

If you were involved in any type of car, truck or motorcycle accident, it is crucial to speak with aKansas Citypersonal injury attorney to help protect your legal interests and fight for your rights.  At the Law Offices of Roger W. Mclean, our skilled accident lawyers have the knowledge and experience necessary to handle any case, no matter how challenging or complex.  When facing personal injuries, don’t take chances with attorneys who promise results but do not have the skills necessary to deliver them. Call our office today at (913) 281-3221 to schedule your free confidential case evaluation.

 

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The Rise of Prescription/Over-the-Counter Drug Use & Impaired Driving

June 18th, 2012

While alcohol related car accidents still remain the most prosecuted impaired driving cases in the United States, prescription/over-the-counter drug use and related crashes are reportedly on the rise, and in some states, far surpassing cocaine and marijuana related cases.  Across the country, police officers, prosecutors and families of victims killed by drivers under the influence of drugs are seeing the results of easy access to prescription medications.  Anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax are most the commonly found prescription drugs involved in deadly crashes, followed by oxycodone, a powerful pain reliever.  These prescription drugs and even some over-the-counter drugs, such as Benadryl, have similarly dangerous effects, as does alcohol, on the brain and/or central nervous system and may significantly impair your judgment and driving ability.  People, especially those who obtain prescription drugs illegally, are not always familiar with the whole host of side effects associated with them, which can have deadly consequences. Moreover, many recreational prescription drug users, a growing number of whom are teenagers, often combine them with alcohol, which can magnify their effects and leave them seriously impaired, especially when behind the wheel.

Although most people equate driving while impaired as resulting from alcohol consumption, drivers who are under the influence of drugs, including prescription medications, can nonetheless face severe penalties if they cause a car accident.  For example, in Missouri, intoxicated driving includes driving while under the influence of drugs, or “DUID”, which carries with it no legal limit.  Meaning, any amount of drugs that impair your ability to drive is sufficient for a DUID conviction.  Drivers under the influence of drugs who cause an accident, especially an accident involving injury or death, could face stiff penalties, including felony manslaughter charges. Otherwise stated, drug impaired driving in Kansas is an offense as serious as a DWI charge and brings with it the same criminal and administrative penalties, which may include jail time and having your license revoked.  In light of Kansas’s “Implied Consent” law, police officers do not need your permission to test your breath, blood, urine or, saliva for traces of drugs and/or alcohol.  Just as with a DWI offense, if you refuse to be tested, your driver’s license will be revoked for 1 year.  Moreover, these charges, depending upon several factors, may even permanently stay on your driving record, which can have serious consequences for those that are seeking to go to college or even to pursue a professional career.

  If you have been involved in a car accident involving a DUID charge in Kansas, it is essential to speak with an attorney who can advise you further as to what your rights and responsibilities are and also, what the next steps are in either bringing forth or defending against a DUID charge. 

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