Scott Distasio: The first thing is what are the client’s injuries? There are plenty of car crashes where you’re sore for a couple of days or a week or two, and that goes away. That, unfortunately, is not something that we can really help out with. On the other hand, you have somebody who their neck or their back is hurting and it’s a continuing ongoing injury or has broken bones or those types of things. Then we’re going to assess from there who caused the accident. If you’re injured, but it’s your fault, unfortunately, again, nothing that we can do. If it’s the other person’s fault, then we have to assess, is there an asset to collect? In Florida, most people have or most entities have insurance to cover them. So, if there’s insurance available for an individual on the other side, we would take that case. If not, does the driver, who is our client, do they have uninsured motorist coverage? If so, again, we’ll take that case. So those are the components. Is there an injury? Did the other side do something wrong? And is there insurance or a large corporation that can pay for that wrong doing?
BIM: Let’s talk about medical malpractice. This can be something that I think is one of the leading causes of death, correct me if I’m wrong. Here, it might not be for the person who was harmed, it might be the family involved in that as well.
Scott Distasio: Absolutely, it is one of the larger causes of death in the United States and a larger cause of injury. But unfortunately, there are a lot of laws in place that basically protects medical providers. They have a very large lobbying group and the legislature has passed certain protections, at least in the state of Florida. That makes it very hard to pursue a lot of medical malpractice cases. You have to have catastrophic injuries before we do an investigation of those cases. We consult with medical experts and we have to have a medical expert independent of the case review medical records and determined that there was malpractice. Then, and only then can we pursue it. Lastly, does the health care provider have insurance coverage or it’s a large institution that has assets that would make a recovery possible.
Scott Distasio: The hardest part is that these cases are extremely expensive. Medical providers win in front of a jury 60 to 75% of the time because people just think, well, it’s a medical judgment and the healthcare provider made a mistake. They didn’t do it on purpose, so they tend to give the medical provider the benefit of the doubt because of those things. We have to be very selective in the medical malpractice cases that we take. We will advance fifty to a hundred thousand dollars on behalf of that client in costs, expert costs and court costs, and there’s a likelihood it’ll go to trial. With those types of risks involved, it’s just unfortunately from a business standpoint, working on contingency, we can’t take the risk on smaller cases.
BIM: That is a shame considering that there are so many mistakes in the medical field that need to be addressed. One thing that I don’t understand, is elder care abuse. What goes on in these circumstances?
Scott Distasio: A substantial part of my career as a defense lawyer was defending nursing homes in long-term care facilities. Quite frankly, the reason that I stopped doing defense work and became a plaintiff’s lawyer was because of my experiences doing that. The nursing home industry in the United States is pretty much large corporate chain oriented. I found myself, in defending these cases, defending the indefensible and not really wanting to live with myself. I didn’t think that it was worth the money. I didn’t feel like I was really helping anyone. I was helping these large institutions deny care to make money. So, I fired all my clients and started as a plaintiff’s lawyer. The main underlying cause of these types of things is not the front line caregivers. They’re generally good quality people that care for the people they’re caring for and are trying to do the right thing.
Scott Distasio: The main underlying cause is there’s simply not enough staff in these institutions and not enough high-level staff in these institutions to provide the care. So, if you think of a corporation that makes products, the more efficient you get, the more you cut costs, the more money you make. But, when you’re talking about a personal service for individuals in health care, it’s the same thing. The most overwhelming cost of that business is the cost of the staff. So if you can cut the pay of the staff by instead of having a nurse have an LPN; if instead of having an LPN have a nursing assistant. You keep reducing the level of care, you pay less, you save costs. Also, if you should have four staff members on duty instead you have two. You saved costs.
Scott Distasio: When you’re talking about healthcare, what that means is there’s just simply not enough care to go around. So, the staff doesn’t have enough time to turn and reposition people who may be laying in one position for too long. The staff doesn’t have time to answer call bells for residents who then get up and fall. When the residents aren’t turning, they develop pressure sores. There’s just a whole litany of things that happen in these institutions that are directly related to corporate decisions to make more money. I’m all for making a profit. I’m an entrepreneur, I own my own business. I support my staff and I try to make as much money as possible. But when you’re dealing with individuals’ lives, you got to make sure that there is enough care. And I think that some of these corporate institutions simply don’t. The bottom line is more important.