Where have we come since my appointment as president? We started the year with a House and Senate that believed in trial by jury and that the injured were to be protected. However, we have a governor who wants to take away those rights and blames the injured for Illinois’s budget and pension problems. Despite the challenges this presented, we held fast – knowing that neither the budget, nor the pension problems could be solved on the back of the injured worker. This year, we held that line on behalf of our past, present and future clients.
What is the Professionals and Businesses for Justice Program (P&BJ)?
In the context of the Illinois Trial Lawyer Association, P&BJ members are business partners and vendors who provide products and services that benefit our members, their firms and attorneys, and aid in securing better results for our clients.
To find the complete list, you can visit our website and navigate to the “Business Partner” section (www.iltla.com/business-partners/) or look to the back page of this newsletter. Please note the sponsorship level of each business. This is significant because these vendors financially support ITLA which, in turn, helps ITLA protect our clients’ right to trial by jury and in receiving a fair recovery. It is important to acknowledge their support for us and our clients.
How can we best support our business partners? There are several simple steps each of us can take to recognize the important role they fill in supporting us and the civil justice system.
The State of Illinois is being held hostage. Specifically, the budget and the well-being of the state is being held hostage.
We have all heard the supposed story. The state’s financial problems can be attributed to people harmed through no fault of their own. This story is not just a story; it’s a real plan and a real threat. It’s a coordinated and calculated effort to attack, to blame and to rob the injured and weaken those who would stand up for their rights like the unions.
It seems ridiculous on its face. Who could possibly blame the injured? Yet, when you stand to gain billions, it makes it easier to frame the family whose father died in an occupational accident as second class citizens whose rights matter less than that of a corporation.
HHS has released new guidance that would make it easier for patients to access their medical records. It provides that doctors and hospitals cannot require patients to state a reason for requesting their records, and cannot deny releasing them because of concerns that they would upset the patient. Below are links with more information, and a summary of the guidance.
• A link to the guidance is here.
• HHS provides comments as others note that the change is in part due to recent studies finding that individuals face too many obstacles to access their health information: http://www.hhs.gov/blog/ on January 7, 2016.
• New York Times article published January 16, 2016: “New Guidelines Nudge Doctors to Give Patients Access to Medical Records”
Summary–Individuals’ Right under HIPAA to Access their Health Information
• Individuals have a right to access PHI in a “designated record set” which includes a broad array of health information about themselves maintained by or for covered entities, including: medical records; billing and payment records; insurance information; clinical laboratory test results; medical images, such as X-rays; wellness and disease management program files; and clinical case notes; among other information used to make decisions about individuals.
As 2015 comes to an end and we look forward to 2016, we reflect on the past and look to the future.
This year brought new, aggressive attacks on our clients from front groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Civil Justice League and Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) in addition to some biased media and politicians, including our Governor. We also saw billboards and trailers outside courtrooms designed to influence jury pools. The same drum beat existed but was louder than ever. Calls for “tort reform,” venue changes, and more workers’ compensation “reform” were all heard. All of these efforts are to taint the public perception, blame the injured and distract from the real issues.
Governor Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” alleges to create jobs, but it is really designed to eliminate the 7th Amendment. They complain that we want local control, but they don’t trust the people of the county to get it right. Instead of protecting workers from injury by providing a safe working environment, companies want workers’ compensation changes that protect them so they don’t have to pay. Once again, blame the victim.
The following op-ed by ITLA President Perry J. Browder was published in the Rockford Register Star on September 19, 2015.
Calls for reforms are an attack on justice system
Public dialogue over the nature of our state’s civil justice system is colored by misinformation, distortions and bald-faced lies spread by insurance companies, big businesses and the front groups they fund. By manufacturing and promoting a mythical lawsuit crisis, they seek to pressure policymakers to insulate them from liability when their dangerous actions harm or kill innocent people.
A recently released report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform – a front group for the nation’s wealthiest special interests – is the latest attack on our civil justice system and part of an ongoing campaign to stoke prejudice, fear and warp public understanding of our legal system.
What isn’t mentioned is the true motive behind so-called “lawsuit reform”: putting profits before people.
ITLA President Perry J. Browder issued the following statement on September 10, 2015, following the release of a survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Gov. Rauner Touts Bogus Survey in His Ongoing Campaign Against Taxpaying Middle Class & Working Families
U.S. Chamber Got What it Paid For: A Biased Study Designed to Reach a Foregone Conclusion
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s appearance today with the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, a front group for the nation’s wealthiest special interests, represents his latest effort to shift more burden and risk to middle class taxpayers so that the insurance industry and largest corporations – already collecting record profits – can skirt financial accountability for their dangerous actions.
How does ITLA stay relevant moving forward?
Friday, June 5, 2015, at the Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center, was an evening I will never forget. Being selected to serve as the 62nd President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers is a true honor and a great responsibility; but what does being president of this organization mean?
It does mean photos, dinners, meetings, lobbying and yes, even articles, but what does it mean for us as members? I am just one of the stones, as you are, that will build a cathedral that will last as long as people are getting injured in Illinois.