Common Mistakes Committed By Clients

Interviewer: Are there any particular mistakes or not-to-dos that people commonly make during their case?

Bill Levinson: No, not in this situation. They can’t on interview screw it up, because there are one or two things that are going to make the case, and that is professional witnesses that were there and saw the doctor screw up, or medical records that will demonstrate questionable conduct. You’d be surprised the number of times these doctors know they screw up and they go back in and change the records.

Interviewer: It’s kind of scary to know that.

Bill Levinson: Let me tell you something. I don’t know if this is a joke, or an anecdote, but there’s this urban legend going around that the hospitals for some reason nationwide closed for half a day, and the death rate in the country went down by 30%. That’s probably urban legend. Although I have in the past heard that from authoritative sources. You really want to stay away from hospitals, because that’s where people die. But then, to be fair, it’s a very, very small percentage in the overall care. We only hear about the bad stuff.

I’ll tell you one of the most infuriating things that you can imagine, and that is a doctor who’s on a staff, who is incompetent, but the politics are such that it takes a long time and it takes a lot of grief before a doctor like that will lose his privilege, but only in that one hospital. You don’t get a statewide or countrywide blackball. In fact, the peer review hearings (doctors evaluating or reviewing conduct of doctors)are cloaked in absolute silence. Those hearings are never allowed to be public.

Relevance Of Technology In Medical Negligence Cases

Interviewer: How relevant is technology to medical negligence cases nowadays?

Bill Levinson: On one level, it’s really revolutionized the practice of medicine, because the goal is to eliminate human error. Like when I first started practicing, a good friend of mine was an orthopedic surgeon. I played a lot of golf, and every once in a while I torqued my back. I’d go to him and he’d give me a shot of Xylocaine and Novocaine, and he’d feel for the muscle, where it was hurting, and he’d inject right into it. Just stand there, feel it, and inject right into it. Nowadays if you want a shot like that, you go to a specialist who does it with equipment that basically sites where the needle is going to be put. What the doctor does is just pull the trigger, basically. There are wonderful, wonderful advances, especially in the more subtle surgeries. In my opinion, the incidence of problems on really the most sophisticated surgeries is decreasing.

Initial Consultation In A Medical Negligence Case

Interviewer: Who has access to medical records?

Bill Levinson: Anyone who brings a lawsuit has access to medical records. Every patient owns their records; they can go and get them for nothing.

Interviewer: When you’re meeting with a client, what are some things that they should prepare for you? What would you ask of them?

Bill Levinson: The first thing that I’m going to do is listen, and then I’m going to speak to somebody – either another firm that I may associate with, or if I have a personal contact, like I do with dentists and a few other professionals, I’ll ask them for an off-the-cuff opinion.

I did two dental negligence cases recently. My dentist has been my friend for 30 years and sometimes I will bounce something off of him, and he will usually, if he thinks it’s meritorious, refer me to somebody in the community who may not necessarily be a forensic dentist, orthodontist, or surgeon, but somebody who will take a look at it. To me, that’s really important.

You can buy anything in this country, including doctors. The defense industry does it routinely. It’s a growth industry for retiring doctors of every specialty. You have to do it with every case, unless, of course, it’s something so ridiculous, like they amputate the wrong leg, or leave a surgical instrument in a person’s abdomen and you take film of it and there it is. The threshold questions are: one, is it negligence? Two, is it a negligence that someone’s willing to go on the line for and say it’s negligence, before I even consider taking the case? Like I said, if folks come to me, they are going to be invested, at least in the initial phase.

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