Top 20 Internet Sites for P.I. Attorneys
Law Office Computing, February/March 1996 (reprinted with permission)
(Since this article was written over 18 years ago..We were early adopters…some of these resources may no longer be available)
Today's competitive and constantly changing legal environment places an ever-increasing demand on personal injury attorneys to stay abreast of the latest developments. These developments can have a lasting impact on the value of your clients' cases. Below are 20 of the best locations to which I turn on an almost daily basis in my practice and some examples of how I've used them successfully.
Newspage, a commercial site, is published on the WWW by Individual, Inc. Newspage gathers daily news from some 500 sources and assembles it in 18 different categories. The category that I monitor on a frequent basis is Insurance, which is broken down into topics such as property and casualty, insurance industry overview, and health insurance and managed care. These topics contain up-to-the-minute breaking stories from insurance periodicals such as Insurance Regulator, A.M. Best News and National Casualty and Property Underwriter.
By viewing my custom stories every day in the Insurance category, I can determine which insurer is struggling and which is doing well, and I can use the built-in search engine to find all stories on a specific carrier that were published in the past year. I find that by monitoring what the insurers are doing on a daily basis, I can develop an edge over many of my competitors. Newspage charges $3.95 monthly for basic service. The full text of a specific article may have a $1 to $3 surcharge.
This database is a comprehensive repository of information on rare diseases and disorders. These diseases are cross-referenced to abstracts that explain in layman's terms each disease, its symptoms, its causes, affected population, standard treatments and a list of resources for further information and support.
Recently, I had a case involving reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) caused by minor trauma to my client's foot when she was struck by some beverage bottles that fell off a dolly a deliveryman was pushing. I used the NORD database to obtain a $5 abstract of the disease. This abstract gave me the name of a national support organization for RSD as well as the names of physicians experienced in treating its complex symptoms. My client obtained expert care as well as emotional support during a trying two-year period. I feel the information gleaned from this 10-minute search was instrumental in leading to a mid six-figure settlement of the case.
3. Hospital Web (no longer active)
This site is a comprehensive listing by state of all hospitals with Web pages on the Internet. It is growing rapidly with as many as five new hospitals a day being added to the site.
I recently had a case involving a client who developed sleep apnea shortly after being in an auto accident, and I decided to search Hospital Web to see if I could locate an expert who had performed research in this area. I found 12 hospitals in my state (California) listed on the site. I knew one of them was a respected teaching hospital, and found that, indeed, several physicians there had recently written a well regarded article on sleep apnea. I then sent e-mail to those physicians via the Hospital Web. The information gleaned from those physicians was instrumental in obtaining a fair award for my client.
4. Emotional Support Guide (no longer active)
The Emotional Support Guide is a listing of Internet resources for those suffering from physical loss, chronic illness and bereavement. This site is a lifesaver in helping clients find support and emotional help for serious illnesses and traumas.
Among the links on the page are: GriefNet, a list of addresses and telephone numbers of support groups for chronic fatigue, epilepsy and bereaved parents nationwide; and Physical Illness Resources, which includes support groups for amputation, facial disfigurement, traumatic brain injuries, arthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
This Web site has well illustrated anatomy lessons of the knee, shoulder, ankle, spine, elbow and hip. There is even a QuickTime movie of arthroscopic surgery which could easily be downloaded and shown as an illustrative aid in mediation or arbitration. An "Ask a Doctor" link features orthopedic answers to general questions posed by site visitors. Recent discussions included advice on chondromalacia, rotator cuff injuries and the surgical management of spinal arthritis.
This site is maintained by a non-profit organization founded by a survivor of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It has many cross-linked sites to other brain injury resources on the WWW. The site also lists support groups for individuals with TBI on a city-by-city basis. It has an illustrated brain map as well as frequently asked questions (FAQs) containing basic information about brain injuries. These FAQs can be very valuable in the initial stages of a case.
I recently had a case where a client had headaches, emotional liability and short-term memory loss after a motor vehicle accident. I thought that perhaps he may have had a mild brain injury, except I had some concern because the client had no loss of consciousness. After perusing the FAQs at TBI, I found that the overwhelming weight of medical authority indicated that no loss of consciousness is necessary for a differential diagnosis of mild brain injury. I sent the client for a neuropsychological workup and a brain injury was confirmed.
This site contains a list of eye, ear, nose and throat departments at major hospitals throughout the U.S., including those at University of California, San Francisco and New York University. It has many links to general resources (including an online otolaryngology textbook) as well as many hearing deficit and otology links.
Recently, I had a client who suffered from severe tinnitus after an auto accident. His general practice physician told him he would just have to "live with it." A short search on this site led me to a newsgroup for tinnitus sufferers where I found that the drug Xanax often leads to almost miraculous relief for many sufferers. My client followed this lead with a complete remission of symptoms.
This site has a complete list of 11,000 American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, as well as standards of Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (ISEE) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO). All of the above standards can be searched from a powerful search engine at the site, and the full text of all of the standards is available for purchase. These standards are often used in state codes and private contracts. Proof of violation of any of these standards may establish negligence per se -- or at least evidence of negligence.
This Web site is loaded with Consumer Product Safety Commission publications and reports. There are also many valuable links to areas related to chemical, electrical and fire safety; product safety organizations; Usenet newsgroups on safety topics; and risk management resources. This is one of the best sites to search in a potential products liability case.
This agency of the Public Health Service was directed by Congress to monitor the effect on public health of hazardous substances in the environment. HAZDAT, a hazardous substance and health effects database, is included at this site, and the strong search engine is helpful in cases involving toxic spills or other environmental disasters.
11. Diseases, Disorders and Related Topics by the Karolinska Institute (no longer available)
This excellent resource is a great hierarchical starting point for finding links on specific diseases or disorders with 31 major classifications of diseases including bacterial and fungal infections, viral diseases, parasitic diseases, nervous system disorders, eye diseases, and musculoskeletal diseases.
Each classification has many, many links. For example, the classification for musculoskeletal diseases has some 58 links, including nine links to sites with arthritis information, five links to fibromyalgia and two links to chondromalacia.
12. Medicine WWW Virtual Library (Biosciences) (no longer available)
This Harvard site has a huge list of links to other medical sites such as AIDS, Acquired Brain Injury, Web of Addictions, Sleep Apnea and so forth. It is arranged alphabetically by disease name.
13. Jonathan T. Wards Multimedia Medical Reference Library (no longer available)
This comprehensive multimedia site is a gold mine of useful medical resources. The initial screen greets you with a 890K audio message that explains all the goodies at this site.
One major section lists medical information by specialty. I counted 32 medical specialties here. Under orthopedics alone, I found some 15 links including links to chondromalacia, arthroscopy and knee injuries. The neurology section has 27 links.
Another useful section of this page is Medical Images and Movies, which contains anatomy, cardiology, dermatology, neuroanatomy and radiology images. There are also over 165 online audio recordings covering topics from hernias to rotator cuff tears.
14. Medical Matrix
This site, created by the American Medical Informatics Association, is one of the most comprehensive on the Web. Among the useful areas for trial lawyers are:
- Disease information including disease descriptions, treatment protocols, nursing information, news sources and drug information.
- Medical links to other Web sites organized by medical specialty. There are over 50 medical specialties listed. The orthopedics site alone has links to 18 different sites.
- Clinical practice guidelines and criteria for diagnosis of disease.
- Medical images and multimedia.
- Medical centers and institutions on the WWW.
- Medical electronic newsletters and journals.
I have discussed above 14 sites that I use frequently and have found very valuable in my practice. To really harness the Internet and use its power to your maximum benefit, however, it is critical that you find and use Internet tools that can help you on a daily basis. The following six WWW sites contain tools that should be part of every PI lawyer's Internet toolbox.
Lycos is a very deep and fast search engine for the Internet. It is a program that uses robot computers to build an index of WWW resources on an automated basis. By October of 1995, Lycos had indexed some 91 percent of all resources on the WWW. It adds, deletes and changes some 50,000 Internet sites a day. It is estimated that Lycos will have indexed the entire Web by January of 1996.
The Lycos search engine is fast and robust. I recently interviewed a client who contracted salmonella from eating a raw hamburger in a fast food restaurant. The client had over $15,000 in medical bills but I was unsure if the type of salmonella identified in her medical records could have resulted form raw beef ingestion. A five-minute search on Lycos for "salmonella and beef" helped me identify a salmonella research institute that confirmed that raw beef was often implicated in this variety of the bacteria.
Usenet is a world-wide distributed discussion system. Messages are posted to the newsgroups by individuals and then broadcast to interconnected computer systems via many different networks. There are over 9,000 newsgroups that include a wide variety of medical and legal topics. This site has a search engine that will search those newsgroups that discuss the topics you identify.
Whenever I take a case with an unusual injury or circumstance, I or one of my paralegals will immediately use this site to identify any Usenet groups dealing with the topic. We will then join that Usenet group and monitor it for the duration of our relationship with the client. We recently had a client who had severe pre-existing chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). After an accident, his symptoms became much worse. By monitoring and asking questions on a CFS newsgroup, we were able to identify experts and theories of causation that resulted in a substantial recovery for the client.
It is one thing to identify and subscribe to a Usenet newsgroup -- however, much useful information may have already been discussed before you joined, or it may be contained within the discussions of another similar newsgroup.
DejaNews is a tool to help you find items discussed in Usenet groups. It is the largest collection of archived Usenet news, and has indices of most Usenet groups with the exception of alt, soc and talk groups. It contains a month or two of news from most newsgroups and one year of data from many of the more popular ones. Eventually, DejaNews will contain a one-year archive of all indexed groups.
DejaNews allows Boolean searching which can be filtered by author, date or Usenet groups. A recent search on "Breast Implants" found 377 hits. Another useful feature lets you find all postings by a particular author over the past year. I am currently monitoring the postings of a defense medical expert and these should provide me with fertile ground for cross-examination if this case goes to trial.
This search engine maintained by Indiana University lists some 12,850 mailing lists in use throughout the country. A mailing list differs from a Usenet group in that all discussions occur via e-mail and are usually moderated. A search for "law" on this site revealed over 80 lists on this topic. Mailing lists are a great resource for finding experts in unusual or difficult areas.
This site is a search engine that lists FAQs on various newsgroups. FAQs provide newcomers with basic information about the topic and newsgroup.
Recently, I had a case where a client developed a frozen shoulder several months after an auto accident. She also had a pre-existing diabetic condition. I searched the Diabetes FAQ for background information and found that a frozen shoulder is a very common diabetic complication. I also found out the causal hurdles I might face were this case to go on to trial.
These FAQs are also useful in developing loss of enjoyment of life damages where the client is engaged in avocations which may be unfamiliar to you.
This search engine maintained by the Library of Congress is a good quick resource for finding any book titles that exist on a given topic. Searches can be by author or by title. Unfortunately, this site is usually limited to hours when the staff is present (6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekends).
I hope you enjoyed this tour of WWW sites. I'm sure if you add the above sites to your Web browser bookmarks you will find the Internet a very valuable addition to your practice.