Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why I Like Being A Lawyer

Recently a former client whom I represented in an auto accident years ago came to me with a problem. She politely asked me if I could help her since this was not a "personal injury" case.

She worked years ago for a local institution and was eligible for a small pension. When she turned the correct age she inquired as to when she could expect to receive her benefits. She was told they had no record of her being eligible, and promised to get back to her.

Weeks went by, and she heard nothing so she inquired again. She was told they were "still looking into it" or words to that effect. Weeks turned into months, so she called me. I told her I would look into it and wrote a nice letter to the institution on her behalf. No response.

So I wrote letter no 2. Finally heard from a representative. After a few weeks, the person acknowledged that she was entitled to her benefits, with interest, and offered an amount, which was accepted.

Almost three months passed and still no payment. Yet another letter was sent and ignored, so I finally initiated the nuclear option: I drafted and sent a copy of a lawsuit and explained that I would be filing it if there was no payment in full within 7 days.

Lo and behold, the check arrived--but not without the threat of a lawsuit, and after the passage of over one year.
I have no earthly idea why it took those efforts to get a large institution do what it was obligated to do. After 25 years in this business, I've stopped trying to figure out why corporations or people do what they do. But it ticks me off that people simply trying to enforce their rights are often labelled as "sue happy" and "greedy" and nonsense like that. This nice person only came to me after getting nowhere by simply inquiring on her own and trusting that people would do the right thing. And it gives me a sense of pride to know that we can accomplish a result with some persistence and simple steps to get people to do the right thing.

But it reminded me yet again of the frequent imbalance of power in situations like this. There is a real movement afoot to chip away at our legal rights brick by brick. Most of this stuff flies under radar, and the public is largely ignorant of all of it...until it affects them. But at the end of the day, when all "nice" or informal efforts at resolving disputes fail, the lawsuit is the great equalizer. It allows the little guy or gal with little to no resources to take on someone or some entity much larger.

To be sure, there are some really stupid and frivolous lawsuits out there, and they deserve all the criticism they get. But just remember: almost every lawsuit "reform" measure proposed by astroturf  "concerned citizens groups" is seeking limits or legal shelter on even legitimate wrongs and disputes.

You know--the old saying about the baby and the bathwater. Something to think about the next time you hear some politician or group clammering for (more) legal "reforms."    

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Two Huge Signs Of A Spleen Injury After An Auto Accident

Although injuries to the spleen are not an every day occurance after a car crash, they are not rare either. Trauma to the spleen can occur, and it does not always manifest itself immediately. In fact, sometimes the symptoms of an injury to the spleen do not become apparent until days after an accident.

From a recent case I handled: a woman is rear ended in a high speed crash. She's taken to the ER, has normal vital signs, and is in no apparent distress. She's treated and released for a neck and back sprain and goes home to recuperate from her various sprains.

The next day, she's running errands with her daughter. She starts to feel “very fidgety and uncomfortable.” She then begins to develop a radiating pain from her abdomen up through her left shoulder. She becomes nauseous and sweaty, and is taken back to the ER.

The ER doctor examines her and notes that she has a positive Kerr's Sign: abdominal and distinct left shoulder pain, two of the hallmark signs of a ruptured spleen. Why is it called a "Kerr's Sign?" Because, most likely, some dude named Dr. Kerr discovered this in 1911 or 1935 or whatever and named the test after himself. But I digress...

The ER doc immediately orders a CT Scan, which confirms a Grade III tear of the spleen. According to medical literature, spleen lacerations are graded on a scale of 1-5, and a Grade III laceration, for example, involves more than 50% of the surface area of the spleen, and a laceration of greater than 3 cm in depth.

 What does it mean to have a Grade III laceration? You're going to be hospitalized for a few days to make sure the laceration starts to heal, and if it does not, you're looking at a splenectomy (removal of the spleen). Removal or not, you're in for a lengthy convelescence and not much strenuous activity (like exercise) for months in order to avoid re-injuring it.

The takeaway? If you get a sudden onset of abdominal and shoulder pain a day or two after a motor vehicle collision, get yourself to the ER, and don't assume it's par for the course. It may save you from a serious problem down the road--a slowly bleeding spleen. I'm no doctor, but I do know that bleeding vital organs are generally not a good thing....and I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night (as the commercial goes)...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Avoiding "The Race" After Your Ohio Auto Accident

Yesterday a potential client called me about an auto accident she had the day before. She found my name through a Google search. She called me only because (1) she had already been called by the adjuster for the at fault driver, who offered her $500 for her "pain and suffering (in exchange for a full release of any future liability); and (2) she was being bombarded by calls from injury "help centers," "hot lines," and chiropractors telling her she was eligible for a "free medical examination."

And in 1-2 more days, her mailbox will be stuffed with about 16 letters, brochures, and DVD's from attorneys offering their "years of experience" to get her top dollar on her claim.

Not having been through this before, she didn't know what to do, and quite frankly was tired of the whole thing. This scanario is becoming more commonplace, unfortunately.

It dawned on me that auto accident injury victims are nothing more than participants in an involuntary race of sorts. The insurance companies are racing to "cash her out" before she even knows the nature and extent of her injuries, in order to cut their losses. Included in this high speed chase are the chiropractors and attorneys  racing to sign her up for their own obvious financial reasons.

My advice: avoid the whole lot of them. Take a step back. Let some time pass to see if you need any follow up with your medical provider of YOUR choice, or if time and a few Motrin will allow you to determine if you're truly OK and in no further need of any medical treatment. I sent her a book I wrote on what to expect after an Ohio car accident, and how injury victims can get drawn into this black hole. And I told her to call me if she had any further questions.

In other words: avoid the race, or worse yet, the onslaught. She was smart enough to have the sense to take a step back and weigh her options. Others who come to see me, AFTER this "machine" runs its course, many times aren't so lucky...