The day when our clients’ lives change forever by car accident starts out like any other day. The clients are doing what they always do – driving to work, going to the grocery store, returning from a trip, or taking their kids to school. Nothing tells them that they are spending the last hours of their pre-accident life. It is just another day.
Until it isn’t.
A car accident is over in less than five seconds. Our clients usually do not know what hit them. Then come the paramedics, the emergency room, the operations, and the hospital and rehabilitation facilities. The clients see the long road ahead. Their first emotions are usually shock and disorientation. How could their entire life change so quickly and permanently, because of one driver’s bad choices? They think – is this me now? How can I work again? Am I ever going back to my pre-crash life? Why me?
As the days stretch into weeks, and then months, clients often feel sadness and grief. They reflect on their former life and compare that to their post-accident life. They often struggle with this difficult process. But in the end, we often see acceptance, followed by strength and determination. We see perseverance, humility, and courage. Clients move forward to create a new normal. They regain the essence of who they are – and who they want to be.
That is a good thing – because the legal claim process to regain what has been lost is not easy. And there is no time to delay. There are medical bills to pay. It is hard living without a paycheck.
Most of our clients do not know anything about the legal claim process. They think that the insurance company for the offending driver will quickly compensate them. After all, usually there is no dispute that such driver caused the clients’ injuries.
We really wish it worked that way.
We tell our clients – we are sorry. It does not work that way. The insurance company exists for its shareholders. It is in no hurry to pay full compensation for its offending driver. Then, to add insult to injury, the insurance company starts asking questions about prior accidents. It wants the clients’ entire life history. It asks the clients to submit to multiple examinations. Then it sends a lowball settlement offer.
What do our clients feel at this point? Bewilderment. Anger. Frustration. They are learning to walk again, and the insurance company is offering pennies on the dollar? Clients ask us – “Can they do this?” We say, “regretfully yes.” We explain that it is not personal. It is about the money. No, it is not right, but there it is.
The clients feel betrayed and attacked – as if they did something wrong. They say, “I feel like I have been hit again.” They ask us, “don’t they know that I was sitting at a red light?” or “don’t they know that I hate not working?” We know. We tell them that they did nothing wrong. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it does not.
Our clients often feel anger towards the offending driver. They see themselves confined to a hospital bed or wheelchair while the offending driver posts on social media about his weekend parties.
But the clients go on. They work hard on getting back as much as they can. They work hard to return to work. We work hard for them. We sue the case. We move the case as quickly as we can. Time passes. We keep pushing. There is push back. Sometimes the defense attempts to stonewall the case. We keep pushing. The clients keep working and making gains.
Another emotion from clients is surprise, and frustration, as to how long the process can take. We understand these emotions. We tell the clients that we can only prevail by pushing the case as fast as possible. We work with the client on that. But we get that it seems like a long time even with a fast-moving case.
At a certain point, we get a trial date. Most clients do not want to go to trial. They also did not want to undergo multiple operations or learn to use a body part again through painful physical therapy. But they did. Because that was what was necessary to move forward. So trial is just one more thing they must do. They will be ready. With the clients’ help, we bring the case home by settlement or verdict.
Once it is over, we see the clients’ surprise and relief. They feel a weight lift off their shoulders that they did not realize they were carrying. The case is behind them. They can move on with life. They are often grateful to us for working with them to reach this point. Then the clients leave our office, hopefully with forward looking optimism, steeled by the hardships of the car accident and its effects.
There is nothing easy about any of this. Getting hurt in a car accident is not a good thing. Ultimately, however, our clients recognize that they are not victims. They are fighters. At the end of the process they have come through the fire and returned to their life – albeit different – but with increased resilience and strength. It is our privilege to walk with them through this journey, and we are better for it.