As I sit here in the sun watching my children and their friend swim a the local pool, I am reminded of a few years back when my son James was about 4 years old and he was taking swim lessons at a local city pool. James loved his young instructor, Daniel, and it warmed my heart to see how attentive Daniel was to the future swimmers in his group.
One week Daniel could not make the lesson so another instructor filled in. Susan, the substitute instructor, had the children gathered on the steps of the pool holding onto to the railing, while she took turns with each child for individualized instruction further out into the pool. While I sat and chatted with the other moms I happened to notice that James had let go of the rail. I quickly got up out of my seat and stood over the edge of the pool in terror. I watched as my dear child looked up at me from under the water with his arms outstretched, trying to get his head above the water. He had not learned to use his legs to kick and was flailing his arms, pushing himself further and further down towards the bottom of the pool. I looked up and saw that Susan had her back to James and was working with another child and was about 40 feet away. The lifeguard closest to us was focused on a different area of the pool and while I stood there, hoping that James would float to the top. As I watched it was clear that he was not coming up and I had no choice but to jump in fully clothed and rescue him. Thankfully, he was not under the water long enough to need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but he was quit upset and as you would expect, I was to.
Had I stepped away from the pool to use the restroom or go for a walk and was not focused on my child, I would not have been there to see James go under and it is quite possible that my son would have drowned. All because the people I trusted to watch over him were not doing their job. We were fortunate that day but there are countless incidents where others are not as fortunate.
Oftentimes when I have a new client in my office, one of the first things they say is, “I am not the suing type”. The reality is, most people are “not the suing type”. They are in my office because they or their loved one has been neglected, mistreated or/and or become a victim of careless or drunk driving. My clients do not want to be in my office and I would rather they not be there as well. They are usually in my office because they or their family member(s) have suffered some type of physical injury. They are hurting and angry and I would not want this for anyone.
Unfortunately I cannot wave my magic wand and make their suffering go away. However, what I can do is help them force the negligent party to take responsibility for their actions and pay for the injured victim’s loss. This can include their pain, suffering, lost time from work and the disruption of their life in having to deal with the aftermath of another person’s poor choice. So no, most people are not the suing type, until someone else makes a bad choice, causing them to seek help in standing up for their rights.
What you can expect when hiring a lawyer:
When you hiring a lawyer to represent you for the injuries you have sustained as a result of someone’s carelessness, more often than not these types of claims are resolved prior to a lawsuit even being filed. If there is an insurance company involved, the lawyer typically negotiates directly with the claims adjuster. However, these negotiations do not begin until you reach what is called “maximum medical improvement” or when you reach the point in your recovery where you are the best you are going to get. At that point the attorney orders all the medical records, bills and other information pertaining to the injury. There will also several discussions with you where the attorney seeks to have a better understanding of the pain and suffering you have or will experience and the facts surrounding your injury. Sometimes it is useful for the attorney to contact your treating physician directly in order to get a better understanding of the medical aspects of your injury. The attorney then submits all of the information to the insurance company with a demand for settlement. Once the insurance company reviews everything, the claims adjuster and the attorney begin negotiating toward a resolution of the claim.
Aside from negotiating the claim, the attorney must also figure out how your bills will be paid out of any settlement funds. If they have already been paid, they help determine whether the insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid needs to be reimbursed. While the negotiations are taking place, you as the client, will be advised of any offers made by the insurance company to resolve the case. The attorney is ethically bound to advise you of these offers, but will also make suggestions as to what he or she believes the value of your claim may be, based upon their knowledge and expertise. Inevitably, the decision to accept a settlement amount is made entirely by you.
If the insurance company does not offer enough money to adequately compensate you for you injuries, or if they are denying that their insured did anything wrong, then it is usually at that point that a lawsuit is filed. The processes and procedures in filing a lawsuit can be overwhelming for you as a client and I will address those processes and procedures in my next installment of this series.
Thankfully, the incident at the pool did not result in me having to take any legal action since my son was not injured. On the other hand, had I not been there and something did happen, I know that I would have had no choice but to take some type of legal action such as hiring a lawyer, so that the swim instructor or any other swim instructor, would think twice about turning their back on 3 and 4 year old children in their care.
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