It is raining. I am driving in 5 o’clock traffic. “I’ll call you back,” I say to the person on the phone as my GPS directs me to the visitor’s parking lot.
As I get closer to the hospital, I am forced to accept the reality of the situation. After years of doing this, you would think it gets easier. It does not. Speaking to the family of someone who has been seriously injured or killed in an accident is always a difficult thing to do.
There is a part of me that wants to keep driving. But, I know they need help, and they need it now. There will be a wife, a daughter, or a parent who will be asking me what to do. They will want me to tell them that everything will be ok. I can’t tell them that, yet.
Finally, I reach the parking area. I get my bag, my identification, and cell phone (camera). A family member meets me in the lobby. We clear security. I meet other family members, and we find a place to talk.
I am always amazed by these trauma centers. The people that work here deal with life and death every day. In my experience, these people are real pros. They are singularly focused on giving a child back to a parent or a parent back to a child. They all rush around with the same expression, “This person may die someday. Just not today!” I try to stay out of their way so they can do their jobs.
I meet the family. There are several of them here. This time, it is a wife and two young children. The wife already knows. The kids don’t. Dad is not coming home.
It is always tough with kids. Young kids know something is wrong, but they don’t understand the long-term implications. They are concerned, but the family is here and they are in a big building with lots of people. They are kind of excited like when they stay in a hotel.
We find a place to talk. The family wants to know, “Is this going to turn out ok financially?!” I want to tell them, “Yes!” I want to put my arms around them and say, “Absolutely! Everything is going to be just fine.” But, I can’t say that.
That is the hard part; the part I dread. They will depend on the words that I say, and I can’t say something that I do not know to be true. The truth is that I don’t know if everything is going to be fine. Not being able to tell them is gut-wrenching. I can feel some of what they feel. That is my gift. It is also my curse.
I am not a doctor, a nurse or a provider of medical services. I can’t make injured or dying people better. I can pray. I have already done that. I cannot deal with any of the medical problems that this family will face. However, this family will face more than medical problems. They will face financial problems, as well. That is where I may be able to help.
When a person is seriously injured, financial pressure starts immediately. The course of treatment may be affected by the source of payment. Care that saves lives (or tries its best) costs money; lots of money.
And, that’s not all. What about other financial challenges? What about future medical expenses for surgeries, therapy, and long-term care? What happens if it is a child who is injured? The child may out-live the parents but need continued care. What happens then?
What happens if it is a father? Rent is going to be due on the 1st. There will be car payments, electric bills, phone bills, and lunch money. The list goes on and on. The economic challenges that are presented by a serious injury are real, and they are immediate.
I think about my own family. What would I do? What would I be feeling? I picture my life without my kids or theirs without me. “Snap out of it,” I think to myself. “This is not about you. You have a job to do.”
I need information. I need to know: What happened? Who was there? What evidence is still available? “Darn! It is raining, washing away important evidence. That could complicate things,” I think to myself. Was there an investigative report from the police, fire department, ATF, or some other agency? The injured person was working. That could be good. “Please, God! Let there be insurance. Maybe we can access a general liability, a homeowners, a workers compensation, or auto policy? If there is insurance, I can help. Then it will depend on the evidence, the documentation and the policy limits.”
I need documentation. I need investigative reports and witness statements. “Did anyone in the family make a statement?” “I wish they had called me, first. I know that months from now a team of lawyers will analyze every word. I have been on that team,” I think to myself.
I need photographs, lots of photographs. I need photographs of the injured person, the family and the site of the injury. I will need photographs of any equipment or machinery involved. The experts will need photographs in order to complete their reports. I need contact information for the witnesses, employers, co-workers, family members, and investigators.
I have paperwork. I need to get it signed. I need authorization to work. I need to talk with you about fees and expenses. You only have to pay us if we recover money for your family. I need for you to understand this information, even at this difficult time. I need medical releases so that I can get more documentation. I need to take mental notes. I am going to need to tell the story of this unimaginable loss; of what it means to this family, and it needs to be good.