“Ambulance chaser?!” I read aloud to myself on a rainy Sunday afternoon. “@#$% you!” I thought but did not say. My five year old was sitting next to me watching funny cat videos on YouTube.
I knew I shouldn’t have read the comment on our Facebook post at home. “That guy does not even know me,” I thought. “Why would he say that?” “He must love insurance companies.” “What kind of person loves insurance companies?” Have you ever dealt with an insurance company that was fair and reasonable if they had any room to get out of paying for something? They are all like your squirely friend from high school that always forgets his wallet.
“What is an ambulance chaser, Daddy?” she asked. "It is what some people call personal injury attorneys, Honey." "Are you an ambulance chaser, Daddy?"
“What?!! You, too?!" I said to myself.
Then, I thought about it. I thought about what I do everyday.
When a person is injured in an accident, I want them to call me. I try to meet with them immediately. Tomorrow may be too late. Sometimes the insurance adjuster has already sabotaged the claim by then.
Sometimes that means I go to the hospital or to an injured person’s home. For those injured in car accidents, I send information to their homes. They do not request this information. I send it anyway.
I have been on billboards, TV commercials, and digital message boards telling people to call me if they have been in an accident. I have advertised that same message on the radio, in news papers and on the internet and on virtually every other medium known to man.
"Maybe I am an ambulance chaser. I make a living on bad things that happen to other people. That is not what I set out to accomplish when I sent to law school,” I thought.
I went to law school to fight for people and families who were not able to fight for themselves. I wanted to protect those who lacked knowledge, resources and experience compared to the bullies they faced. I wanted to be just like Atticus Finch in Too Kill a Mockingbird. I wanted to protect individuals from big powerful institutions like the government and insurance companies.
“Wait a minute. That is exactly what I do, now,” I thought. I try to reach people before the insurance company does. I use media outlets to distribute information so that people can be prepared, informed and protected.
I want injured people to know their rights before they speak to an insurance adjuster. He may not be a bad person, but his job is to pay you less. He is evaluated based upon how little he pays you for your claim. He knows more than you about the law and about the process.
I see examples almost everyday of insurance companies taking advantage of people. They deny medical treatment or compensation that the law requires them to pay. They are able to do this because they have superior knowledge and because they think you will not do anything about it.
But, should injured people be allowed to recover money for injuries? Is that some kind of legal loophole that bad people are exploiting? Are these injured people just trying to fleece the system? Are they getting something for nothing? Shouldn’t people pay their own way? Haven't we all heard about the burglar who won a million dollars from cutting himself on your stolen TV?
Have you ever had an injury that required medical attention? Was it fun? Would you voluntarily do it again? Did you ever recover completely? Does it still hurt when you are tired or when it rains?
I have worked in this area of the law for 20 years. I have never ever seen any evidence of a burglar recovering money for an injury. It is an urban myth. In fact, North Carolina judges are not stupid. They sanction and punish lawyers who bring baseless or ridiculous claims.
But, the question remains. Should people recover money after an accident that was caused by someone else? Is that the right thing to do?
Imagine the following scene. I am playing catch in the yard with my son. I throw the ball over his head and through my neighbor’s window. Should I pull my cap down over my eyes and slink off into the garage? No. I should pay for the window. I should pay to remove the broken glass, install a new pane, seal the window and clean up the mess. If the screen door is broken, that is not my fault, and I should not have to fix it.
That is exactly how personal injury law in North Carolina works. The person who caused that accident is responsible for resulting costs and nothing more. And, we are required to carry insurance in case we make a mistake that causes harm to others.
When someone is hurt, I try to get there quickly. It is my job to be available. I take over the communication with the insurance company so the injured person doesn't have to worry about miscommunications. They can worry about getting better. I use my knowledge, my experience and my resources to make sure that they are compensated fairly under the law.
And, the mail, the billboards and the internet . . . We give out information for free every day. I have written books and magazine articles that I distribute for free so that people will have reliable information whether they use my firm or not. I do not charge for our services unless I recover.
And the scammers . . . I have a provision in my representation agreement that says if we discover that you are not hurt or if you are exaggerating your injuries we will immediately withdraw from further representation. No reputable lawyer or doctor in North Carolina would go along with anything like that either.
And, when the insurance company says, “We are not paying for that. It was a pre-existing condition.” “I can say you are required to under the law because my client had a particular susceptibility and this accident exacerbated his injury.” They cannot talk over my head because I have learned from experience over the last 20 years.
And before they say, “You said in your recorded statement that you saw the other car five seconds before the collision. You had plenty of time to stop. You didn’t. You contributed to the accident. We are not paying.”, I can prepare you to give that statement so that you will not make a careless or inaccurate statements that will prevent or reduce your recovery.
“Daddy... Daddy... Daddy! Are you an ambulance chaser?” she persisted. “Your darn right I am, honey.”