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Based on a True Story

Happy Monday! Let’s get right to it.

Here’s a story that was told to me by a lady in our office. It just happened last week. I might be taking a little bit of literary license with it, because I don’t remember the exact wording. However, it’s like those magical words at the beginning of a movie that always get my attention, Based on a true story.

I decided to go for a run in my neighborhood. On one side of the road is a sidewalk. I don’t necessarily like running on the sidewalk, because it’s uneven. However, I wanted to run against the traffic, so today I decided to run there.

On the other side of the road where there is no sidewalk, I see a runner coming toward me. He is running close to the side of the road, with traffic. As he gets closer to me, I see a car turning right and toward him. He is running ahead of the car, so he doesn’t see how close the car is coming toward him.

All of a sudden, I notice that the car is traveling too close to him. I hear a loud noise and realize that the car’s side mirror has smacked into the runner and knocked him down. The driver pulls over to the side of the road, and I run over there, past the car, to check on him and see if he is hurt. He is hunched over, holding his arm.

I haven’t seen the driver of the car, as I ask the runner if he is hurt. He says, “I think I’m OK”. I ask him, “Are you sure you’re not hurt, you really got smacked?”. It’s then that I hear the driver’s voice from behind me, as she tersely says, “He said he’s OK“. Then she added, ‘I didn’t see him. I don’t know where he came from‘.”

That story irritates me on many levels. There is no “I’m sorry“. Instead, only a dismissive driver. I won’t outline all the arguments of a defense attorney that I would expect to hear about the runner, and what HE could have done differently. Sometimes I think their best defense would be to just say what they really mean, “If only he hadn’t gotten out of bed that morning” or “If only he had worn a clown suit to get more attention”.

Imagine how the world would be, if the first reaction was not to go into defense mode. Instead, “Are you hurt?” or “Is there anything I can do?”. I suppose if that happened, less people would need a lawyer. Some things just make me stop and think!

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And for our pic o’ day:

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Sadness and Mental Anguish

Huffington Post recently wrote about Dennis the Dachshund, who had ballooned up to 56 pounds. He had been on a diet of White Castle burgers and pizzas.  When a nursing student saw his condition, she talked her relative into letting her adopt Dennis.

With a new diet of dog food and a bit of exercise, Dennis dropped 44 pounds. He was now down to an appropriate size and weighing 12 pounds.

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Unfortunately, he continues to deal with his excess skin after his weight loss. In the good news department, his owner says that his personality is shining through and he no longer seems depressed.

There’s an advertising campaign for Hotels.com that makes me laugh every time. Captain Obvious states the obvious about travel and making plans. Usually in the ads, someone will tell him, “thanks, Captain Obvious”, after he has stated the obvious.

I feel, to some extent, that I am about to state the obvious. People who suffer injuries in car accidents feel down and sometimes truly depressed. They no longer can do the things that they did before. Unlike Larry the Dachshund,  this is caused by someone else not because of a diet of White Castle burgers.

When discussing damages to an adjuster or a jury, I try to focus on the damages on the inside rather than just the outside. I believe that the damage of sadness and mental anguish is greater than the damage of wearing a cast.

I’m not sure that I have always done a very good job of conveying such damages. However, I am always curious when someone suggests that “Isn’t a case worth three times medicals?”. The longer I practice, the more I realize that such loss is not a mathematical equation. In almost every case, the client will usually say along the way, “I just wish that I was back to where I used to be”. That is a better measurement of the true loss.

And for pic o’ day, I am posting a picture that was just sent to me, from a “few” years ago. It’s my parents all dressed up for Thanksgiving. Now that makes me smile!

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Traffic, Health, Diamonds in the Rough

 

I sure enjoyed Mother’s Day. But, the traffic was terrible. I’m told by restaurants that it usually is their busiest day of year. Guess that’s why there was so much traffic.

In the public parking garage at the restaurant, there was plenty of parking spots available. Unfortunately, we kept going round and round, because the empty spots had “reserved” on them. It made no sense. Reserved for what, since there were more empty than full.

Then, I saw a lady with her kids, looking sadly at her car. There was a parking boot on her tire. Someone was enforcing the reserved. She didn’t know what to do and the only suggestion I had was to go to the Hotel lobby for the parking lot and ask them to remove it. Nice touch on Mother’s Day, Virginia Beach Westin.

I also noticed more police on the roads with radar. Is Mother’s Day a day of special traffic enforcement? I also was surprised to see traffic slowed by road construction. Usually, I am glad to see roads being fixed. Just seemed like an odd day to focus on it with so much traffic. I know… I need to stop complaining.

Thinking about this blog brought me to thoughts on traffic. I’m sure that you’ve already heard that one-third of all accidents happen within one mile of your home. It’s called “switching off syndrome”; where people admit that their minds wander from driving and the road, and they start thinking about what needs to be done.

Well, here’s more statistics that cause concern. AtlanticCities.com reports that there is a connection between longer commuting to work, and bad health. In the upcoming “American Journal of Preventive Medicine”, those who have commutes that are 15 minutes or greater tend to experience decreased cardio-respiratory fitness and increased weight. The health statistics show that such commuters have higher numbers of increased weight, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

If you click on the article, it will give you specifics on driving and health. It all boils down to lack of exercise. You just can’t do cardio and push-ups in the car seat! Guess it’s like being a couch potato without the couch and remote. Instead, you get traffic, speed traps… wait, I promised no more complaining.

You might not be able to shorten the drive;  but, I guess it’s another good reminder to work at getting out of the car and into the gym.

For pic o’ day, I figured that this would be a sign that would cause us all to get out of the car and get some exercise:

 

A Highlights Magazine Reminder

 

 

“Highlights Magazine” still gives me a funny nervous feeling. It was that magazine that was always in the doctor’s office, that supposedly had fun games to occupy you; while you waited to go back to have all your teeth pulled out or had some big shot stuck in your arm. No kid likes that waiting room.

Cracked.com reminded me with this above cartoon right from the magazine. When you play “What’s Wrong with this Picture?”, you begin to realize that it would be easier to play “what’s right?”.

Is that a toaster next to the cactus; next to the ice rink that people are swimming in? As you began to solve it, the wrongs start to overwhelm. Then, someone would open the door at the office and say, “Joel, are you ready?’ No, I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t finished my game that hundreds of other kids with grubby hands had already tried to solve, just like me.

Well, I promise that I will be brief in my analogy,  in case you want to go back to solving. Is that a running hotdog? See, I can get easily distracted too.

I just received another letter from an insurance company, where they were denying benefits to my client. In this instance, my client is also their policyholder. You would think that they would want to take care of their own instead of denying benefits. When my paralegal brought me the letter, she even remarked, “Why won’t they pay this?”

What  is wrong with the insurance picture?  That one Progressive insurance advertisement has “Go Big Money” dancing around and Flo says, “Go Big Money. I mean go, it’s your break honey”. I guess that’s it in a dancing answer. It’s about the money.

When you look at the picture to figure out what’s wrong with insurance, I probably could punch out a top ten list. They send out adjusters, sometimes called “pop out” adjusters; who pop out to the house within 24 hours and tell the person that they don’t need a lawyer. Why does it matter to the opposing insurance company whether a person hires a lawyer?

To keep it short… I just wanted to point your mind in the direction of “why”.  Insurance companies probably would keep people from calling lawyers, by making them feel like fairness prevailed.  Courtrooms would mostly sit empty and you wouldn’t have Warren Buffett with Geico, needing a lizard with an English accent to tell us how to compare insurance in the US.  Makes you stop and look closer at the picture.

Guess you could also ask what’s wrong with the Buffett rule?  Can’t everyone wear Parrot shirts and just be happy? Oh wait, is that like a running hotdog, out of place in this blog?   Where’s Waldo?

For pic o’ day, it went along with the blog… that you always need a good exit strategy:

 

The Travelers Insurance Bully

     “You have to give a recorded statement”, the adjuster demanded, “It’s the law”. In this instance, the adjuster was speaking to a lady who had been rear-ended by a Travelers’ insured.

     She replied, “I have to give a recorded statement? I’ve never heard of that.”  She then went on, “What law is that?”. Something about that question must have gotten the adjuster’s attention because he went on to ask her where she worked.

     “I work at the Joel Bieber Firm as a paralegal, and I’ve never heard that the law requires a recorded statement”. The adjuster began backpedaling as he added, “Well, maybe it’s not the law but if you want me to get your car appraised, you’re going to have to give me a recorded statement”.

     If you call your own insurance, they may ask you to give a recorded statement, because the terms of your insurance contract might require it, as part of “cooperation” under the policy. In this fact pattern that happened last week, this was the insurance company for the other side. I’m guessing that this adjuster had said this same statement “that it’s the law”, many times.

     A few years ago, the legislature even added a provision that specifically deals with the recorded statements of opposing parties. Even if they are taken and transcribed, they are not later admissible in any court proceeding, if the person was unrepresented at the time.

     The quiet implication behind this law is that adjusters have been pulling tricks for a while. They say all kinds of things like “You don’t need a lawyer” or “Don’t worry, this is pretty straightforward and I’ll be fair with you”. I’ve just gotten too cynical when it comes to this kind of conduct.

     I have met some adjusters that want to do the right thing in handling claims. It’s my opinion that they are getting a lot of pressure to do it the company way. Last week, this Travelers adjuster ran into someone who had knowledge. Hopefully, the Internet serves as a way to let people know that,  just because an adjuster says it, doesn’t necessarily make it so.

     I’m blogging on that first adjuster meeting. Next up is usually when they start saying that your car can be replaced for some amount that is not possible, except by 19th century pricing. Then, they tell you that your medical bills are not reasonable and that they aren’t going to pay them, unless you get your doctor to write them a letter.  But I digress! For now, this blog is just about the insurance bully.

Car Accident Negotiation

     I like the classic story of the young man who was looking for guidance in his life. He decided to pull out his Bible and use the “point and read” method, by opening at any passage; Wherever his finger landed, he would read and apply it in his life.

     His first effort at this method “landed” him at Matthew 27:5 which reads, “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself”. After reading this passage on Judas, the young man decided that he needed to try again.

     He then closed his Bible, reopened it, and his finger landed in Luke. He then read a passage that said, “Go and do likewise”. Shaking his head, he thought he’d better try again and his “point and read” method took him to John 13, where he read “That thou doest, do quickly”.

     Sometimes when I send settlement packages to insurance adjuster’s, I am convinced that they evaluate the claims with the same kind of “point and read” method, in evaluating the worth of the claim.

     Yesterday, I was discussing a settlement package that I had sent to an out of town adjuster. My client’s medical bills exceed 15K and she continues to receive treatment; Her bills are getting larger.

     I met with her doctor, who advises that she will probably need surgery on her shoulder (the standard for testimony at trial). He then put that in a letter, which I had sent to the adjuster.

     Despite the bills, the documentation of medical treatment, and the letter from her Orthopaedic doctor, the adjuster made a settlement offer that was a little over 16K. 

     In the world of negotiation, I understand that a “first offer” is, at least, getting started. For that reason, I simply asked for her reasoning for such an offer. She gave me some nebulous answer that was basically, “that’s how we have it evaluated”.  Doesn’t that sound like a “point and read” kind of offer?

     She then went on to tell me that if I expected a higher offer, that I would need to provide my client’s medical records for the last 5 years. When I hear that kind of insistence, I suspect, once again,  that offers are coming from machines, and some person on the other end is just processing. 

     In discussing this settlement package with this adjuster, I was reminded of a saying of Alfred Lord Tennyson that I went back and looked up, to get it stated accurately. “Blind and naked ignorance delivers brawling judgments, unashamed on all things, all day long.” For negotiation purposes, I’m guessing that I did the right thing by not repeating that saying to her.

     I have no issue in providing past medical records. In fact, if I file suit, the defense attorney would most certainly subpoena them anyway. This just doesn’t give much hope, when an adjuster makes an offer that is so low, that it would require my client to bring money to the office, to settle her case.

     In actuality, it is negotiations like this that keep the adrenaline going. I haven’t said it in a while, at the end of one of my blogs, but I think it applies here….. And the fight continues!

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