Is being a young personal injury lawyer like an episode of Suits? That’s the question I get every so often. In my first blog post http://ow.ly/HfiA308CYUx. I wrote about how I came to be a lawyer at Teggart Personal Injury Law. Today, is the second chapter in my story. It’s all about what I’ve learned…8 months in. No, it’s not like Suits but it’s like this intersection between sports, profession and life.
I’ve learned so much it’s hard to distil it into a blog post but when it comes down to it, three things have really impacted me. The first is how a personal injury lawsuit consists of winning the countless, small, day to day battles. The second is how clients stay positive in the face of so much adversity. The third is the intensity and pressure of representing people who desperately need financial support.
Winning the Little Battles
I’ve quickly learned that the process of a personal injury lawsuit certainly isn’t like television where someone sues and everything goes to Court the next day. There is a lot in between. In fact, it’s what’s in between that’s most important. It’s less sexy than one big courtroom battle like we see on tv. Instead, it’s a hundred little battles.
During high school, I played basketball for legendary coach, George Bergen. Coach Bergen always told us that to win the game, we had to win our individual battles throughout the game. Just outperform the guy across from you. Whether it’s making sure you box out your guy on a rebound, or out-hustling him for a loose ball, at the end of the game the winning team will be the team that won the individual battles.
I’ve learned that a personal injury lawsuit, like a basketball game, is a competition but with bigger competition and more at stake. The other team is a multi-billion dollar insurance company, and their team of highly skilled legal professionals. For us, winning is a fair verdict that will allow our client to pay for their care, replace lost wages, put food on the table and pay their mortgage. On the flip side, losing means … well I refuse to even think about that.
And Coach Bergen’s statement applies just as much to our team as it did to my high school basketball team.
I need to win my individual battles against the insurance company’s team.
That might mean doing more thorough research on a legal issue in the case. It may be that if they find a way not to pay a benefit to our client, I find a way to make them pay that benefit. A fair resolution for our client doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s these unseen daily battles which determine whether we will obtain a desirable result. Often our clients never know about the little battles we fight and win on their behalf, but that’s the point. It’s one less thing they have to worry about while they focus on recovering from their injuries.
Positivity and Resilience
When many people think of a personal injury victim, they think of someone who is minimally injured and majorly complaining. They think of someone who has minor whiplash in a car accident and is constantly complaining about how badly their neck hurts so that they can “milk the system”.
This perception has been the opposite of my experience. I have been stunned by the resilience shown by many of our catastrophically injured clients.
Nothing makes you reassess your own perspective more than when you realize that a quadriplegic client has a more positive outlook on life than you do.
The positivity and resiliency of our clients is especially remarkable considering their injuries often occurred through no fault of their own. A client catastrophically injured by a drunk driver has every reason to be bitter and resentful about the hand that life has dealt him. Instead, he makes the best of the life he has and faces daily challenges with relentless positivity. I can’t say I could see myself staying positive in the same situation. It certainly has given me some perspective on life since beginning work as a personal injury lawyer and it is a benefit of our job that is underappreciated.
The Weight of Our Responsibility
Observing our catastrophically injured clients dealing with their problems has not just impacted me personally, but professionally as well.
When you read medical records of a father who will never walk again, or will never work again, you realize that you sure as hell better not screw up.
You fight for every cent possible. Because for many of our clients, there is not enough money in the insurance system to pay for the costs of their care, or compensate them for never being able to work again. They need every cent available. As you can imagine, this is both tremendous motivation, and tremendous pressure.
When I come to work each day, there are times when I can still hear Coach Bergen’s advice. I should always be able to outwork and out prepare the insurance company’s lawyer, because our fight is so much more important. The lawyer acting for the insurance company is trying to minimize a billion dollar corporation’s exposure. That cannot be nearly as galvanizing as working to ensure a young man, who will never work again, will have the financial means to live an independent life. His future quality of life is largely dependent on us doing our job well. The pressure however, of having something so important riding partially on my shoulders can often feel burdensome. But, the reward from knowing I helped a client obtain the best result possible outweighs any burden.
Everyone wants their job or career to be meaningful and important. For me, 8 months in, it doesn’t get any better than fighting the daily battles, witnessing the resilience of the human spirit and learning the ropes as a young lawyer. Thanks Coach Bergen!