Law is Not Always About Business
The practice of law is a business. The practice of personal injury law is a business. Lawyers who practice personal injury law, and certainly those that are good at it, make a good income. I have often said that the business of personal injury law is somewhat like that of undertakers, in that we live off the tragedy of others.
What can be lost in the business of personal injury law is how devastating the effects of accidents can be on our clients who hire us in the first place.
We sometimes talk about good files, meaning files in which the injuries are significant and likely to generate a good fee. Every now and then we need to be reminded that it is not about the fees that may be earned, it is about our clients. Our job is helping them through the tragedies that they and their families have suffered as well as understanding them.
That mandate was made clear to me recently in one of my cases that I was involved with where the driver was so impaired that he was driving three times the speed limit. He raced through an intersection against a red light killing two of my clients and badly injuring my other two clients who were in the vehicle struck by the drunk driver.
The reality of the effects this incident had on my clients, and the tragedy that they and their families faced, really hit home to me when I was given copies of their Victim Impact Statements. I want to quote a few lines from that statement that really emphasized for me the horror that my clients had gone through (this was of course done with my client’s permission).
“I have no idea where I am was my first thought as I regained consciousness. The bright white light blinded my eyes as I opened them. I could hear voices yelling at me to lay down as I tried to get up from the table where I was placed. I felt excruciating pain as I laid there unable to move. The fear of not knowing what had happened to me felt almost like a bad dream but in reality I had woken up in the CT scan with life threatening injuries.
I remember begging the nurses to tell me what had happened and where my friends were.”
“I cannot find all of the words to describe what this needless motor vehicle crash has done and continues to do to me and what is important to me and to the most important people in my life. Every moment and every day throws something different at me physically, emotionally and mentally. Sometimes I just cry for no reason known to me. I can’t put the profound shock, numbness, emptiness, loss and sadness into words.
I can’t put into words the shock of losing Cody and Jerry just like that! Like a flash they are gone. They are dead. I could not attend any of their final journeys away from this motor vehicle accident to their graves. I had no closure. I can’t have closure. There are moments and days that I think they are not gone for real but they are gone. Are they truly dead? A monster has taken their lives brutally and abruptly in a senseless act. It is a nightmare. It hurts.”
“The sentence handed down today is some justice for my son but it will never repair the damage that has been done. Cody is gone. He will never return to our family and home as he should. Cody did not deserve to die, he was 23 years old with a beautiful future ahead of him. Our family is forever broken and we will never stop missing and loving our son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend.
Please remember every time you are drinking to make the choice not to drive for Cody and for all other innocent people on the roads. Ultimately making that choice is justice for Cody.
Cody should be here. He should be here to be loved by his family and friends. He should be here to outlive his parents and carry on his own family, fulfill his dreams and passions in life. This will never happen because of Scott Altiman. Scott Altiman will live free one day but Cody will never have the opportunity to come home again.”
Law is a business and we do live off the tragedy of others. When you first read statements like this, if you are really honest, you think that you are thankful that it is not one of your own children. I know that I cannot truly understand the pain and suffering because I am not the one experiencing it first hand but I am hopeful that in some small way I may be able to help comfort my clients in their times of tragedy.