On Monday, a man calls our office. He only has a few minutes to talk. He tells our intake specialist that his brother has been at Shock Trauma in Baltimore since the beginning of the month and that he was hit by a commercial vehicle. The man briefly describes his brother’s injuries as head, eye, shoulder, and ankle.
She didn’t get more details. But he has me, obviously, at “Almost a month and counting in Shock Trauma” and “commercial truck.” Most of our large serious injury cases are truck accident cases. We set up a meeting with the brother for the next day in my office.
An hour before the meeting, the brother calls and says that the injury victim wants to be a part of the meeting, asking our intake specialist if we can move the meeting to the hospital.
I swallow hard. I’m simultaneously happy and miserable. Sure, I can now sign up for the client directly. But I really hate hospital visits. Why? Because it makes me feel like an ambulance chaser, that’s why. Many people pride themselves on not caring what anyone else thinks. I don’t. I really care – especially what health care providers think because I really have a lot of respect for them.
I’ve probably lost a lot of cases over the years of eschewing hospital visits. But last month, our firm went on a weekend retreat to the Hyatt in Cambridge, Maryland. Great place. The purpose of our meetings there was to become a better law firm. I’m convinced that we can never stop getting better. We are blessed to have a group of people who have been together for a long time. I think experience individually and collectively gives us a chance to continue to improve. The focus of the meeting was what I call Kaiser Sose: doing the little things other people can’t or won’t do to (1) make our clients happy, and (2) increase the values of their cases. In the spirit of that meeting, which included the theme of EVERYONE having to be accountable, I have to make hospital visits when current or potential clients ask me to come.
So I drive down to Baltimore to visit the hospital. I’m planning to meet the brother in the hospital lobby. This makes me feel better because it gives me some cover other than the guy who looks like a lawyer going up alone. While I’m fidgeting in the lobby, the brother calls the office and just asks, inexplicably, if I can just come up to the room.
Shoot. Now I’m uncomfortable. But I sneak by the front desk without getting a visitor’s badge pulling off that “I am regular here, I know where I’m going” look, simultaneously feeling James Bond clever and a complete loser. Because I’m so clutch, I add difficulty by screwing up the “600-630 this way” arrow, having to suspiciously double back again. Thankfully, no one is paying attention because, you know, they are tending to badly hurt people and I’m in Baltimore City and I’m not carrying a weapon.
I find the room. Relief. The prospective client and his brother are nice people and they suggest we head over to a conference room. Great, much more my speed. Except the conference room is actually a candy machine room that has people coming in and out.
But it all works out. The prospective client is impressively cheerful and filled with good humor after having his life turned inside out by some idiot who fell asleep and came across the median strip and knocked him out. But here’s the problem. He got pushed into that tractor-trailer. The guy that came across the center line may or may not have had Progressive insurance (if he had any at all, there is some question). The client also has Progressive.
Fact: Progressive writes the smallest policies of anyone other than MAIF. So we are most likely looking, on our best day, at a $30,000 or $100,000 policy unless we can find facts that don’t seem in play here, e.g., defendant is John Rockefeller, has an umbrella policy, or was on the job at 2:00 in the morning. I told the client to give some real thought whether he wanted to hire a lawyer or try to handle it himself.
Having met the guy, I would probably take the case because we almost invariably can get the client some recovery like one-third/one-third/one-third. But I really don’t enjoy taking those kinds of cases. They paradoxically require a great deal of work and the client will never be happy. And, in a case like this, the client might be better served to try to resolve it themselves, at least initially, as long as they don’t mind incurring the risk of missing out on an avenue of recovery.