There is some justice in the world, but often not enough.
I cannot count the number of times I find myself having to tell clients that. In my darker moments, I will refer to my profession as being a merchant of tragedy and there are aspects of my job that can be described thusly. Every person or family member who walks through my door has experienced serious injuries or the loss of a loved one. They are not in a good place.
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The tort system is designed to restore some balance to the universe when misfortune befalls a person. Although all injuries have a victim, not all injuries have a villain. Sloppy drivers, lazy engineers, thrifty corporations and careless caregivers abound but the sad truth is if the villain is broke and not well insured, there are substantial limits on the financial recovery.
I received two calls today from victims asking questions about their case and their current lawyer because they read my article on can you fire a accident attorney. As we laid out in the article, the contract with the lawyer and the law don’t prevent you from changing attorneys when you are unhappy with some aspect of the case handling; the real question is whether the insurance company has already made an offer. Most Georgia attorneys are smart enough to draft their contract such that they are entitled to their percentage contingency fee on any offer that is made. This is a practical obstacle to hiring a new attorney. If the first lawyer is already getting their cut of the case, there is no slice with which to pay the new lawyer.
Getting back to the phone calls, the reason the ladies had called was they had catastrophic injuries. One had a ruptured spleen with blood clots that got into her lungs as a result of an Atlanta car accident. She explained that her lawyer had not called her in 2 months and that the last she heard the at fault drunk driver only had $25,000 in insurance coverage and she had no uninsured motorist coverage to help out. I listened to her problem and it became clear that the lawyer was probably just not communicating the realities of the situation well. In many cases, especially with drunk drivers, there are practical limits on what can be done because the drivers rarely have assets. In a recent case that we handled against a drunk driver, we were fortunate to find the bar where they had been drinking and again lucky that the bar had sufficient insurance to more fairly compensate the family for the death of their son.
For that caller, I suggested that she take an in person meeting with the lawyer and take notes on the options available to her.
The second caller lost her son in a drunk driving crash where he was the passenger in the drunk driver’s vehicle. Although we do not know the insurance limits for the driver, it is safe to say that with a fatality case being worth well over $2,000,000, there would be nowhere near enough insurance involved.
So what is the answer? Where is the justice? There is no good solution. No amount of insurance is enough for deaths but somewhere along the financial scale it feels less unfair. The best takeaway; make sure you choose a lawyer who does a good job communicating the realities of a case in the early going. A lawyer who fills your head with cotton candy promises is worthless. Ask hard questions and demand specific answers.