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Once Upon a Case

Now, let me tell you a story about a case that we just signed up.

Once upon a time, I represented a client in 2008. A few days ago, he was in another car crash, and he called me again for representation. This is the story of that crash.

My client is traveling down the road while doing the speed limit. Without any warning, he is rear-ended and knocked to the side of the road. He is a little “out-of-it” because he also hit his head against the driver-side window.

As he comes to a stop, a man comes up to his window and asks, “Are you ok?”. He replied that, “I think so, I’m just trying to get it together”. “Ok” the man said. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t paying attention.” He then added, “I’ll just pull my car in front of your car and call the police”.

My client notices that the car slowly passes his car. It has a lot of damage to the front. So much damage that he is surprised that the car can even move on the road. Just as the car passes him, it takes off down the road. The driver is leaving the scene of the accident.

My client is unable to do anything but call the police. They soon arrive and he reports what had happened. He then describes the car that left the scene. Then, he is taken to the hospital for treatment.

The next day his wife suggests that they go back to the scene to see if there might be a license plate or something that has fallen off that unknown car. Unfortunately, nothing is found. So, they decide to drive through some neighborhoods nearby.

All of a sudden… they see the car parked next to a house. They phone the Henrico Police Department , who sends a car out. The policeman tells my client to stay in his car. The policeman walks to the front door.  A young woman comes to the door. She admits to the officer that it is her car, but she says that she doesn’t know how it got all damaged.

The police officer comes back to my client and tells him to go home, that he will investigate what happened and get back with him. When my client gets home, he gets a call from his own insurance company. They tell him what body shop to take his car for repairs. To this point, my client still has not called me.

When my client goes to the body shop, he talks to the body shop owner and tells him about the crash. How the driver left the scene, and that he had  fortunately located the car. Because of the description of the car and the owners house, the body shop owner realizes that the car is owned by his niece. He tells my client that she always lets her boyfriend drive her car.  Now… the police know the boyfriend as well.

 

And for pic o’ day…. one of my favorites each year

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     And another that makes me smile:

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Satisfaction Guaranteed

Retail chain Montgomery Ward was the first company in the United States to advertise “satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back”. Founder Aaron Montgomery Ward came up with that slogan in 1874, after he decided to provide “city” goods to country customers who were unable to drive in to make purchases. So, he conceived the idea to sell through a dry goods mail-order “come to you” business.

Ward faced great obstacles including the loss of his first inventory during the Great Chicago Fire; as well as facing local retailer competition, who would go around and burn his catalogs. Despite such actions, he was successful because the core idea of his business met a need.

The history of his business shows that it continued to grow throughout his lifetime in that he ran the business for 41 years until he died. (more of the story here) In reading the history, I was most fascinated by the fact that his catalog became known as the “Wish Book” that had grown to 10,000 items in the first year. Another reason why, despite competition from companies like Sears, he still stayed the course with his success.

In the world of rainmaking for business, I often hear that you need to have your elevator speech. It allows you to tell someone what you do during an elevator ride (or 10 seconds) that serves as your sales pitch for business.

I have never been too excited about the sales pitch idea. I have often thought about what answer to give, when I am asked what sets our law firm apart from other law firms. That is when I think back to an idea that met a need an idea that was not original.

It was the end of the day during a normal workday at the law firm, in 1989. I had met with several new and existing clients that day and I was exhausted. Recounting the story, it was the first time that Dennis Lanier had ever met me. He was doing some investigation for my partner then, and had stopped into my office.

He says that he found me a bit slumped in my chair with the sleeves of my white shirt rolled up near my elbows. He told me that he knew of an idea in signing up new cases. It would make it easier for new clients. He could go to a new client’s house to sign them up, when they could not come in to see me. He had gotten the idea from a solo practitioner and had helped him by doing that very sign-up method.  Soon, we were advertising the idea that “we will come to you”.

Since that time, I have heard other firms advertise that concept. For us, we still “will come to you”. In a way, it was our “Wish Book” idea.

DID YOU KNOW that according to Gambler’s Digest, an estimated $1 million is lost at the race track each year, by people who lose or carelessly throw away winning tickets?

And for pic o’ day… this is bag o’ cat:

bag of cat

A Titanic Injury Reminder

I’m not sure whether I should call it a buying weakness or a hobby. It has certainly gone beyond need. I enjoy buying watches. Especially ones that are unique.

This watch is a Romain Jerome brand. It is certified by Harland and Wolff to be made from the original steel of the Titanic. Basically, they included the ship medal and made a “DNA Certified Titanic” watch.

This is an example of turning a bad situation into something worthwhile. In this situation,  owning a piece of the “RMS Titanic” that is a functioning watch.

Greek mythology tells the story of the bird, Phoenix, who rises from the ashes. A story of overcoming. That bird became the symbol of Atlanta, Georgia,  because of being “reborn” from the ashes after it was burned to the ground during the Civil War.

When I look at this watch, I am also reminded of many clients who have managed to turn a very bad situation into a positive. One client was injured on the job and no longer able to work as a pipe-fitter. I remember later, going to his restaurant that he purchased with his settlement money. It made me smile to see a crowd there and to see his look of pride.

Another client was rescued from a burning car by a driver behind her. Years later, the two got married. A wonderful relationship out of a bad situation.

Another client was able to take her settlement money and go back to school. Later, I heard that she was working at the hospital as a nurse.

People normally don’t call me with good news. They call because of some difficulty or injury. The journey can be winding. It’s nice to see an ending that involves overcoming difficulty. Turning a bad event into a something good.

For pic o’ day, how about a Polar Bear alarm clock:

Genuine Help

     This week, I received a call from a prospective client that started with an unusual introduction. “I can’t find anyone who cares to help” she said. Her family had recently had a tragic event occur and she could not get any help from the insurance company or the people who caused the injury.

     I regularly read ‘self-help” books on all kinds of topics that range from positive thinking, to leadership, to real estate. Most authors are trying to find some new nugget, to cause you to buy their book. Most of the time, the ideas may have a new application, but they still rely on foundations that have been written in many other books.

     In my reading, I found one author who pointed me to an older book. In 1961, Carl ‘Rogers wrote “On Becoming a Person“. I learned that I did not agree with his basic premise on humanity. For now, I won’t go that direction. It would be like discussing the importance of the knotholes of Noah’s ark.  For blog purposes, I try not to provide material to help take the place of counting sheep, when you are searching for sleep.

     I did like Rogers’ first premise on building a relationship with others: “Be Genuine”. He wrote, “to be genuine, we must be aware of our feelings. We must then express the feelings and attitudes which exist within us”. Rogers was a therapist who believed that his patients were not objects, but rather fellow people.

     I used to go to a primary care physician for check-ups, where I felt that “object” feeling. When anyone would present themselves to the receptionist/front desk, soon a voice over the intercom would announce that “you have a chart up front”. We had all been reduced to being a chart.

     I am currently in the process of hiring more attorneys for the Richmond office. Part of my interview process includes asking “why do you want to work with clients?”.   I usually receive some standardized response. It doesn’t mean that their answer is wrong, it just means that they have been studying some interview book. I try to get beyond “I like helping others” or “I just love the law”.

     I heard a basketball coach once use the expression, “you can’t teach height”. In the practice of law, you really can’t teach someone to be genuine, who genuinely wants to help others. It’s either there or not. In my experience, those are the attorneys that really can make a difference in helping people. I guess the others can happily do insurance defense. (I know, I probably could have left that last opinion out, but I couldn’t help myself)

     For pic o’ day, here’s a dog with recognition of feelings:

Don’t Forget Your Teeth

     One business traveler forgot more than $20,000 worth of jewelry, when she left her Italy Hotel. USA Today reports that over 30,000 items are left behind at the McCarran airport in Las Vegas, when they shed them for security screening. That’s 82 items a day of forgetfulness.

     The USA Today article says that people have left possessions that have included diamond engagement rings, an NFL Super Bowl ring and even some professional video equipment.  One Hyatt hotel reported that a bride left behind her wedding ring.  One hotel manager described their lost property department as “a treasure trove”.

     Many hotels say that they respect the guests’ privacy and will not return an item unless the owner asks for it.  Of course, the article says that some of the forgotten items that have been been requested to be returned included hearing aids and false teeth.

      I wonder how you forget the teeth.  Do you remember when you decide to order lunch corn on the cob? Calling the hotel front desk and asking if housekeeping found a set of teeth in room 1224, has to be an embarrassing mouthful. (Promise… no more on this)  

     Robert Bjork, a UCLA psychologist professor, says that habits protect us from forgetting things. Those habits “are disrupted by travel”. Most people develop strategies to lessen the forgotten items. I’m probably like most. I try to do a “one more time”,  just before leaving the hotel room. At the airport, I look closely at the bins and pat the pockets to make sure I’m feeling the wallet, keys and cell phone. Thankfully, the teeth aren’t a worry.

     In everyday life, it is understood that we forget. That even extends to the important stuff. For injury claims, defense attorneys and insurance companies don’t seem to understand such forgetfulness.

     Sometimes, a client will be taken to a hospital after the crash and report leg, back and neck pain. Such reported injuries may even include broken bones. Then, when they claim a  head injury a few days later, the defense attorney attacks them for not “reporting all their injuries at the hospital”.

     I’m guessing that you might think, “yea, why wouldn’t they say that they had a headache?” Well, I’ve asked ER doctors about that. Their training is to treat life threatening injuries; stop the bleeding and fix the breaks. For a headache or someone even hitting their head, there may be no significant discussion unless the person is unconscious at the hospital.

     Many people will hit their head against the seat or even the side window or door. Sometimes, they even notice tenderness when they get home. Being knocked dazed may not even register as a head injury. Then, they later start to notice symptoms of a head injury that may include such things as a headache, nausea, difficulty sleeping, forgetfulness and anxiety. Symptoms that they did not have before the crash.

     Some injuries and symptoms may not be readily known; Or, a person gets distracted at the hospital or could even be a bit shook up when talking to emergency medical people. If it’s believable that a person would leave their ring or teeth behind because of distraction or forgetfulness; then it sure seems to me that someone might not always know or report every injury immediately. It’s just not a defense that concerns me because it deals with true humanity.

     And now…. pic 0′ day. Everyone should dress casual for Friday and Saturday.

Out of the Rubble

     Minister J.K. Gressett wrote about a man, who settled with his family, on an Arizona  farm. (source). As a lesson of overcoming obstacles, he told the following story:

     “One night, a fierce storm struck with rain, hail, and high wind. At daybreak, feeling sick and fearing what he might find, the farmer went out to survey the loss.

      The Hail had beaten the garden and the truck patch into the ground; the house was partially un-roofed ; the hen house had blown away, and dead chickens were scattered about. Destruction and devastation were everywhere.

     While standing dazed, evaluating the mess and wondering about the future; he heard a stirring in the lumber pile that was in the remains of the hen house. A rooster was climbing up through the debris. 

     He didn’t stop climbing until he had mounted the highest board in the pile. That old rooster was dripping wet, and most of his feathers were blown away. But, as the sun came over the eastern horizon, he flapped his bony wings and proudly crowed.

     That old wet, bare rooster could still crow, when he saw that morning sun. He had picked himself up out of the rubble”.

     This past week, I called a client to discuss a settlement offer on her case. We discussed the pros and cons of the settlement amount.  She told me to get as much as I could from the insurance company and then settle the case. She ended the conversation with, “They put me through a whole lot during that year of pain and treatment. But, they couldn’t take my faith and I was determined to get better. They are not going to take any thing else from me.”

     Many of my clients have faced tremendous obstacles from someone else’s carelessness. I call them, thinking that I might be some encouragement to them. Instead, many times,   I hang up the phone, encouraged by their spirit of getting up out of the rubble of discouragement and difficulty.

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