Law and politics are inseparable. Politicians write the laws and lawyers challenge those laws through the courts. Once a law withstands judicial scrutiny it is very difficult to change. This is a great process and it works to refine many laws into practical application, but in some instances, it leads to bad rigid laws. Some of these laws can affect the process of personal injury trials.
As an attorney, I view politics through a legal lens. I scrutinize politicians based on their desire to legislate and pass laws that will protect the most vulnerable people. This is my political view. You may disagree, but for me, politics exist to serve and protect those who are in the most need.
As a personal injury attorney, my clients are often especially vulnerable. When someone survives a horrific accident, he or she typically has a large amount of medical bills, are unable to work, and have a busy life they need to try to cope with despite being in pain.
I deal with auto insurance companies every day to help mitigate my client’s suffering. I negotiate, argue, and sometimes agree with insurance adjusters. Adjusters provide a vital service by protecting insurance companies from fraudulent claims. However, I often tell my clients, “I have a job because insurance adjusters are there to keep money in their company’s pocket, not put money into yours.”
When I agree to represent someone injured in a car accident, I ensure my client knows we are only seeking recovery from the auto insurance companies. There is typically no benefit going after the at-fault driver directly because that judgment is nearly impossible to collect. This means I rarely have contact with the at-fault driver. I work solely with an insurance adjuster who pays the claim directly from the insurance company. The at-fault driver has little to no involvement if the case settles prior to litigation. I love insurance for this reason; it allows injured people to collect what they deserve from a recoverable source.
Again, insurance companies are a for-profit business; they exist to collect premiums and payout as little as possible for claims. For instance, one of my clients was t-boned by an older woman who ran a red light. A few weeks after the collision, an MRI revealed my client had three herniated discs in her neck. After three months of chiropractic treatment, she saw the doctor less and less, not because she was better, but because her life was hectic.
My client is a widow and a single mother. Her husband died only a few years before the auto accident and she worked part-time and went back to school shortly after the collision to provide a better life for her and her family. My client had little time to treat with doctors. She knew this would minimize her recovery from the insurance company, but providing for her family at the moment was more important.
When it came time to settle her claim, the at-fault driver’s insurance company refused to pay for the small amount of medical bills. Their reasoning, “She did not obtain enough medical treatment to corroborate serious injury.” Because she is busy and does not have time to go to the doctor, they refused to pay for the few doctor bills she actually had! The only recourse to force the insurance company to pay for my client’s medical bills was to file a lawsuit.
Now enters politics. Insurance companies are extremely wealthy and have a tremendous amount of political influence. Over the years, they convinced politicians it is unfair for injured plaintiffs to mention auto insurance at trial. This has now become law.
This means, if my client’s case goes to trial, I cannot tell a jury we are only seeking recovery from the other driver’s auto insurance. If anyone mentions auto insurance in court, it is a mistrial and we have to start over.
Instead, we have to make it appear as if we are recovering directly from the old lady who ran the red light. This woman’s insurance company hires the attorney, pays for the defense, and eventually will pay the judgment. The sweet old lady will have little involvement and will never pay a dime for the attorney or the possible judgment against her.
However, because of political influence, I have to stand in court and tell a jury I am seeking a sizeable sum of money from a little old lady! In reality, a multibillion-dollar corporation will pay for my client’s injuries.
How did insurance companies successfully lobby to make this charade a mandatory legal process? They convinced politicians that if juries know auto insurance companies are paying the bill (instead of old ladies), then Plaintiffs are more likely to win. They argued, more plaintiffs winning cases means an increase in car insurance premiums.
Insurance companies convinced politicians to force lawyers to lie in court and pretend to seek recovery from the individual instead of their company because it helped politicians win reelection. They could now tell their constituents, “I passed a bill that will ensure your auto insurance premiums remain low.” What they did not say, “This means if you are injured in a car accident, which is not your fault, it is now more difficult to obtain a fair recovery from the at-fault driver’s insurance company and you have to pretend to sue the other driver individually.”
Again, my hope is that politics protect those who are in the most need. Who is in more need then people who, by no fault of their own, are injured in a car accident, have medical bills (don’t get me started on health insurance), cannot work, but have to continue to survive? Of course, we all want lower auto insurance premiums, but what good is insurance if it does not cover our losses when we need it?
I have a job as a personal injury attorney because the deck is stacked against injured plaintiffs. The law forces me to participate in a farce in open court because of lobbyists and politicians. Truth and justice were not the end goal for the politicians who passed the legislation. Common sense would have been to look at the proposal and think, “Uh, hey, isn’t the purpose of the law to find truth and justice? This legislation forces injured plaintiffs to lie in court.”
Despite all of this, I love my job. Helping injured people recover what they deserve from an insurance company is fulfilling and I enjoy the challenges that come with every claim. However, filing a lawsuit and instantly having to enter a false narrative is infuriating. Laws are difficult to change, so the only way to combat this is to inform potential jurors of the charade before they receive the jury duty notice.