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The Wilderness of a Personal Injury Claim

wilderness1.jpgIf you've been in an accident, what is the first thing you should do? Who should you speak to and who should you never speak to? Are there any documents you should sign? What kind of doctor should you see and who will pay them? Most importantly, if you aren't a lawyer, how on earth are you supposed to know the answers to these questions?

For most people the aftermath of an injury is like entering a new world - an unknown wilderness. Without the proper equipment, preparation and guidance, you could easily get lost in this wilderness. You could go down the wrong trail or eat the wrong plant with potentially disastrous consequences. But the wilderness isn't inherently bad - it's just unfamiliar. By arming yourself now with some basic knowledge about the anatomy of an injury claim, you will be in a position to protect yourself and your family when the need arises, even if the need is right now.

In the summer of 1980, at age 11, I began to attend a wilderness summer camp in upstate New York. I returned to this camp every year for the next 6 years. At this camp, groups of kids would go on 5 day adventures every week, and then we would return to camp for the weekends. We did backpacking, canoeing, bicycling, rock climbing, and other fun and challenging wilderness trips.

So what did I, an 11-year-old boy from the suburbs know about camping in the wilderness? Nothing. I literally knew nothing. I may have spent the night in my backyard in a tent, but that was the extent of my wilderness training. How could I possibly survive a week-long backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail or a canoe trip down the Delaware River?

The answer, of course, is that I didn't do it alone.

The camp provided expert counselors, experienced in all of the skills necessary to not just survive, but to thrive in the wilderness. They taught us what equipment we would need and how to use it. They taught us what food we would need and they helped us prepare it. In fact, a big part of every Sunday was dedicated to food preparation, and we would prepare our meals and snacks for the entire week, which we then carried on our backs.

But training and preparation was only part of the program. The counselors (of course) came with us on our adventures. We were, after all, only 11 or 12 years old, and we really had no wilderness experience. When we made poor decisions, they helped us fix things. When we walked in the wrong plants and got poison ivy, they showed us how to treat it, and how to avoid being exposed again. When we got lost, they pulled out a map and compass and showed us how to find our way back to safety. When our food was exposed to the elements and ruined, they made sure we had enough to eat and showed us how to pack the food so it would stay safe and dry.

After a few trips, we became pretty good at taking care of ourselves. Some of us even considered ourselves experts. But there was always some unknown danger lurking around the next bend - a crumbling old building, dangerous rapids on the river, a poisonous snake, or a plain old broken arm. That's why, even though we felt like we were fully prepared for any situation, the counselors always stayed with us. They watched us, providing guidance whenever it would help, and bailing us out of difficult situations whenever they arose.

So, coming back to the aftermath of an accident, how do you know what to do? The answer is, you probably don't. There's no shame in that. You simply haven't had the training, experience or coaching necessary to make the best judgments in the various situations that are likely to arise.

If you've been injured in an accident, hiring a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to protect your family and your rights. Your lawyer will be your guide, teacher and counselor. Hiring a good lawyer can relieve you of the stress of dealing with the insurance companies and can identfy the hidden dangers in the personal injury wilderness.

If you want more information about personal injury claims, or want to discuss a specific situation, please give us a call. we'd love the hear from you.

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