If you've been injured in an accident, it's usually a good idea to have an attorney representing you. But even after you hire a lawyer, it's still your case and you get to make all of the major decisions. The following story from my new book, Maximizing Your Inury Claim, illustrates this point:
When I was in law school, I played in a softball league. The games were pretty casual. It was slow-pitch, and we played mostly for fun. I was the first baseman for my team. During one game, an opposing batter hit a line drive over my head. I jumped up to catch the ball, and when I came down, my mitt slammed down onto the ground. I'm left-handed so the mitt was on my right hand. The hand hurt a little, but I didn't really think much of it. The next inning, I came up to bat. The pitch came in, and the second the aluminum bat struck the ball, I dropped to the ground in agony. It turns out that the impact with the ground had broken a bone in my hand, and the vibration from the bat hitting the ball made it worse.
I went to the emergency room, where I was diagnosed with a broken hand. Eventually, my hand was placed in a cast. After several weeks in the cast, the hand surgeon sat me down to explain why the hand broke. He told me I had a small fatty cyst in the bone of my right hand which weakened the bone and made it susceptible to injury. In order to prevent future fractures, his recommendation was to re-break the bone, remove the fatty cyst, and replace it with bone chips, which would ultimately fuse to the bone and strengthen it. He was sure this was the best thing to do, and he told me that without doing this procedure, I would likely break the bone again in the future.
I knew he was an expert in his field, and I knew very little about broken bones and fatty cysts. It would have been easy just to go along with his advice, but it didn't feel right to me. I had just spent six weeks in a cast, and now he wanted to re-break my hand and put it back in a cast for at least another six weeks. He wanted to do all this to prevent the possibility of a future injury. I asked him how long the cyst had been there, and while he couldn't give me an exact time frame, he said it had probably been there for a long time. I realized that in all that time, I had never broken my hand, and I might never break it again, even without letting him break my hand again.
I did not make a decision immediately. Instead, I considered the doctor's advice, discussed it with my family, and ultimately decided that I'd rather face the risk of a future injury than undergo surgery on my hand and endure another several weeks in a cast. My decision could have been the wrong one. I could have broken my hand again right away and it could have been much worse than the first break. I was responsible for this decision, and I would be responsible for the consequences.
In the twenty years since that incident, do you want to know how many times I've broken my hand? Zero. I continued to play softball and tennis. I camp and hike regularly, and I've taken up golf in the last few years. I've never broken my hand, and I've never even felt soreness at the spot where the doctor said I'd be weak. For me, choosing not to have the surgery was the right decision. Even though the expert told me it was the best thing to do, I took charge of my medical treatment and did what I thought was best. In making that decision, I considered the doctor's advice, and I knew I could be wrong.
When you have an attorney representing you in your personal injury claim, he may make suggestions you disagree with. Your lawyer may be pushing you to file a lawsuit when you really want to settle. Your lawyer may be encouraging you to return to work when you really don't feel ready to go back. Your lawyer may want to handle everything without input from you, but you have a right to know what is happening at all times in your case, and you have a right to give your input to all of the lawyer's decisions.
Got more questions about car accidents or other personal injury matters? Give us a call. It's just that easy.