A few years ago, before our son was born, my wife and I took an extended trip to Alaska. We visited my friend in Anchorage, did some salmon fishing and camped out in Denali National Park. The highlight of the trip was a stay at remote Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park.
To get to Brooks Camp, we had to take a small plane from Anchorage, and then an even smaller plane to a lake deep in the wilderness. Brooks Camp is set between two lakes connected by a short river with a six-foot-high waterfall halfway between the lakes. If you get there during the salmon run, you can see thousands of salmon jumping the waterfall. You know who else can see the salmon jumping? Grizzly bears. Hundreds of them. The bears congregate around the waterfall fishing for salmon. Some stand above the falls, grabbing the fish after they’ve successfully made the jump. Some wait a bit downstream and grab the salmon who have failed to make the jump and fell back into the river. My favorites are the ones who stand right at the falls and grab the salmon from mid-flight as they are jumping.
The camp itself is rustic, but pretty well established. There are small cabins, but we camped in a tent. The tent sites are located in an enclosure surrounded by electrified wire, so we felt relatively safe. Other than the wire, there are no barriers between the bears and the human tourists. Of course, they limit the number of people who can be there at any given time, but this is definitely bear country, and as the rangers told us, the bears always have the right of way.
You might think you could hang out there without any rangers or other expert help if you just use common sense. Don’t get in the way of the bears. Make sure your food is packed away in airtight containers far from where you sleep. Just be careful and you’ll be safe, right? But what you don’t know is where the bears might sneak up on you, what kinds of behaviors indicate the bears are agitated and might become aggressive, how to respond when a bear suddenly appears in your path and a thousand other situations you can’t even anticipate.
One night my wife was in the river fly fishing with a ranger (I was sleeping in the tent). Without her noticing, a bear cub wandered next to her. Suddenly she found herself between a cub and its mother – a very dangerous place to be. Fortunately, the ranger with her knew just what to do. He got very big and made lots of noise. The cub got scared and ran away and the mother bear followed. If the ranger hadn’t been there, who know what might have happened to my wife.
Your injury claim is very much like Brooks Camp. Everything looks orderly and fairly well established and it seems like if you just use common sense you can get through it just fine. You might think that any reasonably intelligent person could protect their family, work at their job, go to their medical appointments and deal with the insurance company, ultimately negotiating a good settlement. Sometimes, it might even work out that way. But do you know what issues the claims adjuster might use to undermine your claim? Do you know when you have to provide information and when you don’t? Can you anticipate when they are about to pounce and blow your claim apart? Have you considered the hours you might have to spend researching, documenting and arguing with the insurance company instead of spending that time with your family? Just like at Brooks Camp, there are simply too many things that can go wrong, and the stakes are too high. Having an expert on your side frees you to get better and focus your attention on yourself and your family while giving you the peace of mind that all of the likely pitfalls have been anticipated and your rights are being protected. Hiring an attorney does not guarantee a good outcome, but it makes it much more likely that you won’t find yourself in an impossible situation.