I have clients come to me and say, “I never sued anybody, Shane, and I don’t feel good about suing anybody.” Be aware that initially filing a claim is not suing anyone.  You’re asking that person’s insurance company to pay you for your injuries and your lost wages and your pain and suffering.  It doesn’t have to be thought of as confrontational.  It sort of like going over to your neighbor and saying, “hey, you busted out the window of my car, will you pay for it?”  Now, there is inherently a little bit of confrontation, but it doesn’t have to be that bad.  Of course, I’m a little biased.  I file claims and I sue people for a living.  That’s what I do.  I’m a plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyer.  My job is to get insurance companies to pay people for their injuries.  However, that does not mean that all I’m worried about is money, that I don’t care about people and that I pursue frivolous claims. 

      I was raised with the idea that if you break something, you fix it.  And that’s what I try to make insurance companies do.  I was raised to believe that if my kids are playing out in the cul-de-sac next to my house and they knock a baseball through my neighbor’s window, the appropriate and responsible thing to do is to go over, tell my neighbor and offer to pay to fix the window. I may make my boys pay me; but, I don’t go to the neighbor and say, hey, they’ll work for you for 15 years at 25 cents an hour to fix the window. I also don’t think it is right to say, “you know, I don’t want to pay for a new window because the window in your house was 5 years old so I’ll give you half of whatever a new window costs.”  That wouldn't be fair because without my kids breaking the window, their old window would have worked just fine.  Another issue is I don’t think it’s fair for me to go buy a window at Home Depot and drop it off at their front step.  If the window was installed in the house, I ought to pay to get it installed.  That is how you make somebody whole.  You get the window repaired or you replace it, if that’s what’s necessary.  That’s the right thing to do, that’s the Christian thing to do, and it’s what my parents taught me to do. 

  Now, what if my neighbors were out of town when my kids busted that window and it rained that night and the rain ruined the carpet in my neighbor’s house?  If not for my kids, that carpet would have been perfectly fine. So, therefore, in order to put my neighbors back in the position they were in before that accident, I have to replace the window, get a new one installed and get the carpet fixed. 

That is what we ask the insurance companies to do for you.  We ask them to pay you for your medical care and treatment.  We ask them to pay you for your lost wages in the time you missed away from work.  We ask them to pay for the inconvenience and hassle of being in an accident.  Surely you would have rather spent your money on something else rather than on gas to get to and from the doctor.  You would rather have spent your time doing something else rather than going to and from the doctor.  We cannot take your pain away, so we ask them to give you something financially for it because that’s all we can do.  That is what a personal injury case is, asking the other side to put you back in the spot that you were in before the accident.  Money is the only way we can do that; therefore, money is what we talk about.  If everyone did what they ought to do, then there would be no need for lawsuits.  There would be no need for plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers and you wouldn’t even have to be confrontational. 

     However, most folks don’t have a huge wad of money in the bank to pay for their mistakes, so they purchase insurance.  And most insurance companies don’t play by the same rules you and I do.  Instead of looking for a way to make you whole and put you back in the position you were in, they look for a way to pay you as little as possible.  They train their adjusters to pay you as little as possible; they send them to classes on how to evaluate cases and convince you that your case is worth less than it is.  The numbers are not as cut and dry as replacing a window.  And to further complicate things, many times they’ll argue that you should not have treated for as long as you did, that you weren’t hurt as bad as you say you were, or that your doctors’ bills are too high. A lawyer can help you to get fair treatment.

Shane Smith
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Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia

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