Mac Hester Law
Personal Injury Stuff Happens
Personal Injury – thoughts on liability
Sometimes, I have clients who express embarrassment or reluctance in pursuing a claim for personal injury damages. I ask them why they would be embarrassed or reluctant to pursue the claim. They usually don’t have a definite reason. Rather, they have a feeling that there is something wrong about it – or inappropriate if not wrong. So I ask them if it is proper to ask the driver who rear-ended their car to pay for the repair of their car. Without hesitation, they always say yes that is proper. So then I ask them how much the other driver should pay for their car damage. They seem puzzled by the question.
The reason that they are puzzled is that it would seem to go without saying that the at-fault driver would pay for all for the car damage that they caused. So I ask the client if the at-fault driver should pay 50% of the damage, 100% of the damage, or some other percentage of the damage. They say 100%. I ask them why. They say because the other driver caused all the damage so he/she should pay for all of it.
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Then I ask them that if their child had suffered a broken leg in the collision whether the at-fault driver should pay for it. They say yes. I ask them how much. They say all of it. I ask why. They say because the other driver caused the injury so he/she should have to pay for all the medical expenses. 100%? Yes, 100%. What if your teenage child missed a week of work and had lost wages of $100. Should the at-fault driver pay anything to your teenager for lost wages? Yes. How much? $100. Why? Because that is the amount of wages that were lost.
Personal injury – additional questions
I then ask whether the health of their children is important to them. They say yes, absolutely. I ask whether their children’s activities are important to them. Yes, they say my daughter’s music or dance or soccer means the world to her. My son’s football or skiing or tennis means the world to him. Does it mean anything to you? Yes, of course, it means the world to me. I would do anything for my children’s happiness. So I say, anything, except maybe pursuing a personal injury claim on their behalf because there’s something wrong about it? They seem troubled and think in silence for a while. Finally, they say that pursuing a personal injury claim on behalf of their children would be appropriate.
So then I ask them if they still feel that it would be inappropriate for them to pursue a personal injury claim on their own behalf. After a while, they say that they see the point that I am making but still feel uncomfortable about pursuing a personal injury claim. I ask them why. They don’t know. But I know.
Reasons for uncomfortably around personal injury claims
The reason that they are uncomfortable about pursuing a personal injury claim for their own injuries and damages is that they have been brainwashed by the insurance industry and big business to feel this way. Insurance and business propaganda against personal injury claims and lawsuits is so pervasive and powerful that many – probably most – people feel that there is something wrong or inappropriate about asking the person who hurt you to make it up to you.
Nobody really disputes the notion that the at-fault driver should pay for the vehicle damage that he or she caused. Few people dispute the notion that the at-fault driver should pay for the medical expenses and lost wages that he or she caused. However, many people dispute the notion that the at-fault driver should pay for the actual physical injury, the pain resulting from the physical injury, the stress and strain caused by being injured, being in pain, being out of work, being pursued by collection agencies for unpaid medical bills, and for the loss of ability to engage in hobbies or activities that the injured person formerly enjoyed. I find this very strange.
Stuff happens, right?
When I ask people why injured people should not be able to recover for these types of damages, the answers that I usually get involve “personal responsibility” or “stuff happens” or some variation of these responses.
So I ask them, did you drive your car here today? They say yes. So if somebody backs into your car in the parking lot and dents it then that is a stuff that happened so you are not going to ask them to pay for the repair? No, they say, they will ask the other driver to pay for it. But, I say, you are not being personally responsible. You are making the other driver take responsibility. The other driver is responsible for the damage se he should pay for it they say.
Oh, I say, I get it. The other driver should pay for your car damage but not for your medical bills if you had been standing by the car and got hit when he backed into your car. No, he should pay for my medical bills. Why? Why don’t you take personal responsibility for your own medical bills? Because the other driver was responsible for breaking my leg so he should pay for fixing it.
But the at-fault driver should not pay for your inability to play golf now, right? This is where the person is in a quandary. He used to play golf almost every weekend. Now he can’t play at all. It is priceless to him. But he has argued that people should not recover damages for their lost abilities and lost hobbies. So sometimes the person will say something like the at-fault driver should pay something but not millions of dollars like that lady got from McDonald’s for spilling coffee on herself. Or, the person will say that injured people should receive nothing in damages for their lost abilities, lost hobbies, and impairment of the quality of their life. So that is a matter of principle? Yes, that is a matter of principle.
A simple hypothetical with a complex answer
So your daughter who is a soccer star in the competitive soccer league and who just might have made it onto the Olympic Development Squad should get nothing for her lost dreams and loss of enjoyment of life due to the broken leg that never healed properly, but you should get your BMW bumper and quarter panel paid for by the at-fault driver? Your BMW is worth more than your daughter’s soccer future and enjoyment of life? No, my daughter’s soccer future and enjoyment of life is worth more than my BMW. But you got paid $4000 for the repair of your BMW and your daughter got nothing for her broken leg and lost dreams and lost soccer future. No, I didn’t get $4000. The BMW just got repaired.
Right, I say, your car was repaired and made whole again. However, your daughter was not. She had knee surgery, but the at-fault driver did not pay for it. You paid for it. And your daughter still has a bum leg; and can’t play soccer; and won’t play on the Olympic Development Squad. In fact, won’t play competitive soccer ever again. And her grades have dropped. She is borderline depressed. She is in danger of losing that academic scholarship she was going to fall back on if she didn’t get a soccer scholarship. But that is just tough. Stuff happens. She should take personal responsibility.
Contact Mac Hester Law today to schedule a free consultation about the injuries you or your children sustained by no fault of your own.