In the 28 years that I have been practicing personal injury at the Firm, I reflect on the differences the Firm has made for so many families after suffering serious personal injury or even the death of a loved one. This particular case has always stuck with me.
The clients who were referred to me had lost their daughter in a car accident: four 15-year-olds in the car. The car crashes into a tree, and everyone dies except for the driver. They had hired an advertising lawyer who wrote a few letters and got a small insurance policy, took their fee, and then stopped communicating with the client. I thought it was a terrible way to treat anybody, but especially parents who lost their 15-year-old daughter. They came to me, and they said, “Gary, nothing is going to bring my daughter back. And if that’s all there is, this small insurance policy, I just would like to know, but I can’t get these people to talk to me anymore.”
I told them that I’d get them the answer, that I would litigate the case forward and see if there were any other assets from which to make a recovery. The boy who was driving got only a slap on the wrist. There was no real criminal penalty. At the time, many people would have thought taking the case was a bad business decision, because there appeared to be no source of recovery, but all I could think of is these folks had a lawyer who wasn’t communicating with them, and they just wanted to know the answer. I litigated the case for about a year and was prepared to go to trial. All of a sudden, the driver and his father hired a lawyer. They had been unrepresented previously, and their attorney called and said, “Can we move the trial date? They’d like to try to come up with some money.” Then I said, “No, we can’t move the trial, but we’d be willing to entertain an offer.” I wasn’t going to give up my trial.
Ultimately, this father and his son agreed to what ended up being a pretty significant settlement that has to be confidential by the terms of the agreement. Much more than I had expected. My clients had no monetary expectation, and I just wanted to push the case forward to get these folks their answer. That reaffirmed for me that even though we make business decisions all day long, we should simply treat clients well. That’s actually the number 1 obligation. Lawyers are supposed to put clients first over everything and everyone, including themselves.
This blog is written by Managing Partner Gary S. Lesser