Many people have, at some point in their lives, either spoken or heard another speak poorly of lawyers. Such conversations may have involved telling a “horror story” of how a lawyer mistreated the individual or simply relaying jokes wherein the “greedy lawyer” gets what is coming to him/her. Heck, even Shakespeare wrote, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
Through these conversations, a stereotype is created and perpetuated: that of lawyers as sneaky, greedy, and often incompetent. What often gets ignored, however, is the truth: most lawyers (especially those in the Granite State) are, in fact, competent, caring individuals, who lookout for the best interests of their clients. Unfortunately, believing in this stereotype often leads individuals who are injured by another’s negligence (or who have any other legal issue) to think that they are “better off” going it alone.
This instinct is dead wrong. The following example of a recent case helps demonstrate the dangers of actually “going it alone.”
On April 27, 2013, a 76-year-old woman, “R.E.,” was walking her small dog to a garden store owned by two individuals, a husband, and wife. The owners kept their 45 pound Husky tied up on a long rope near the front entrance to the store. The Husky had killed several small animals prior to April 2013 and had a history of run-ins with other dogs. The owners knew of the Husky’s violent tendencies. Although R.E. had been to the store previously, she was never told that she could not bring her dog onto the premises or that the Husky did not like other dogs.
R.E. approached the front entrance with her dog at the end of a leash. As they approached the front entrance, however, all of a sudden the Husky came from around a parked vehicle and pounced on R.E.’s small dog. The Husky began to viciously attack the small dog. R.E. screamed for help and began pulling on the leash to free her dog. On the third pull, she was able to free her dog, but as she did so the pressure on the leash released, causing R.E. to fall backward onto the ground, striking her head on the parking lot pavement. R.E. was taken to the hospital by ambulance and initially was diagnosed with only a closed head injury (concussion) and some cuts to the head. Her dog was taken to the vet for an examination.
R.E. did not seek an attorney right away. And, five days after the attack, while still suffering from concussion symptoms, and still in pain from the fall, a representative from the insurance company for the owners called R.E. R.E. told the agent what had occurred (i.e. that she had a closed head injury). The agent then quickly offered R.E. $3,000.00 to settle her case. Not knowing what to do and with nobody to turn to, R.E. simply engaged in negotiation, thinking that she would be treated fairly. She then orally agreed to take $4,000.00.
However, R.E.’s medical bills were in excess of $4,000.00. She also learned a few weeks later that she suffered severe shoulder and arm injuries from the fall and would need more treatment. Fortunately, R.E. sought Counsel at that point. The check from the insurance company was not cashed and was returned to them. We filed suit on behalf of R.E. against the owners of the store. Despite the insurance company’s argument that the case had already been settled orally by R.E., and that she was essentially “stuck” with the $4,000.00, attorneys at Gottesman & Hollis, P.A., were able to convince the Court that the oral settlement should be voided. Thereafter, we were able to settle the case without the need for a trial for a dollar figure far in excess of the original $4,000.00, and at a figure that was fair and appropriate for R.E., adequately compensating her for the injuries she suffered.
So, the next time you or someone you know is injured or is in need of legal advice, remember this cautionary tale, and don’t “go it alone.”