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Apr 30, 2009

There is a look in the eyes of people who have recently experienced a life-changing catastrophic injury. But that "look" is not in the eyes of the victim of the injury. He or she usually appears remarkably adjusted to a very recent and extraordinary life-altering event. The "look" of which I speak is in the eyes of family members of that injured person. The family member may be a spouse, a long-time girlfriend, or the parents of the injured person. Their eyes reveal a combination of fear and desperation, but also, a sense of determination and an unwillingness to give up. My first conversation with these family members usually involves them talking about how much worse the accident could have been. These family members demonstrate an amazing will to survive, and even thrive, in the face of the most desperate and hopeless of circumstances.

When I or any lawyer in my firm talks to these loved ones, we follow three simple rules. These rules were not taught in law school, and I certainly have never found them in any law book. In fact, these simple rules have nothing to do with expressing pity, or even sympathy. These simple rules are as follows:

Rule # 1: Answer every single question a family member asks as directly, honestly and succinctly as possible. These people have no time for lofty promises or suggestions of remarkable physical recovery. They also do not need us to vent angry commentary at the at-fault party who left their loved one in this situation. What they need is answers. Those answers need to be direct and in plain English.

Rule #2: Take the time to answer every single question. If that takes two hours or four, we consider it part of our job. We will never cut these meetings short because of our schedules.

Rule #3: Never pressure the family to retain us. A hospital room meeting is definitely not the right time for that discussion. For reasons I really do not understand, we seem to be the only law firm who sticks to Rule # 3. Because of that approach, we routinely receive a call on some later date from the family member, or the injured person herself, asking for our help. Our approach makes us stand out, but it is also the only respectful way to treat people.

If you ask these families why they eventually hired Anderson Hemmat, we expect you will hear "they were the only lawyers that answered our questions directly, took the time with us, and didn't pressure us to sign anything."

The above three rules have their foundation in the moral compass that my partners and I share. We know that there is a way to be professional and objective, yet still sympathetic, to the catastrophic losses of those we counsel. For us, this is the only way to do business.

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