A new friend and I went out for a long drive the other day. We found ourselves venturing north along the PCH toward Santa Barbara — we actually made it to Monterey before turning around — and I had actually forgotten how beautiful it was. Sometimes, the world can see so bleak after you’ve spent a long time indoors. It was good to get out and feel the wind in my hair, the sun on my face. We were quiet for most of the ride, but we eventually stopped for coffee at a drive-thru. I don’t know what it is…but coffee just makes us talk.
The friend works for Paul Mones (a sexual abuse attorney), and she asked me if I would be comfortable handling certain kinds of cases. She reminded me that the job wasn’t just about helping people who were injured — it was about helping people who were injured but also angry and sad and potentially financially ruined, people who might be in a hurry to focus blame anywhere, even toward me.
She knows I’ve been struggling with the decision about whether or not to enroll in law school, and she was curious if I really understood what types of people a personal injury attorney might meet in a day.
She reminded me that not every injury was a small claim. She had recently represented a victim of sexual abuse who had been burned by the abuser. Even then, the victim still claimed she felt genuine love and affection for her abuser — even though she hated him and wanted to see him die the same way he had hurt her. My friend said that what people feel doesn’t always make sense, but it was hard to keep a clear head the harder it got.
At another firm, she was responsible for a number of car accident claims. That one was hard, she said. Some would look totally fine, only filing a lawsuit years after the fact. But others got the ball rolling right away. There’ve been amputees, brain injuries that left someone unable to speak, paralysis victims, etc. One man committed suicide days before a big settlement was reached between both parties. The family wanted to sue again for wrongful death, but the case was quickly dismissed.
She said it wasn’t just the injured party, either. Sometimes family members would want to interact with the legal team directly, and that’s where it got most awkward. They didn’t always have the right to certain types of information, but they would want it anyway.
Cases aren’t always successful, and you have to deal with that, too. And that’s even more messed up, because it means the attorney doesn’t get paid and the victims are crushed. They often blame the lawyer. “You feel bad for them, of course, but then you feel bad for yourself because you’re more worried that you didn’t get paid,” she said. It’s just a cycle of crap, day after day. You try to make sure you put more good out into the world, but it’s not always easy. It’s damn near impossible, actually.”
I have a lot to think about.