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misconceptions

Hey Todd Peterson! You ain’t nothin’ but an ambulance chaser.

Really?

Don’t pay attention to the fact that I have a family, a well adjusted daughter, and I have spent 18 years running my own business. Ignore the fact that I’m just a man that likes to go out to eat,  sometimes imbibe in the local spirits, and, in general, be a part of something bigger than myself.  I laugh, cry, and, I LIVE as one person in this grand community.

I am a lawyer, so criticism comes with the territory. I’ve memorized multiple morally abhorrent lawyer jokes that still crack me up. Every…single…time.

I get it.

I’m writing this because the perception of Personal Injury Law from the public is a far cry from what I experience every day as I see hard working people sitting at their desks for hours calling insurance companies whose protocols numb the mind so that our clients can get their medical bills paid.

The first misconception is that we are ambulance chasers. The Oregon State Bar has very strict rules about law advertising. The Bar makes it very difficult for us to get our message out.

Regardless of how you feel about advertising, the bottom line is we have a service and in order to keep the service available we need to find the people who need it.  The ambulance chaser charge is completely misguided and it throws shade on what is essentially a small business that takes care of its employees, provides an excellent service, and isn’t suffocatingly corporate.

You might say we are tooting our proverbial horn, but the reality is I wanted to create a small business. I wanted to be in a position where I could provide people with opportunities. I want to be the kind of man who fosters the development of my employees careers while also allowing them to go home to their families as people who work to live, not live to work. Professionally, I want to provide a service with as much quality as possible.  I chose Personal Injury because, despite the perception, we actually do help people.

Your Insurance Coverage

When you get into an accident you are typically dealing with two insurance companies. If you have car insurance in Oregon your policy is required to provide you with at least $15,000.00 of personal injury coverage.  You will have access to these funds to pay your medical bills related to your accident.

There are plenty of ways that your personal insurance may attempt to circumvent your payout. A typical way that an insurance company may keep you from getting your medical bills paid is the dreaded Independent Medical Exam (IME).  An insurance company will schedule an IME as a way of determining whether you require additional treatment.   You will be required to be examined by a specialist that is not affiliated with you or the insurance company. Thus providing an independent arbitration of your injuries.  If you decline the IME your benefits may be cut off altogether.

The problem with this process is that in my experience IME results are more likely to be used to deny coverage than to continue it.  Routinely in soft tissue cases treatment happens through motion recovery, so, while the patient is structurally sound, they might be dealing with residual pain or tightness.  An IME often will cut you off from your personal injury protection coverage. When you have a personal injury lawyer you have protection from being cut off before you are completely ready.  We have leverage and we use it.

In addition to personal injury protection coverage, your policy may cover any lost wages and/or pay for essential services.  Most people don’t even know this is available to them. We make sure this happens, and sometimes it’s a bureaucratic boxing match.

Their Insurance Coverage

When you are in an accident your personal insurance pays for your medical bills. However, it is the adverse insurance, the insurance of the person who caused the accident, that is ultimately responsible for your settlement.  Ultimately, I negotiate with the adverse insurance company for the final settlement.

Is there any business that is more “bottom line” than insurance companies? When I call an insurance company and I’m speaking with Becky, or Josh, or Emil, and I am always amused by how incredibly genuine, polite, and lovely these insurance adjusters are.

The funny thing is, when I put down the phone and a fax comes in with the first offer from the insurance company. I  can’t help, but wonder, “What happened to Josh and Becky’s endless enthusiasm for fairness?”  How are my clients supposed to pay all of their medical bills, adapt from the disruption in their lives, and get back to their everyday lives with such a paltry offer?

Insurance companies deal with a lot of cases. Their systems of handling those cases are designed to pay out the least amount of money in relation to processing costs and risk. When I think of a insurance’s company’s protocols, I think of  Joseph Stalin’s phrase,

“ One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”

My job is to give voice to each and every tragedy. I prevent insurance companies from losing you in their system. This is what I do and I love it.

People often ask me, “Why did I choose Personal Injury?” Its not very glamourous and people often lump me in with the “amoral lawyer” meme. When I think about this, I remember sitting in a coffee shop in Ohio dreaming about growing up and being something intellectual. I’m not sure I really knew what that meant at the time. I think I pictured myself wearinga  beret and pulling it off, which was a thought far more developed than anything I understood about what an intellectual was, or what they did.  Being an avid reader of pretentious classics, I quickly found myself reading Franz Kafka.  I devoured “The Metamorphosis.”  After reading “The Trial” I was closer to knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a lawyer because I saw the power of the law. I thought if a man can wield it, he can help people get what they need out of the system.

Franz Kafka has a short parable called “Before the Law.” A man seeks access to the law, but when he arrives at the gates of the law, a gatekeeper refuses him entry.  The man spends his entire life asking permission from the gatekeeper, but he does not oblige. When the man is facing death he asks the gatekeeper, “Why in all these years am I the only person to seek answers from the law.” The gatekeeper says, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.”

I always think about this story when I’m negotiating with insurance companies. Their leverage is that people do not know what they are entitled to.  To their credit it doesn’t behoove them to suggest the obvious question, “Why am I letting myself be beholden to the gatekeeper?”  I sometimes implant myself in this story. In many ways, you can’t get more than you are entitled to by law. I can’t help you score a huge settlement for a small fender bender, but I can get you in the gates. I know how to get you what you deserve. Every…single…time.

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