We all know that there are very different types of people in this world. And the same in true in the practice of personal injury law. Tragedy is an equal opportunity destroyer; it is no respecter of persons. So, when you work with victims all the time, there are some trends that you notice in people in the midst of their suffering. Often times, people and personalities range on a spectrum that runs from two very different extremes.
Here, there are two very different extremes and most people fall somewhere in between them. The bad extremes, however, create the stereotypes that often shape our responses to suffering in others. Without demeaning anybody who has suffered an injury through no fault of their own, I have created a list of the two different types of personal injury victims and a description of each.
1. The Greedy Know It All
I have heard from many people that personal injury victims are just greedy and out for a quick buck. However, this is by far the minority of personal injury victims. Like any other class of people, a few bad apples spoil the bunch. This is where most stereotypes come from. This person has an entitlement mentality. He believes that his accident was more egregious than all other wrecks and that he has suffered more than any other personal injury victim known to man, which entitles him to significant amounts of money even though the treatment and injuries were standard, soft-tissue injuries. Practically, this person refuses to listen to his lawyers recommendation for how to proceed with his treatment, his case, and ultimately his recovery. In the end, this victim will never recover emotionally. Perhaps this person will never fully recover physically, and all of this has a drastic impact of whether this person will fully recovery financially.
This person is the most difficult to deal with for personal injury lawyers. This person can appear as the broken, humble and hurt victim but might into the greedy know it all after the dollar sign goes off in his head. For obvious reasons, this person is impossible to identify until he shows himself. Lawyers tend to avoid the greedy know it all victims because no one will ever be happy at the end of the day. This person drains the energy from the lawyer and is actually counterproductive to the process. Michael Hyatt writes about that in the retail context here.
This person is almost like a unicorn. Existing in theory, but very rarely in reality (hence the almost).
2. The Broken, Humble, and Hurt
This victim is much more common and I would venture to say that this is the vast majority of personal injury victims. This person what injured unexpectantly, just like the greedy know it all. But this victim comes to a lawyer only because the task of recovering physically, emotionally, and financially is too much to handle all on his own. This person has likely never been involved litigation before and comes to his lawyer asking questions and earnestly seeking advice. This person gets the treatment recommended by his doctors and keeps his appointments. He speaks to his lawyer with respect and deference when it comes to his treatment, litigation strategy, and his financial recovery. This person usually fully recovers emotionally, physically, and financially.
[Tweet “Tragedy is an equal opportunity destroyer; it is no respecter of persons.”]
A Perfect Example:
McDonalds did an excellent job of painting Stella Liebeck as the greedy know it all in the hot coffee case. The big corporate spin doctors did an amazing job of destroying her character when she was forced by them to file suit in court. The truths, however, that Stella Liebeck was the broken, humble and hurt victim. She had no intention of filing suit and would have settled for her medical expenses and lost wages ($20,000.00) before she hired a lawyer. Because McDonalds trusted their spin doctors, they refused to settle and a jury in New York awarded a judgment in the amount of $2,900,000. McDonalds admitted numerous facts that resulted in a significant punitive damages award intended not to compensation Ms. Liebeck, but to punish McDonalds. You should read more about it here. If you are like most people, you probably thought that Stella Lieback was the greedy know it all. She was not and most personal injury victims are more on the broken, humble and hurt end of the spectrum.
The type of person you are before you accident will determine the type of person you are after the accident. If you are a jerk and you have a lot of money, then you are a rich jerk. But the contrary can be true too. If you are humble, caring, and giving, and you come into money, then you will be humble, caring, and giving but to a greater extent. Money is just an amplifier for who you are so be humble, caring, and giving.
[Tweet “Money is just an amplifier for who you are so be humble, caring, and giving.”]