The goal of making a claim and/or suing for damages is to compensate an injury victim. To compensate means to balance out. A person is injured as a result of another’s actions or lack of action. The new post accident state of affairs is out of balance – the injured party has lost something – in the form of impaired health, medical bills, lost wages, vocational impairment and so forth.
The question then becomes how do we, as a society, redress this imbalance? Well, let’s see. I suppose one way to balance the imbalance is to go back in time before the injury occurred and somehow prevent the actions and circumstances which gave rise to the injury in the first place. Now stick with me. I don’t want to come off as facetious. Let’s conduct a “thought experiment” to help us answer the question — isn’t personal injury law all about the money?
If time travel were possible, would an injury victim, or “claimant” opt for what amounts to be a “mulligan,’ i.e., a do-over? I submit she would and I’ll give you my reasons.
There are very few things in life as important as good health. I think we all can agree on this. One’s very livelihood flows from good health. If we cannot work due to ill health, most other aspects of life soon falter — our shelter, security, ability to pay for necessities like electricity and water, well, you get my drift.
Once any reasonable person realizes the critical role good health plays in her well-being, she will naturally do all she can to safeguard that commodity. Accordingly, if it were possible to go back in time to reset history as it were, to avoid n accident, a claimant would most likely do so.
Of course you can raise the case whereby a person would want money so badly that she’d be willing to suffer even a hideous injury in exchange for enough money. Such a person might point out that she is so distressed without money that the money she would receive in a personal injury award would, on balance, make her life better, even with the physical impairment.
To that I would say that such a person has more problems than lack of money, that her lack of money probably flows from her inability to set priorities. It’s better to avoid an accident and its crippling effects than have one and enjoy some money, especially if the crippling effects damage your future earning ability. Besides, I would say, is that the best idea you can come up with to earn money, to maim yourself? You be the judge.
Still not convinced? Let’s engage in a further thought experiment. Suppose someone were to say to you “I’ll give you $500,000.00, tax – free, if you allow me to break your right leg.” Let’s pretend for the moment such an agreement is not illegal. How many people would take this deal? I submit not very many.
But, you may argue, most people would say no because they are afraid of the pain. What would the person say if I would to throw in 50 grains of morphine before the breaking? Perhaps a few demented souls would take the deal. But those of us who understand the importance of good health to our well-being understand that even half a million dollars do not begin to compensate for a crippled leg. I would submit no amount of money would.
Money’s a funny thing. No matter how much you have, there’s still a nagging feeling that you don’t have enough. I’ve never been quite capable of understanding this phenomenon.
There will always be someone with more money than you, if your thing is to be at the top of the money pyramid. And money is not, and never has been, the measure of a good and worthy person. The measure of a good person is how well she treats and helps others, how committed she is to the truth, how constructively she handles adversaries and adversities and how much compassion is in her heart. Simple as that.
I digress. The fact is we cannot go back in time, at least not yet. So where does that leave the injury victim? Intentionally or not, another person has taken something from her and therefore owes her. The at-fault party has to pay you for her loss.
What has she lost? Her health. The best thing she can do to return to the status quo ante is to see a doctor or set of doctors, depending on the extent of her injuries. True enough, but this requires money.
Injury law at this point is about medical care. She may have also lost her ability to work; therefore, she may need occupational rehabilitation. So injury law is also about getting the injured back to work. The whole ordeal may have made her depressed and anxious. So, injury law is about getting the psychological care she needs. And don’t forget the little matter of her vehicle. Injury law is also about getting her back on the road so she return to work, shop, bowl — lead a normal life again. Injury law is about all these things.
Now the at – fault person does not personally provide the above services. It would be impossible. And the professionals who do provide such services are not paid in wampum. Money is the commodity that modern societies have always used to trade for goods and services. And it’s no different if injury victim needs goods and services in order to be made whole again.
So when confronted by the question of whether injury law is only about money, say of course it’s about the money. How else can you pay the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, psychological and property damage?
The question is merely designed to undermine the credibility of someone who’s been injured and is seeking compensation.
Photo by Arron Choi on Unsplash