Memories of a legal secretary

Some stories from my former career.

I worked for 3½ years at a prominent firm that specialized in fender bender cases — personal liability and property damage.  It turns out all of these stories come from that time.

What’s wrong with this picture?

One day, a case was coming up for trial.  And old lady had collided with a parked car.  Our clients, five members of one family, all claimed to have been seriously injured in the collision; and they had the doctors’ bills to prove it..

They had had no contact with us for two years, which suggests they really didn’t attach all that much importance to their case.  They had all moved; mail came back stamped, “Unknown at address, unable to forward.”  None of the phone numbers we had for any of them were still in effect.

Now, normally, a case like this won’t go to trial unless something’s wrong.  Unless something’s wrong, the case will settle first.  In this case, there was a dispute of material fact; namely, the old lady claimed that, at the time of the collision, the parked car was unoccupied.

I did what I could.  As I put the file back in the file cabinet, I remarked to the lawyer:

Life would be so much simpler
if the diligent people were all good-looking
and the crooks were all stupid.

The wrong police report?

In this case, our clients were the driver and passenger in a commercial van; one night in the middle of a winter storm, when the streets were ice-covered, it spun out of control and collided with a utility pole.  They filed a claim against the owner’s insurance company.

There was a police report, and we ordered a copy; but the one we received was not the one we wanted.  This one had the same night, the same van, the same license plate number, but involved a different incident.

It turned out that our clients had stolen the van from a business, and were going around town hacking — that is, operating as an unlicensed and thus illegal taxicab — picking up putative passengers and robbing them.  The police report we received involved one of those robberies.

I don’t know what became of this case.  I assume the firm dropped it.

Adventures in workers’ comp

I did various work in workers’ comp at a number of different firms, sometimes claimants’ practice, sometimes defense.

Two stories from one defense practice:

I was working this file; a pharmacist had been shot while on the job; and I wound up thinking, “A lot of this sounds awfully familiar.”  It turned out to be my pharmacist, at my pharmacy.

This was located at the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Fayette Street.  That this event happened there did not surprise me.  On my first visit to the place, given the area, I said to myself that it could never survive as a pharmacy; and, in the end, it did not.  Decades later, while I was living in Barclay, I worked for several years at that building; it was now a dollar store.

I had already seen elsewhere that, while some workers’ comp claimants are indeed very seriously, permanently injured; other individuals file a new claim every couple years, only involving a different body part each time.  It’s as if they’re trading in their body parts for cash; any time one gets a new job, the first order of business is to get injured on the job.

Here’s a story at the opposite extreme.  This young, immigrant construction worker was operating a heavy earth-moving machine.  There was a big boulder in the bucket.  Something slipped, the boulder fell out, the machine lurched backwards, and the operator was impaled on the steering column.

This man’s story is all about the life force and amazing vitality: at his hearing, six months later, he had healed completely; he was completely whole, but for some scarring.

Years later, at the fender bender practice, which had a workers’ comp practice also, I overheard that one of our WC clients was due to be deposed at the offices of SB&S, a worker’s comp defense firm that I’d come to know from a previous assignment.  “Oh, no,” I called out, “they’re the worst.  Their posture is that none of these people are really hurt; they’re ALL frauds.”  The lawyer whose case it was, smiled at me and nodded.

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