Pain and Suffering

Saturday, March 14, 2009

So, I've been tossing this particular blog around for several hours now and I've decided to go with it. My hesitation stems from the fact that it's a reaction to something that a real life friend is doing and I don't know if that person reads here. And while I realize that some of you may not agree with me here, I just need to say this.

It's no secret that I have been involved in 4 car accidents, 3 of them major, and none my fault (one my mom was driving, and she was also not at fault). I was significantly injured in 2 and my mom was injured in one. They caused weeks and months of pain, doctors and physical therapy.

And I jumped through the insurance hoops and my medical bills were covered, as they were supposed to be. I was additionally given a settlement of money called "pain and suffering" to cover the other costs, the ones for missing out on work and life experiences. The amount is negotiable and takes into account the severity of the accident, injuries, etc. In essence, it covers the pain and suffering not included in doctor's visits or other health treatments.

So where I take issue is when people are involved in an accident and then sue the person who hit them.

It's one thing if said person was drunk, or on drugs. But if the other driver, oh, I don't know, ACCIDENTally hit you, why on earth should you sue them? Does it make you feel better to make them feel worse? Should they really have to give up their hard-earned money because of an unintentional mistake that I would assume most of them would take back in a heartbeat?

I get that some injuries last a long time and that people are permanently injured in car accidents. These are precisely the things that the insurance is created to deal with. This is why you meet with them and go over, in excessive detail, all the bills, the doctors visits, the missed work days, the missed life experiences. The insurance company doesn't just call one day and tell you what you're settlement is. It's a long process, one which the accidentee (I'm sorry, I simply can't use the word victim in this situation) is intimiately involved.

So, I guess the suing just seems, I don't know, greedy.

And maybe I'm extra-passionate about this because it's happened to my family.

The day before my youngest sister's 16th birthday, she got a car. And 30 minutes after she got that car, with her mother in the passenger seat, she hit a motorcyclist. She was pulling out of a parking lot and neither she, nor her mother who gave her the all clear, saw the motorcyclist. Witnesses said he was speeding, but because no one would say he was driving over 60 (in a 45, because according to the policeman, the speed limit is just a "guideline"), he wasn't even cited.

And the motorcyclist was seriously injured. Injuries which were paid for (and will continue to be for a loooooooong time) by our family's insurance. But that wasn't enough. The motorcyclist saw an opportunity and sued my family.

Over a very innocent, though surely traumatic, ACCIDENT.

It wasn't as if she was driving wrecklessly. It wasn't as if she was drunk or distracted. It was an accident.

Thankfully, he lost and our family's assets (or what was left of them after the insurance rates went through the roof and half-way up into the big blue sky) were not taken, but it would've been horrible for my sister who was genuinely traumatized by the experience. And it would've been wrong.

I've been rear-ended 3 times. Once by a driver who just wasn't paying attention. An accident which fractured one of my vertebrae. Once by a driver who was turned around telling her child to buckle her seatbelt (even though the child was 4 and should've, by law, been in a carseat...) which screwed my lower back up so severely I missed almost half of my senior year of college athletics. And you know what? I didn't sue either of them.

Not because I wasn't affected or injured or otherwise traumatized. Because I was all of those things. And I'll most likely always have some lower back issues as a result of these accidents. But I have to move on with my life. Suing them, getting money from them, would have in no way, undone what had happened. It wouldn't have made them more careful drivers, I'm pretty sure the big car accident took care of that. It wouldn't bring back my totalled car(s). It simply would've given me their money. Money I didn't deserve.

If an accident is so severe that you are permanently scarred or injured, that's the insurance's job to pay, not the job of the person who accidentally hit your car. And it's not that I don't have sympathy for pain because I live just about every day of my life in it. But suing someone for accidentally hitting your car in my opinion is, in it's most basic form, revenge.

And revenge is just not right. And it's just not necessary.

Hopefully I haven't torn apart a friendship in this post, but the more I think about this, the more it angers me. I've seen what these lawsuits do to the person being sued and it's horribly ugly and it's wrong. I'm sorry, but we all need to grow up and act like adults.

Adults who can learn to forgive when people make mistakes and move on from them. Even without big settlements of money.


Ness said...

Katie, very well written and I could not agree with you more. That's why we carry insurance. My husband was taken to the hospital yesterday in congestive heart failure. The fun just never ends, does it? I figure that Kiereney will now have her surgery since my husband is in the hospital...I have as good of luck as you do.

Anonymous said...

Katie, i'm with you on this one! I think it's greedy too. Once I was rear ended by a company truck, then my car got pushed into a lady infront of me. Her car was NOT damaged. She got the ambulance to take her away on a stretcher in a neck brace! and guess what she did...she sued ME and the guy behind me. Luckily before I had to incur any expenses, I was dismissed in the case, and I don't even know what ever came of it. But I never sued and my car was the one like a sandiwch. And My husband still has back issues b/c of it. but oh well, move on people. Greed is one of the 7 deadly sins!!!

Claire in TX

Flea said...

I agree with you. I'd only ask if you've actually said any of this to your friend? Does she know how you feel? That's the tough part, I guess. Me, I shoot my mouth off without thinking how the other person feels, getting into a world of trouble.

Anonymous said...

Katie, I so agree with you! Two of my children were involved in where the other person actually went through a yellow to red....but of course, NO ONE ever saw a thing...and it was at one of the busiest intersections in Milwaukee! He had injuries, but the ins. settlement wasn't good enough.....Thankfully, he lost, also and had to sign off for good. NOW what about all of the emotional havoc, etc. that my daughter went through, caused by HIM???? or even the trauma of HAVING the accident? Our agent said we could sue back....nope, not going there.

Patti said...

I totally support and agree with you. I am sure everyone out there has been involved or knows someone who has been sued for such accidents. I so wish the "Pain and Suffering" entry could be published in every newspaper across America!!

Daisy, Just Daisy said...

As someone who has been sued after a minor fender-bender (which took 2 years of my life away in an annoying legal battle) but as someone who has worked for a law firm that represented families of those killed by drunk drivers operating a company semi-truck (while on company time) I know just how frivolous some lawsuits are....and how important others are.

Unfortunately, *some* people think the legal system is their own personal cash register to dip into when their funds are low....ruining things for the people who REALLY NEED the legal system to help right them when their loved one is in an assisted living facility for the rest of their life after brain trauma (as an example).

I wish judge's would operate their ability to toss cases based on frivolity more often. It would leave the important cases to be taken seriously.

Becs said...

Many years ago, I had an accident and was sued - by my next door neighbor. My insurance company settled and I knew that her back pain existed before the accident.


Are you taking into account catastrophic injuries caused by someone blatantly at fault? (Talking on the phone while shaving / putting on mascara, etc., etc.) A vent dependent quad will need millions of dollars in care over his life that likely will not be covered by insurance.

It may seem rare, but unfortunately, it's not.

Lipstick Jungle said...

OK, I feel like a asses horse... my feed took me to an old post... you have been here. SORRY Katie!

Lipstick Jungle said...

I agree with you as well. I have been in a few benders - one that almost put me into premature labor with my son, but none of which would ever have been considered anything other than an accident.

I do have two sad stories - if I may - of someone suing... the family of the victim.

First was my cousin. She was killed by a drunk driver. He sruvived. He had no insurance. His medical bills were outrageous. His family SUED MY AUNT AND UNCLE. He drank into the early morning hours. He got behind the wheel. He swerved into my cousins lane. She died. He eventually did. They tried to tell the judge that she came into his lane. Yet her car was in the ditch on her side of the highway. Rocket science it is not. His family lost. My family was traumatized.

The second was my good friend. Her 16 year old daughter was in the passenger seat of a mini van driven by another 16 year old leaving a library. Drunk driver t-boned the car. Killed Lauren instantly. Her friend lived. So did the DD. He sued both kids parents "claiming" they ran a red light (for which there was not one at the intersection - again, not rocket science). He got 3 years. Her mom got a lifetime of sorrow.

I don't get it.

Ness, I will send some prayers your way for both your husband and daughter!!!

Overflowing Brain said...


I agree with you completely, though insurance would also be involved in settling the cost of severe injuries.

I'm talking about non-life threatening, non-quality of life threatening (unless you let them be, which is a whole different issue), plain ole car accident situations.

Anonymous said...

It's the American Culture of entitlement we've been sold. I hate it. Passionately. :(

Anonymous said...

When teenage son was a little bitty adventure boy, he walked barefoot in the subdivision creek and stepped on some glass. There was a lot of blood. Turns out, when the ER stitched up the wound, they left a nickel-size piece of glass into his foot. We found out few months later, when the glass started migrating out the side of his foot, like a piece of shrapnel in an old soldier's side.
The glass was removed with minimum ado; adventure boy is a tough one. But, there was even more blood! Dripping on the floor! I got woozy watching. And afterward, I realized that I wanted to look the ER doctor in the eye, tell him he'd screwed up and demand an apology.
But as I envisioned the scene, I realized it would never happen. If the doctor were to apologize, that would be acknowledging that we had been wronged, and admitting fault, and setting himself and his bosses up for liability. Ain't gonna happen. Although, since we had insurance, we really had no monetary losses.
So I still deserve an apology. And the doctor still doesn't know that he really needs to look harder for pieces of glass that have broken off in little boys' feet.
Cathy in N.O.

Insomniac said...


This post originally upset me because of the kind of traumatic, life-altering injuries someone else mentioned. Your clarification brought me on board.

Maybe it's being a law student that makes me see ... cynical? In torts, we read several cases where insurance didn't cover the costs of the very extensive injuries caused by someone who was clearly at fault. It was heartbreaking. I wanted the person responsible to make that person as whole as possible, or at least pay for the bills their insurance did not.

However, I completely agree that in an everyday run-of-the-mill accident, there is very rarely a reason to go beyond what the insurance company will cough up.