I was listening to the radio when a law firm ad came on. The narrator went on about it being a full service firm - able to help with anything from auto accidents to real estate. And then came a surprising line.
"Good sound legal advice at the time of injury," said the ad, "can be just as important as medical treatment."That got me thinking. Soon, it got me off on a bit of a daydream.
I am walking outside my home. Overnight, dogs have strewn my trash about the curb. I bend to pick it up, slip on a banana peel and get broadsided by a car. I try to get up but I can't. Looks like a broken leg. The driver runs over and says he's sorry. My wife rushes outside.
"My God," she says. "Don't move. I'll call 911."
"That can wait," I say. "It's more important to call Dewey, Chetham and Howe."
"Are you out of your mind?"
"I heard it on the radio," I tell her. "Good sound legal advice at the time of injury can be just as important as medical treatment."
I persuade her to make the call. Within minutes, an attorney roars up.
"How did this happen?" he asks.
"I think it was my fault," I say.
"Forget you ever said that," he tells me. "Don't ever admit liability."
"This is absurd," my wife says. "I'm calling an ambulance right now."
"Fine," I say. "But they'll have to wait their turn." I look at the attorney. "I think it's just a broken leg," I tell him.
"Rule number two," he responds. "Don't ever underestimate the extent of your injury. How's your back?"
"Fine. Well, maybe a little wrenched."
"Wonderful," he says. "Nothing I like more than a soft-tissue injury. They'll never be able to disprove it in court. Then there's latent injuries."
I ask what latent injuries are.
"The ones you don't figure out you've got until later."
"When you find out how deep their pockets are. But the point now is that this is definitely actionable. Reckless negligence."
"I don't know," I say. "The driver did say he was sorry."
"See? He's admitted he committed a tort."
"What's a tort?"
"Nobody knows, but it's worth a lot of money. Now tell me how this happened."
"What you mean is your shoe skidded out from under you."
"I guess you could say that."
"From what I can tell those shoes you're wearing are supposed to have a no-slip tread. We could have a great product liability case on our hands. Now let's talk potential damages. We got medical. We got punitive. How about lost wages? My guess is you'll be out of work a good two-three years. Were you expecting a promotion by any chance?"
"I always fantasize about being made publisher."
"Perfect. That's worth a few hundred grand a year. Projecting out that stream of income with inflation factored in we could be talking a half million in lost wages."
Suddenly the ambulance arrives. As the attendants lift me on a stetcher, the attorney holds forth a pen and paper.
"A contingent agreement," he explains. "A great deal. You don't pay a dime. I take a paltry 40 percent of the award and we're square. Sign here."
"And one more thing," he says. "Make sure to get the doctor's name."
"They've got deep pockets, too."