I am a little bit upset. A few days ago, a woman from our community was in an accident while driving on Kings Highway. A car coming from the other direction made a left turn going full speed, and she hit the car head on.
I was a few minutes late to work (like 45mins late) because I was writing a letter to my document review project regarding federal holiday pay, and so I arrived on the scene just a few minutes after the accident.
Both the woman's front airbags were deployed, and the woman's arm was pretty badly beat up. I asked her if she needed any help or if she needed me to call anybody on her behalf (e.g., police, ambulance, family), and she instructed me who to call. People were on their way to help her and give her a ride home. After making the calls, it appeared as if I was no longer needed, and so I told her I'll be heading off since I was late to work. She was on the phone, so she nodded me goodbye, and I left.
Driving a few blocks, I saw police cars with lights and sirens rush to the accident scene. It was at that moment that I remembered that I was a New York attorney, and so I realized how stupid I was, and that it would be to her benefit to have an attorney advise her and make sure she didn't make any admissions or offers to pay medical bills, etc., which may hurt her financially in the end.
I turned around, and told her not to admit guilt, and not to say a word to the other side (in other words, be polite, but don't offer anything to be nice) unless the police ask you for information. It took her a few seconds before she remembered that I was an attorney, and she was very thankful that I stuck around until the cars were towed and it was time for her to go home. While the incident was still immediate in my mind, I drew a sketch of where the cars were positioned, and where each suffered damage. Her ride drove her home, and I lost an hour of work, but I did a mitzvah of helping her out in what must have been a scary situation.
For a few minutes, it bothered me that her arm was pretty banged up and that with the deployed airbags, she might have suffered head or neck trauma, so I left a message for her to go see a doctor as soon as she can just in case she suffered any injuries which might not be immediately apparent to her. She called me back, asked me a few questions, and thanked me for following up with her; she told me she was going to see a doctor that day because she has been experiencing neck pains and headaches from the accident.
I felt pretty good that I was able to help her out, although in the end I came to work almost two hours late because of it. My wife wasn't thrilled with the story either; she didn't seem to be so excited that I helped this woman out.
Tonight, having promised to bring the sketch I made over to her (but knowing that I'll be busy for the next few days), I decided to write her the e-mail I pasted below. I've taken CLE classes in EXACTLY THIS SORT OF TOPIC (car accidents, personal injury, and insurance claims) and so I wanted to share what I knew and to help her out because I didn't know this sort of thing and it would have been nice for someone to have explained it to me should I have gotten into an accident prior to becoming a lawyer and learning what needs to be done. Here's the e-mail:
Dear Bayla,When I read the letter to my wife, she practically flipped out and forbade me from sending it. She insisted that every normal person on the face of the earth knows this sort of thing, and that I'm being pushy and budding my way into her business and making us look like we are poor and looking for business when really I was trying to give her comfort knowing exactly what needs to be done. And, I had no intention of charging her; I was hoping that by doing a good deed, she would, in turn, tell others how I helped her and thus I can get referral business that way.
Please let me know if there is anything you need from me. I'll get you the sketch I made; it's no rush -- it wouldn't even be relevant unless there was a lawsuit.
At this point you should be getting a copy of the accident report from the police and learning about what kind of insurance the people with whom you were in an accident carry. You should also be taking care of your own health, and working with your insurance company to have your car repaired / replaced. If the people with whom you had the accident don't have any insurance (chos v'sholom), chances are that your plan has you covered for uninsured motorist (among other forms from which you can probably collect immediately; it is not a lot of money, but insurance companies are quick to pay it. To collect, it usually requires you to simply fill out one of the insurance company's forms).
One last thing. While your insurance company probably is your friend, you still need to be careful even with them. Before signing any settlement forms with your insurance company, read what you are signing, or have an attorney take a look at it to see what rights you may be waiving. You should also dig up or print out a copy of your policy to see what and how you are covered under your plan.
Also, while you do not need to make this decision right away, it might be a good idea to start thinking about whether it makes sense for you to sue to recoup some of the money you have lost in damages and injury from the accident. They might be contemplating the same thing, and while there is no rule about this, it's probably better not to be on the defensive. You would be seeking the maximum their insurance company policy covers.
G'mar chasima tovah,
But no. My wife absolutely thinks I'm an idiot for writing such a letter, and she told me she would be very upset if I sent it. She then told me that it's not tznius for a man to write such a letter to a woman, and that this woman would ask what I want from her from writing such a letter. --Is she kidding? I am a lawyer! I was at the scene of the accident! This woman is from our community and needed help! If I don't follow up with her I'll look like I don't care and it will do nobody any good -- not me, not her, not the future of the law firm.
So for whatever reason my wife had (and now I'm pissed at her for interfering into my business efforts and holding me back from doing what I feel would be the proper thing to do from a law firm perspective), I decided to listen to her, and I wrote her a "I hope you're feeling better; let me know if you need anything" e-mail which in my opinion is a billion times worse than the letter I wrote because this short version looks like I am holding back information and begging for business.