Yesterday, our attorney sent another estate planning attorney to our house. The last one didn't quite work out, for reasons stated previously. I am happy to report that this new attorney was exactly on the same page as Bob and me. He understood that aphasia is a communication disorder and not a reflection of intelligence or competence. He spoke to Bob directly, asking questions and explaining things, instead of speaking over him and to me as the last attorney had done. We were able to start the process of setting up a Special Needs Trust Fund for Bob, which needs to be done before a settlement or going to court, and also drafting new wills, etc., for the both of us.
At the end of this rather delightful interview, the new attorney assured us that we were in "very good hands" with our malpractice attorney and that, he was sure, we would be "well taken care of" and a settlement would be forthcoming, though it may take some time, and not to lose faith, as there was "light at the end of the tunnel." Then he asked me "how on earth" I had managed to "land the finest, most reputable malpractice attorney in the state?"
So I told him the story. Which, I could tell, he thought was rather weird.... and probably thought that I was a bit daft on top of it. But it's a good story and I haven't posted it before. So I thought, I'd share it with you now. And here it is:
After Bob was discharged from the hospital, I contacted an attorney that Bob and I had hired a few years back. This attorney had successfully represented us in the claim against our property insurance company which had refused to pay for damages to our garage. I called this attorney because, truth be told, he was the only attorney I knew, and I asked him if he could refer me to a "good medical malpractice attorney". He asked me what had happened, I told him, and he told me that he "also handled malpractice" and would be happy to look into our case. He then said "not to worry", he'd obtain all the medical records for me. And once he went over them, he'd get back to me.
Now this was probably one of the stupider things I've ever done--agreeing to let this guy handle our case. But what did I know? I thought a malpractice suit was a simple thing, you know, find the error in the medical records and file a lawsuit. And I liked this attorney. He had done a fine job on our property insurance case. And he was getting the records and everything, I wouldn't have to do a thing.
So I waited. When a month or two passed, I called him up. And he was very sorry, but his mother had been hospitalized and he was spending all the time there and hadn't time to look into our case, yet.
Then another month passed, I called him up. He still hadn't gotten around to look at the records.
And on and on this went. Always some excuse. A staffer had quit. Or someone was sick. Or he was busy working on a big case. Later, the excuses would be that "the doctor" was reviewing the file and hadn't got back to him. Often he wouldn't return my phone calls for weeks on end. I would get furious. Then, he'd finally get back to me and tell me, once again, "not to worry" he was on top of it and "these things take time". And I'd feel better for awhile, until more time had passed....
A year and 6 months after I first contacted that attorney, he contacted me to tell me, sorry, he was not taking the case.
Of course at this point, I rather flipped out. Because there is a 2 year statute of limitations on malpractice lawsuits. We were fast running out of time.
So I got out the phone book and began calling other malpractice attorneys. I called all the Big Ambulance Chasers--you know, the ones with the large ads. I got turned down by every one of them usually because there "wasn't enough time to do a pre-suit investigation" but a couple places told me I "didn't have a case". I googled "medical malpractice attorneys" for our area, and called the ones that looked promising. I was still getting turned down, left and right.
I was getting rather frantic. Then I finally found an attorney who agreed to look at the records, if I could them to him quickly. Problem was that I didn't have the records yet. The first attorney had somehow lost Bob's medical records. I had to order a whole new set. It took over a month to get the records. All 15,000 pages of them. When I finally got the big box of medical records, I rushed them over to this attorney's office. And I waited. With high hopes.
And a week later, we received a form letter in the mail stating that they were not interested in our case. And if I wanted the medical records back, to pick them up ASAP, or they would be shredded!
Of course, this letter put me in another panic. Because now I was not only running out of time, but running out of attorneys to call. I opened the phone book again and stared at the well dog-eared page. I had already called all the ads and was down to a column of just names and addresses and phone numbers. And how do you know which attorney will be the right one? And which will just waste more time?
And then I thought: what am I doing staring at the phone book??? I need to get those damn records back before they are shredded!!!
So I jumped in The Green Machine and off I went to retrieve the big box of records. For some reason, I decided to cut through the local park instead of fight the traffic on the main roads. I think, I was trying to calm myself down. Because truly, I was freaking out. Big time. I was beginning to have doubts. Doubts that I'd ever find an attorney to take the case. Doubts we even had a case. And I was beating myself up--for wasting time, trusting, that first attorney.
It was a beautiful, sunny day. As I drove the curving road around the edge of the park, I remember praying. Not a real formal prayer. More of a frantic nondenominational plea for help. It went something like this: "Is anyone up there listening? Guardian angels? God? Goddess? The Universe? Saint Jude? Buddha? Anyone at all? Ghost of the Green Machine even? Help!" And I asked for a sign. Just some sort of sign to point me in the right direction and help me find the right attorney...
When I rounded the last curve of that park, something caught my eye. I mean, something just jumped out at me. It was a street sign. Just a normal green and white street sign. But the thing seemed to be glowing. I mean, really glowing. As if it were electrified and standing in a halo of light.
The sign read: FARMINGTON BOULEVARD.
And I thought: Farmington Boulevard?
Farmington Boulevard! There was an attorney in the phone book on Farmington Boulevard.*
That's my sign! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
So I retrieved the records and when I got home, I pulled out the phone book. Breathlessly, I called the attorney on Farmington Boulevard. I told the receptionist that I wanted to speak to someone about a possible medical malpractice lawsuit. She transferred me to the top guy in the firm....
Who told me that their firm no longer handled medical malpractice.
And my heart fell. Because evidently, I just imagined that street sign was glowing...
Then the attorney asked me, "just out of curiosity" to tell him about the case. I told him. Afterwards, he said, "You know, maybe I'll make an exception for your case." My heart soared! Then he asked me when it happened. I told him. And he said, "oh dear." Because there was so little time to do a pre-suit investigation, especially with his already backed-up caseload, he didn't think he could do it. And my heart fell again.
But he said, "Tell you what. I'm going to give you the name of another attorney. He's a guy I play golf with. He's the best in the business. And if anyone can do it on this short notice, he can."
He gave me a toll-free number--as this attorney/golfing buddy was not even located in our area. I'd never even thought of contacting an out-of-town attorney. He told me to tell the receptionist that I had been referred by him. And that I had a medical malpractice case involving "severe brain injury" and my husband was alive....
So I called the number. On a Friday afternoon. The receptionist patched me right through to the attorney. The next week, that attorney came to our house to talk to us and pick up the medical records. And a week later, he filed for a 90 day extension and we signed a retainer with him.
That was in September. The statute of limitations was up in October. I tell you, we just made it by the skin of our teeth.
And that, my friends, is a true story.
*Street name changed to protect the innocent!