Tuesday, October 5, 2010
A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer three months to track down. After sending the information to the FHA, he received the following reply.
(Actual reply from FHA):
"Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral property back to 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin."
Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows:
"Your letter regarding title in Case No.189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 206 years covered by the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the United States from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application. For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France , which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain . The land came into the possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Queen Isabella. The good Queen Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus 's expedition. Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made that part of the world called Louisiana . God, therefore, would be the owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of time, the world as we know it, and the FHA. I hope you find God's original claim to be satisfactory. Now, may we have our damn loan?"
The loan was immediately approved.
(These are the same geniuses charged with the Government mortgage bailout.)
Monday, June 14, 2010
So if you go back to last year, you'll see my first post about the importance of testifying truthfully. Recently, I ran into yet another example of how exaggeration and dishonest testimony can blow up in ones face.
I was defending a client who had been the at fault driver in a very minor bumper tap rear-end accident. She had come around a corner and - unexpectedly - came upon a line of cars stopped at a stop sign. She attempted to stop but was unsuccessful before running into the back of another car. That car was, then, pushed into a third car ... and it was the passenger in that third car that was claiming injury. The damage to the rear of that third car was barely perceptible.
To be fair, prior to the accident, the passenger had been off work for almost 2 years because of an 'on the job' injury to his shoulder and neck. He had undergone a shoulder surgery and two neck surgeries; and although he was still having some neck and arm symptoms just prior to the accident, he was definitely feeling better and his doctor had predicted he could look at returning to work in a few weeks.
So if he had testified that there had been an aggravation of this neck and arm pain from this minor accident, it might have been believable. But instead, his testimony was that he had suffered severe low back pain from the accident. This made no sense! Nevertheless, he ran back to his former doctors and chiropractor, complaining of low back pain and shooting pain down his legs. As most good doctors do, they take their patient at face value and believe the history given. I didn't.
I actually read a few thousand pages of his old medical records and discovered that he had been raising the same low back and leg complaints -- off and on -- for almost 20 years. So imagine my surprise when he testified that these were new symptoms; and that he hadn't treated with anyone for low back pain at any time in his life.
When someone testifies in such a blatantly false manner, attorneys on the 'other side' begin to salivate. And I have to admit I did. So it soon came time for what I like to call the "Perry Mason" moment.
Having had the man confirm -- under oath -- that he had never treated for low back pain or shooting pain down the legs prior to the accident, I pulled out a copy of a pain diagram he had completed just 3 months after the accident. You've probably seen one of these. A picture of a man (or woman); the doctor asks you to mark the areas that hurt and the type of pain experienced. Anyway, the pain diagram I showed him showed he had marked pain in his low back and down his legs -- just as he had testified. I got him to confirm that he had filled out many such pain diagrams over the years.
I then pulled out another one. This one was identical to the one he had just identified; but filled out for another chiropractor he had treated with after the accident. I'm sure he recognized the form. I asked him if this was one he had completed, too; complementing him about how it seemed quite consistent with the other one. He agreed; and acknowledged that it, too, represented the pain he was experiencing shortly after the accident.
Then came the "Perry Mason" moment. You see, I had actually 'whited out' the date of the second pain diagram. I then pulled out the original. The diagram was the same. The only difference was the date. The man had created the "consistent" pain diagram 2 years BEFORE the accident. I then was able to disclose dozens of pages of medical records in which he had treated for low back pain and leg pain during the many years pre-accident.
Needless to say, his case fell apart. He was awarded significantly less than ½ of what my client had offered to settle for weeks earlier. Had he just been honest, he would have 'scored' a settlement that would have paid him some 2½ times what he was awarded after his 'less than candid' testimony.
A word to the wise ... just tell the truth.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
In Washington -- and I dare say in most if not all states -- auto insurance is required. This is going to be a 3-part blog entry. This first part will discuss the basic types of typical auto insurance coverages. Of course, I can't discuss all the details; so feel free to call or contact us if you have specific questions. But I will try to cover the basics. In Part 2, I'll talk about some suggestions for insurance if you're a low wage earner; and in Part 3, I'll make suggestions for those whose income and assets are moving in the right direction (i.e., up!).
The coverage that the State cares about is referred to as "Liability" coverage. This is the insurance that will hire you an attorney and pay a settlement or judgment to someone you have hurt or damaged. Bottom line: you're in an accident that's your fault; the other driver is injured; they sue you. Your insurer hires an attorney for you, and eventually pays the other driver to settle the case - or if the case goes to trial, pays the judgment. Washington requires that drivers carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability coverage (often referred to as BI coverage). That means that if you have the minimum, your insurer will pay up to $25k to resolve your case. If your accident has caused someone to incur more damage than $25k, you can be 'stuck' for anything above the $25k. Your insurer won't pay more than the limits you've purchased. You can, of course, purchase more than the $25k limits. You can purchase limits into the hundreds of thousands -- and as I'll discuss in Part 3 of topic, into the millions!!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
- I didn't have money to pay for it
- I didn't have insurance to pay for it
- I hate doctors
- I hate pills
- I didn't have the time
- I thought it would get better on its own
- My (fill in the blank) told me it wasn't necessary
Understand this: one or more of these may really be true. You may really be hurt. But the bottom line is -- it doesn't matter. If you are in an accident, and you don't seek treatment for many weeks (or worse, many months or more), you are in trouble. I don't mean medically. Because when it comes to your medical care, that's between you and your health care provider. I mean 'legally,' or better said -- 'claim-wise.'
The 'other guy's' insurance company is going to look at your claim and give it short shrift. They're going to assume that: the pain wasn't bad enough to get you to see a doctor; or some other event caused the problem; or more likely, it will reasonably (and probably - correctly) assume that a jury won't buy it. And even your own insurance company -- the one you may be looking for to pay some of your medical expenses under your PIP coverage -- will be extremely concerned. It will probably send you for an IME (an examination by a doctor of its choosing) and hope to get a report back saying that your have no objective problems that are related to the accident. Then it will use that report to deny your PIP claim.
All-in-all, it's a real mess. Defense attorneys know it. Plaintiff attorneys know it. Insurance companies know it. Juries (eventually) know it. The excuses don't fly!!
I can't tell you how many times I've observed the importance of this very basic rule: both in a negative way and a positive way. The negative way is simple. As a defense attorney, I've used this scenario on numerous occasions. Juries and arbitrators don't like seeing months of non-treatment; and the claimant ultimately pays with a low claim result. As a plaintiff's attorney, I've had to counsel my clients about this problem. I've occasionally refused to represent a client under these circumstances - either recognizing that the delay is unexplainable, or because the client doesn't believe me.
But I've also seen situations in which early treatment has proved incredibly helpful to a claim. I had a client, recently, who was in an accident and felt a little sore but didn't want to see a doctor. She relied on excuse # 6 (I thought it would get better on its own.). Fortunately, a friend of hers was a client of mine. About 2 weeks after the accident, the friend encouraged her to call me. I told her to go see her doctor. She insisted that she felt she'd get better -- even though she hadn't improved over that 2 week period. I asked her - tongue in cheek - where she received her medical degree. She went to her doctor.
The doctor noted a typical radiculopathy pattern -- pain, tingling, numbness -- and sent her for an MRI. Two days later she was sent to a neurosurgeon who diagnosed an extruded disc in her neck; and a day after that she was in the hospital undergoing a very significant surgery. Had she waited months before going through this process, the legal outcome might have been very different. Perhaps she would have been in another accident, or a fall. The longer she would have waited, the more difficult it would have been to prove that her spinal injury was related to the accident. But fortunately, having obtained an MRI just 2 weeks after the accident, the 'proof was in the pudding.' Proving her injury was related to the accident was no longer a problem. Her surgery was successful; and once she recovered, we were able to resolve her claim for a significant 6-figure settlement.
If you are in an accident, don't use the typical excuses to avoid medical treatment. If you have symptoms, get them evaluated. It's always better to have a doctor's visit where the result is insignificant, than to avoid the doctor when the result would have been significant -- medically and legally.