How about a drunk driver, driving on the wrong side of a highway recklessly driving home after a night of drinking and partying? Can't you just see the crash about to happen? Don't we read, all too often about tragedies like these? What about a doctor that operates on the wrong side of a patient's brain? Or a hospital that fails to recognize a cardiac arrest, resulting in massive heart damage? How about the driver that blows through a stop sign and destroys the lives of a family on their way home from a holiday party?
How do we right the wrong that others have committed?
Unfortunately, we cannot turn back the hands of time. "All the kings men, all the kings horses, couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again." I know reciting Humpty Dumpty sounds corny, but it's true. "OK" you say, so what do we as a society do to right a wrong?
The only thing the law in New York allows a person who has been wronged is to obtain compensation. In my last newsletter, I talked about compensation being a debt that must be repaid to the injured victim. The wrongdoer has taken something that should never have been taken. A life; the freedom to be free of pain; the ability to do daily activities without disability. Repaying the victim with compensation is what is expected and demanded.
What about those skeptics who believe that there are frivolous lawsuits? While I would like to tell you that there are no frivolous cases, I would be remiss to do so. Unfortunately, there are a small percentage of cases in the court system that simply do not have merit. There, I've said it. However, the vast majority of cases, especially those brought by experienced medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers in New York do have merit. The reality is that our judicial system is designed to allow someone who has been wronged to 'right that wrong' in court. Our civil liberties, our constitution, and our democratic belief that we are free to choose how to live our lives is what makes New York, and in fact the United States, the best place to live in the world.
Compare what we have to countries in Asia, the Middle East and other Third World countries. How about countries with dictators? It wasn't that long ago that Russia and East Germany restricted the lives of every citizen in those countries. Do you think citizens of North Korea, Afghanistan or even Iran have the type of freedoms we do?
The purpose of this article is not to preach about how great our State or Country is. Rather, it's designed to show that our system of justice, our democratic beliefs and our sense of doing the right thing requires that wrongdoers fix the wrong they've committed. The shattered lives, the broken bones, the disabled victims demand compensation.
I have to share an observation I made the other day. (Just the other day...) I was reading a magazine and it had an ad. It was a full page ad. A photograph took up half the page. In the photograph was a young boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old. The boy was in a wheelchair. The boy's arms and legs were severely contracted leading to the conclusion that the boy suffered some type of spastic condition. Looking at the boy's face he appeared to have a blank look that simply stared into space. His mouth was twisted, and his body tilted to the side. His hair was beautifully combed.
The title of the ad said simply: "This is what the winner of a multi-million dollar verdict looks like."
The ad explained that this young boy was a passenger in his parents car when it was hit by a truck that went through a stop sign. The young boy was on his way to school that morning. As a result of that accident, that young child will never walk, never talk normally, never play sports, never know the kiss of a girl, never complete school, never be able to get a job, never learn the joys of exercise, never have friends, never have privacy to go to the bathroom, never know life's treasures- both big and small.
That young boy will know his caregivers; the three nurses that must attend to him 24 hours per day, seven days per week. He'll get to know his wheelchair- he'll be spending the rest of his waking life in it. He'll get to know his doctors really well, as he'll be a frequent visitor to their offices. If he's really lucky, he'll only have to go to the hospital for really bad infections and wound control. If he's unlucky, he's going to need half a dozen surgeries to fix the muscles and bones in his legs and pelvis.
So, how was his "wrong" righted? By awarding his family money to pay for his medical expenses. Money to pay for his caregivers. Money to pay to modify his house to accommodate a wheelchair. Money to pay for his health insurance premiums. Money for a specially modified van for his parents to drive him to the doctors, and around town. Money for physical rehabilitation. Money for a new wheelchair every five years.
Did you know that paralyzed people in wheelchairs get sores from sitting in the same place all the time? Those sores get bigger and bigger and tend to get infected often. The problem is that a normal person would feel the irritation, the rubbing and the pain from the sore. In a paralyzed victim, that person feels nothing and is unaware of any problem- usually until it's very severe.
Just looking at the photo in the ad, knowing what happened to the young boy created a strong sense of injustice. That injustice can never be fixed. No amount of money will ever turn that destroyed and broken child into the vibrant, happy-go-lucky kid he used to be. I'll bet if you ask his parents which they would rather have, millions of dollars, or a healthy young boy, what do you think the answer would be?
Injustice- righting a wrong. It's what we have to do.