I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a lawyer. As a girl, I was my dad’s shadow. We would go camping in the summers, play video games in the winters, and on the other days of the week I’d sit with him in his wood shop. One of my dad’s other passions was American history, which he read about extensively. When we were together he would talk to me about the founding of our country and the intentions behind the Constitution and our legal system. He impressed upon me the importance of knowing the rights given to us under this system. My dad wasn’t a lawyer, but he was passionate about the law. He also believed in helping people. That, I believe, he learned from his father – my grandfather- whose family owned a little variety store in a rural Colorado town for over 100 years. They were an institution in that little town, and everyone knew that if anything was needed,
my family would help if they could.
From this, I planned to be a civil rights attorney, representing people wronged by the powerful institutions in our country. That didn’t quite come to pass, however. When I was 19, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. The disease was wide-spread by the time it was discovered, but doctors said it originated in his esophagus (my dad had been a smoker for decades). The reality of his condition was that his prognosis was not good, and any treatment was really just to buy our family more time. I believe my dad knew this, but he also knew my mom couldn’t accept that reality, so he drank the weird green shakes she made for him and he agreed to chemotherapy. Even when he was dying, my dad was thinking more
about us than himself.
From a distance, I watched my mom battle the health insurance during this time. His health insurance had maxed out its benefits, and they were denying further treatment. Our dining room table was covered in EOB’s, medical bills, and notes from attempted phone calls to the insurance. She eventually had to move him over to her employer-provided insurance policy to get him further treatment. I can’t fathom the stress my mom was under during that time. Navigating a terminal illness is bad enough – navigating the health insurance system on top of that adds insult to injury.
My dad’s cancer was discovered when he finally saw a doctor for terrible headaches he had been experiencing. The cancer had metastasized into his brain and he had several tumors there. A few months into his treatment, fluid buildup and these tumors were worsening his pain. I remember visiting my dad in the hospital. I remember standing it the room with my mom, both of us in tears. He was in a heavily medicated sleep and still we could see his pain. I had never seen my dad so weak. The oncologist was in the room discussing treatment options with my mom. He floated the idea of a stent to help drain the fluid and relieve the pressure on his brain. This surgery was an option, he said, and then: “but how serious do you want to get with this?” I’d like to give the oncologist the benefit of the doubt here, but I had a distinct impression of the doctor, in that moment, telling usmy dad didn’t matter. He was communicating to us that my dad wasn’t going to get better, so what was the point of the surgery. We moved forward with the surgery and I had a few more weeks with my dad before he passed. Beyond the obvious tragedy of losing my father, the piece that stuck with me was how the doctor treated my dad as undeserving of compassion and care.
My decision to become a personal injury attorney wasn’t entirely intentional. I believe my path brought me here because of this experience. Seeing how my sick father was disregarded by the insurance company, and then by his own doctors pointed me in the direction of focusing my practice on representing injured people who are similarly written off by their insurance and medical providers. Overwhelmingly people give me one of two main reasons for calling: (1) they’re scared and don’t know what to do, or (2) they are being stonewalled by the insurance adjuster. I often tell my clients that if insurance companies would just do the right thing, I’d be out of a job. But the fact is they don’t. You’re in this situation due to factors entirely outside of your control. In many cases, you’ve taken all the right steps to protect yourself – you drive carefully, you carry insurance, and you keep yourself healthy. And in return for that effort, you are villainized by the court system, the insurance industry, and the health care system. So many people call their doctors for treatment to be told, “we don’t handle auto cases.” The broken promises in all three of these systems
– the unfairness of it – makes my blood boil.
For all its flaws, I believe in the law. I believe people deserve equal access to justice, and I believe that a lawyer is required to accomplish that. You need someone with training and expertise who knows the rules and how to use them to your best advantage. It’s not always successful. Many of the rules are set up to further victimize people seeking a fair resolution. Sometimes the decisions we reach are to make the best of a bad situation. But in all cases, if I can provide enough information for you to make an informed decision that is best for you, I’ve accomplished my goal.
I’m a rule-follower by nature, as I’m sure you are too. The structure of laws and contracts is comforting in its predictability. When we pay for insurance coverage, we enter a contract for benefits. Month after month we pay our premiums as the rules tell us to. In exchange for money, we should to be able to rely on medical treatment, vehicle repairs, payment for pain and suffering, etc. In many cases we maintain brand loyalty to our insurance companies for several decades. When it comes time to call on those contracted benefits, the response is often skepticism, doubt, and denial. “Are these injuries as serious as you claim? Did they really happen from THIS accident?” “We don’t think your losses are worth as much as you claim they are.” “Delay, Deny, Defend” is the unwritten slogan of many prominent insurance companies. When the business model is profit over people, people will lose out every time and it’s up to us to show that we won’t sit back and allow that to happen.
Ultimately, my goal is to aid in your healing. I want to offer reassurance in a difficult moment in someone’s life. Pain, uncertainty, and confusion can crowd out all other thoughts when you’re injured , and you may need someone to help sort through the chaos and provide a clear pathway – someone who has the necessary tools, training and experience
to be your best advocate.