I fired another client last week. The reason I used the word “another” is because I’ve fired more clients this year than I fired in the previous three years. At my age (62), I no longer have the patience to put up with the whining and abuse that I receive from some of my clients. I can put up with a lot, but there’s a point when a switch in my head goes off and my attitude toward a client shifts to such an extent that I put an end to our relationship.
The client that I fired last week — I’ll call her Madelyn — injured her neck, back, and right shoulder as a result of an auto accident in April of this year. The driver of the vehicle that crashed into Madelyn’s vehicle was not insured at the time of the collision. In addition to being uninsured, the at-fault driver did not own anything of any real value. Our only recourse was to open a claim with Madelyn’s insurance company for coverage under the Uninsured Motorist provision of her insurance policy.
While Madelyn had bodily injury coverage for occasions in which she was injured as a result of a collision with an uninsured motorist, she did not have coverage for damage to her vehicle. She only had liability coverage, which means that if the accident had been her fault, then the driver of the other vehicle would be able to recover compensation from Madelyn’s insurance company for damage that was done to the other driver’s vehicle.
Madelyn’s vehicle was totaled in the accident. Because she did not have insurance coverage for her damaged vehicle, the only way she could acquire another vehicle was to borrow the money to purchase the vehicle. She was unable to obtain a loan because the accident caused her to suffer from a serious shoulder injury, which kept her from working. To make matters worse, Madelyn was the only member of her household who was working at the time of the accident. Her husband was not working and after the accident, he claimed that he was not able to find a job.
Within six weeks of the accident, Madelyn’s landlord threatened to evict her and her husband from the house they were living in because they were two months behind in their rent. Madelyn was in a state of panic and asked me if there was anything I could do to help her. I was able to assist her in obtaining a loan from a finance company that gave her the loan in exchange for an agreement to pay back the loan when her case settles, at a higher than usual rate of interest. The loan allowed her to catch up on her rent and to pay some of her other outstanding bills, such as her gas and electric bill.
The other crisis that Madelyn was facing was her lack of transportation. The vehicle that she was driving at the time of the accident was the only vehicle that she and her husband owned. Without a vehicle, she had trouble getting to her doctor and therapy appointments. When I met with Madelyn and her husband to discuss their situation, her husband said that he was not able to get a job because he did not have transportation.
When I asked him why he couldn’t ride a bus to work, he gave me a lame excuse that didn’t make any sense. It took everything I had to exercise the self-restraint that was necessary to refrain from verbally beating up on him for sitting at home while his wife was forced to suffer through the anxiety and uncertainty that was associated with their inability to purchase a vehicle and pay their rent and other bills.
At one point, I said to him,
You know, if you go to Manpower, they have an app that you can download on your phone, and throughout the day you can scroll through the app to see what jobs are available for the day. I’ve seen how the app works because I had another client who showed it to me. It was amazing. As soon as a job would open up at Manpower, you would see it on the app and you could see where the job was at, how much it paid per hour, and whether it was a one-day job, or whether there was a chance that it could be longer than a day. When my client showed me the app, I scrolled through it and there were several jobs that were available for that day. All that needed to be done was to indicate that you were willing to accept the job and because you had already been pre-qualified by Manpower, you would be hired for the job.
When I told Madelyn’s husband about Manpower and the app, he said, “Yeah, I’ve been to Manpower before and it never worked out for me.” I wanted to say more but I kept my mouth shut. What I wanted to say would not have changed his mind. He was (and still is) inherently lazy. There was nothing I could have said or done to change that.
Because of the extent of Madelyn’s shoulder injury, her doctor ordered an MRI which showed that she had a torn rotator cuff. A surgery had to be performed to repair her shoulder. After the surgery, I was able to provide Madelyn with the guidance she needed to secure the necessary funds to purchase an older vehicle, so she could get around and go to her therapy appointments.
Madelyn was finally able to return to work a few weeks ago. Last week, she called and demanded that I immediately settle her case because she had again fallen behind in her rent and her landlord had filed a lawsuit to evict her and her husband from the house they were living in. I explained to her that while my office had ordered most of her medical records, we did not have her physical therapy records because she was still going to her therapy appointments.
I told her what I had told her on at least three previous occasions — that there were several things that needed to be done before her case could be settled, including the collection of all her medical records, the review of the records, and the drafting of a letter to her insurance company which would provide a detailed description of her bills and treatment.
I also again explained to her that after we sent the letter and records to her insurance company, it could take the insurance company adjuster several weeks before he would make a settlement offer. I reminded her about some other issues that were unique to her case that meant that the earliest her case would be settled was probably going to be the end of this year or during the first few months of next year.
She then became belligerent and repeated to me that she was being evicted from her house and that she needed the money “right now!” I tried to reason with her, but she refused to listen to what I had to say. She kept talking over me, demanding that I do something to help her. I finally got to the point where I told her that since she was not satisfied with the way I was handling her case, she was going to have to find another lawyer to represent her.
She ignored what I said and started repeating everything she had already said several times before. I interrupted her and said, “We aren’t getting anywhere in this conversation and I’m going to end this phone call by hanging up.”
She then handed her phone to another woman who got on the phone and said, “Hello, this is Annie and I’m Madelyn’s counselor. Can you explain to me what’s going on?” I replied, “I’m not going to talk to you about my client’s case. If you’re really a counselor, you should understand the concept of attorney-client confidentiality.” She then said, “I’m a counselor and she gave me permission to talk to you.” I replied, “I have no idea who you are. I’ve never met or seen you and there is no way for me to know if you are in fact a counselor or if you’re simply lying to me. I’m going to hang up the phone now. Goodbye.”
When I hung up the phone, I dictated a letter to Madelyn and told her that she needs to find another attorney to represent her in her case. I told her that she could have her new attorney contact me and I would be happy to cooperate with him or her in turning over a copy of her client file, and that I would do my best to work out a fee-split arrangement with the attorney. I also told her that if she wanted to communicate with me or my office, she needed to do so in writing.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I want Madelyn’s situation to serve as a reminder that you and I have a lot to be thankful for. Not only is our financial situation more favorable than Madelyn’s, but we have a much more expansive support network of family members and friends, and we have a church community we can lean on when we’re in distress.
We also have an unwavering faith in God. We know that He is in charge and that whatever He allows us to go through is for our own benefit. We also know that He will always make sure that we are taken care of.
And finally, because of what we learned from our family members, relatives, teachers, and the other people who had influence over us while we were growing up, we developed the confidence and skills that were needed to deal with and overcome the challenges that we would be confronted with in the future.
While I’m extremely irritated with the way that Madelyn and her husband behaved, I still said some prayers for them. Why? Because I am very much aware of the fact that if I had grown up in a different environment, without a good Catholic education and without the family, relatives, friends, and teachers that influenced me, I could have easily ended up being just like they are.
Keep all this in mind the next time you’re tempted to complain about how tough your life is.