The Women's Journal

An Attorney’s View Of The Best & The Worst

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By Susan D’Alonzo Ament, Esquire

I have noticed there seem to be more automobile accidents in the summer months. Perhaps that is because people are driving around enjoying the nice weather, and people tend to stay inside during inclement weather. Why are there so many careless drivers on the roads? Why do people who are injured in automobile accidents wait so long to retain an attorney? According to the last issued Delaware State Police Traffic Statistical Report, in 2016, 21,256 traffic collisions were investigated by Delaware State Police alone, resulting in 120 fatalities.  

An attorney always prefers to be involved earlier in a case rather than later. That gives the attorney the ability to control the direction a case takes, and to ensure all aspects of a case are under control. I have found injured victims don’t understand insurance coverages or the litigation process, and may be afraid to ask important questions. 

Nobody wants to be in an accident. The most important thing a person can do before an accident occurs is to check their insurance coverage. Too often, clients say to me, “Oh I have full coverage.” What does that mean? You can have “full coverage” under the law, which is minimum $15,000 per person for medical bills and lost wages, known as Personal Injury Protection Coverage (PIP). If a person is seriously injured or dies as a result of an accident, $15,000 is insufficient coverage.

PIP coverage is required to be carried on every Delaware registered motor vehicle. Delaware law requires that, at a minimum, each car carry $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident coverage. Higher limits are available. I recommend you purchase the highest amount of PIP coverage you can afford. It is typically not very expensive, and can provide some peace of mind knowing there is sufficient coverage for your medical bills and wage loss.  

I ask prospective clients to bring their automobile insurance policy to our first meeting. So I can review it carefully and give them suggestions. The initial interview meeting is usually an educational meeting. Injured victims come to the attorney with concerns about their car damage, their medical bills, how will they get paid for their wages, etc. I explain what negligence is under the law: failure to use reasonable care which results in injury to another. Regardless of the extent of your injuries, you do not have a case unless you can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the other driver was negligent.

It is very difficult when an attorney has to explain to a client that they don’t have sufficient insurance coverage given the extent of their injuries and losses. Or, they don’t have a case because it cannot be proven that the other driver was negligent under the law.

When I am able to accept a new client and their case, I like to get to know the client. A serious accident impacts each client differently. The only way to effectively prove to an insurance company or a jury the impact an accident and resulting injuries had on a client’s life is to really know the client. For example, I represented a client who traveled around the country competing in marathons. After being struck by a vehicle, he was robbed of that hobby for the rest of his life. I represented another gentleman who had a part-time job as a model. His accident left him with a large facial scar. He had a significant loss of income, as he could no longer perform his part-time job. The injuries to one young mother from an accident left her unable to carry and care for her infant. Accidents and injuries affect everyone differently. I think it is critical to get to know each client well, and understand all aspects of their lives, so no claim is left out of a case presented, and to see that a client is fairly compensated for all of their losses.  

For me, the most difficult and worst part of the job I do is seeing a child who is hurt in an automobile accident. Often times, a child will have difficulty expressing everything they feel and are going through following an accident. I have seen children suffer bullying in school because of injuries or scars they may be left with following an accident. It can take a child much longer to recover from accident-related injuries because they do not have the coping skills that adults have. I pride myself on being a good listener, but representing an injured child can really tug at your heart. 

Conversely, the best part of the job is knowing I have helped my client, adult or child, through one of the most traumatic challenges of their life. Being the presence in their lives to guide them through the insurance maze, being available to answer their questions and educate them on the best avenues legally available in their case is rewarding. It’s that hug at the end of the case that lets you know you were able to make a positive change in someone’s life . . . that lets you know you chose the right occupation.

susan_ament_morris_james_am11_sqSusan D’Alonzo Ament is a partner with Morris James LLP and has practiced for 33 years representing personal injury victims. Over the years, Mrs. Ament has found that some women don’t understand the crucial need to have adequate automobile insurance coverage in the event of a serious accident. Susan Ament educates women on these needs every day in her practice and in seminars that she presents throughout the year.