The veteran was not in great shape. He was elderly and had multiple health issues.
His son had taken him into his home. He and his wife were his primary caregivers. Looking after the elderly is not easy. It’s hard and draining work. You may do it out of love, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging.
The VA provided care to the veteran. In that area, the VA’s Community Living Center (nursing home) offered respite care. A veteran could stay a few days, giving a needed break to the family.
The veteran’s son and his wife needed a break. Definitely.
They checked the veteran into the CLC and took off for much anticipated long weekend.
A day later, the son got a call.
His father had fallen and died soon thereafter.
Most law firms would be wary of a matter like this.
Any case would be against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. That means you are in federal court—which many lawyers try to avoid under the best of circumstances—and you don’t get a jury.
How does a lifetime appointed federal judge value and award damages in a case like this?
It’s a medical case which involves expenses, often considerable ones.
Fees are restricted. If you settle a case before filing suit, the contingent fee is 20%. After filing, it goes to 25%. In most places, the fee for a malpractice case against a non-VA private medical provider would be 40%—big difference.
Objectively, there are lots of reasons for a lawyer to pass on a matter like this.
Yet, cases like this one are our bread and butter. We know how to evaluate them. We know how to handle them efficiently. We have figured out how to get decent recoveries for our clients.
We took the case and as the old saying goes, the rest is history.
It took us almost three years, but we finally got a decent settlement for this family. The three siblings net almost $80,000 each.
And our hourly rates are very respectable. (Yes, we still keep time.)
I like big cases and, of course, I like big fees. Who doesn’t? However, there is something kind of magical about helping a family like this one. It’s super satisfying and an excellent reminder of why I got into this business and why I still love it after almost 39 years.
Cases like this make me proud of what we do.