Some years ago, we filed an administrative claim for a client where VA liability looked pretty clear to us. The liability certainly looked clear to the private specialist who later tried to fix what VA had done. In fact, it bothered him. It bothered him so much, that he volunteered to write a letter on our client's behalf detailing the dental standards of care which VA had violated. Even so, the damages (that is the amount of money a person can recover in a case) were not very big. In fact, if the VA had offered $25,000, we would have advised our client take it. But, VA didn't offer $25,000. They didn't offer anything. They simply denied his claim. Believing that to be a mistake, we asked VA to reconsider. The reconsideration process usually involves another set of eyes at VA, and can sometimes correct an oversight. Not this time. Again, the claim was denied.
At that point, there were only two options left: drop the case, or file suit in federal court. Filing suit can be expensive and time-consuming, and that’s a risk when the amount of the potential recovery is relatively small. Plus, years had already passed since the incidents which gave rise since the complaint had happened. Also, we already had two different sets of eyes denying government liability. It would have been an easy choice for any lawyer to advise their client to drop the case.
It's important to point out here, however, that the work we do is not like ordinary lawyers with ordinary cases. Yes, we focus on medical malpractice and, yes, this firm is a business. But, the bulk of our clients are veterans. And some of us are veterans, too. That makes our work different. In this case, like his private care provider, we were bothered by what had been done.
So, despite the risks and costs, we decided that bringing it to federal court was the right thing to do. In the end, that was the right decision. The government just settled the case for $55,000 - not a windfall, but more than double what we were ready to advise our client to accept. We like to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do. But, sometimes, it pays off for our clients.
Post Written by David Tierney