It is a time of year for counting our blessings, connecting with family and giving to those less fortunate. It is also a time for thinking about how we might live our lives differently in the coming year.
Some seem to have more blessings to count than others. Some seem to have more to give and more ways to give than others. We all have different flexibility in how we choose to spend the next year of our lives.
Dollars will be placed into Salvation Army kettles, donations of food will be made for Christmas hampers, and New Years resolutions will be made. Unfortunately, the beautiful sentiments of the season will pass with the season itself and most of the resolutions will be distant memories by February.
I have been writing this column weekly since the beginning of January, 2007. The subject matter, except for weeks when I have been distracted by other legal issues, has been car crash personal injury claims. Primary themes have included exposing insurance company tactics and educating the public so as to stop those tactics from resulting in unjust results.
The more personal injury cases I handle, and as I continually puzzle about my next weekly column topic, the more I am struck by how unnecessary my line of work should be. I have advised a number of times over the last four years that the very best personal injury claim is no claim at all. This runs contrary to the ridiculous public perception that those injured in car crashes are lucky because they get to look forward to a big payday when the claim settles.
The truth is that personal injury settlements do nothing but provide compensation for very real losses. If there is a big pay day when a case settles, then there must have been big losses. The bigger the losses, the less real compensation there is to the injured victim because a significant percentage of the settlement amount is paid to the lawyer who has worked to achieve the settlement.
Losses to injured victims are not limited to income losses and treatment expense. Lives are changed.
Chronic neck or back pain, or other chronic symptoms arising from car crash injuries, can change people forever.
Those changes can push relationships over the edge. They can turn a “have” into a “have not”. They can change people from those putting money into Salvation Army kettles to those needing the generosity of others. Try as the medical system does, we cannot take these injuries away.
We can, however, make better choices every time we sit behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Car crashes are not accidents. They don’t just happen. They occur because drivers choose urgency over safety; we allow our minds to wander instead of focussing on the very serious driving task at hand; we have a couple more drinks than we should at a Christmas party.
It doesn’t take digging deep to come up with a cash donation. It doesn’t take giving up fats and sugars or other onerous New Years resolutions.
All it takes is making safe choices. It’s the least we can do for each other this Christmas season. It’s the least we can do for each other, and ourselves, and our families, every day of the year.
Merry Christmas, friends.
Published December 26, 2010 in the Kelowna Capital News