I abhor frivolous lawsuits. I try to bring my New York personal injury lawsuits only against companies and people whom I feel are truly liable for my clients’ injuries. But once in a while I am forced to sue “iffy” claims against those who probably are not responsible for my clients’ injuries. Why? Because of insurance companies and their lawyers, that’s why. Let me explain by way of example.
My client is a passenger in her boyfriend’s motor vehicle. On a snowy night, they come upon a car stopped in the middle of the road, which apparently stopped because of the snowy conditions. It appears, though, that the driver of that car could have done a better job pulling over onto the shoulder of the road. Nevertheless, my client’s boyfriend is able to stop in time. Moments later, a tractor trailer comes from behind and hits the rear of my client’s car, propelling it into the car stopped in front. That tractor trailer driver was clearly going too fast for the snowy conditions. My client suffers serious injuries, can never work again, and no-fault insurance is quickly exhausted.
So who do I sue to get her the compensation she needs and deserves? After all, she was an innocent passenger.
I think it was mostly the tractor trailer driver’s fault, but perhaps also the driver of the first car, for stopping completely or for not pulling far enough over onto the shoulder. I think my client’s boyfriend is without fault. All he did was stop to avoid hitting the car stopped in front of him.
But as the 3-year statute of limitations approaches, I know I have to sue not only the two drivers whom I think may be responsible, but also my client’s boyfriend, whom I think is not responsible. Why? Because I know from experience that, if I don’t sue him, the insurance company lawyers for the other two drivers will point the finger at “the empty chair” in the courtroom, that is, my client’s boyfriend whom I did not sue. They will try to pass all the blame onto the one person I did not sue on any number of theories, for example, for not putting his flashers on, for not pulling over enough, for not passing around the stopped car — who knows! I will only find out AFTER the statute of limitations expires, and then I will be in a jam. If somehow these insurance company lawyers convince a jury it was entirely my client’s boyfriend’s fault, then the jury will return a big goose-egg verdict for my client.
My client will not be left without recourse, though — she can still file a New York legal malpractice lawsuit against me for failing to sue her boyfriend! So there you have it — sometimes I have to sue people who probably aren’t to blame.
Legend has it that, during the crusades, when a Christian army was invading a middle-eastern city whose residents were mostly Muslim, but which contained a significant minority of Christians, a soldier asked his military commander, “sir, how do I know which ones are Muslims, and which Christian”, to which the commander replied, “kill them all, and let god sort them out”.
So there you have it. Sometimes you have to “sue them all, and let the jury sort them out”.