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Becoming Whole After Your Personal Injury

Becoming Whole After Your Personal Injury

Tim Ferriss is the author of three bestselling books, one of which revolutionized the way many people -- especially millennials -- see the typical 40-hour workweek. For Tim, and for those who have implemented his ideas, life is for living, achieving, improving, and serving. By reducing the workweek from 40 to 20, 10, or even 4 hours a day, we are free to develop skills and talents, to serve those in need, and to achieve those goals we actually want to achieve for ourselves and our families.

Regardless of whether you can actually reduce your workweek by following Tim’s advice, there are loads of lessons in his books that can be applied to life in general to be more efficient, more productive, more grateful, more service-oriented, healthier, and happier.

As a personal injury lawyer, “healthier and happier” are the outcomes I love to see in my clients. Of course, it isn’t easy. If you were rear-ended by a drunk driver and now have chronic neck pain, you’re not necessarily healthy, and you’re probably not happy. If your husband -- the father of your children -- was maimed or killed in a mining accident because the employer was more concerned about revenue than safety, you have every right to be devastated.

That said, my goals as a lawyer involve not only maximizing the money you receive from the wrongdoer or the wrongdoer’s insurance company, but in “making you whole.”

The Law’s Definition of Made Whole

“Made Whole” can have different meanings depending on the state you live in, but generally, it means that you have been fully compensated for your losses. For instance, if you’ve incurred $50,000 in medical expenses, $50,000 in lost wages, and the value of your pain and suffering is $100,000, then you are made whole by a settlement or verdict of $200,000. Of course, the value of things like pain and suffering is subjective, so there is no magic formula to determine whether you’ve been “made whole.” And certainly, for catastrophic injuries or wrongful deaths, the losses sustained are incalculable, and no amount of money will make you whole. Nevertheless, money is how people are “made whole” under the law. And it’s typically the only remedy in a personal injury case.

My Definition of Made Whole

Money is a critical component of being made whole, and my job is to maximize your recovery. You should not be left in financial ruin for medical expenses or a totaled car that you didn’t cause. Yes, money can replace the car, money can dig you out of that hole. But what about pain and suffering, a permanent injury, or lost earning potential? Money can and should be awarded to make up for the inability to work like you used to or how you used to, and money can and should be awarded to remodel the house to make it more accessible, if that’s what’s needed. Money should also be awarded for the pain and suffering you’ve felt and will continue to feel throughout your life.

But no amount of money can heal your broken neck, and no amount of money can bring back the person you loved. Dallin H. Oaks, a spiritual leader and former justice of the Utah Supreme Court, has said that healing sometimes cures our illnesses or lifts our burdens. “But sometimes, we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”

For me, a client is made whole not only when we get a fair monetary settlement for him or her, but also when the client develops strength, understanding, and patience throughout the ordeal, which will provide more of a sense of peace and comfort when the case comes to an end, and that will last longer than the money.

Set Goals to Be Made Whole

If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one and truly want to be made whole, set goals to be strong, to increase your understanding, and to exercise patience.

As to how to achieve these goals, Tim Ferriss has explained that the process of achieving starts with planning. First, you must decide what you want and why you want it. For instance, if you really don’t care about developing a tight six-pack of abs, there’s no way you’ll go to the gym before work every morning or eat healthier. In the same way, if you’re angry about the harm done to you and your family and don’t want to forgive or otherwise move on, you certainly don't have to. So, determine what you want first.

Next, ask yourself whether you’re making the process any harder than it needs to be. Continuing with the example of abs, are you trying to set aside two hours a day in which to do 2,500 crunches in order to chisel the tight six-pack? If so, you might be going about it the wrong way. Trying to set aside a two-hour block of time is hard for anyone and will most likely lead to complete failure. Maybe it would be more effective to have an intense 15-minute core workout and to eat a salad every day for lunch. You’re more likely to succeed by simplifying.

Tim Ferriss’ method for becoming a successful writer is another good example. He says, “The blank page is very intimidating for a lot of people...I was told at one point, your goal should be two bad pages per day. That’s it. If you hit two bad pages, even if you never use them, you’ve succeeded for the day.” For Ferriss, the act of setting the bar low on a daily basis allows people to over-deliver rather than fail, which builds confidence and momentum, which then leads to steady growth, and eventually, incredible results. Using this method, Ferriss has written three best-sellers! So, set the bar low, but at the same time, be disciplined and consistent.

Neal A. Maxwell, an American scholar, educator, and religious leader, taught something similar:

We should not take on too many projects all at once, however, lest we fail in all of them. It is better to concentrate on betterment in the basics—even if the pace seems somewhat slow. Our success will increase our self-esteem and our capacity to love and to help others.

So, start slow. Take a long breath when you feel angry. Think of something you’re grateful for when you’re conscious of your pain. When you’re overwhelmed with sadness, have a positive memory of your lost loved at the ready. It may not be easy, and it may take a while to master, but the process will improve your outcome and get you closer to becoming truly whole.

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