two weeks = nine months, to lawyer up or no?
June 14, 2016 12:21 PM   Subscribe

During recovery from complex PTSD, I am presented with the alternative to suffer in one of two different ways. Which do I choose?

To make a long story short, I was raped at the end of July last year. I was totally isolated (at GTMO) when it happened, but I was scheduled to fly back to CONUS in the morning. I posted an Ask that night, and if it weren't for the help I got from you guys, I absolutely would've fallen apart. You guys helped me see that it wasn't my fault, and held me up while my husband was dealing with it by lashing out at me. That post had to be completely deleted because of the court case, but the court case is no longer. The Feds decided they didn't have enough evidence to convince a jury he was acting with criminal intent. (If I'd only just gotten myself beaten or killed instead of just freezing, we would apparently have no problem. But that's another discussion.)

I've posted a couple of follow up Asks - Pollyanna idiocy of 'how I structure my two weeks off?!?' Also, during one of the first financial panics of the saga. I've had so many financial panics since then that I laugh when I read that question; if only I had known what was coming. The answers to both those questions were also very helpful and kind.

The good news: I'm on an upward trajectory. It's not smooth, but things have been gradually improving with intensive therapy, Pilates, yoga, therapeutic massage and meds, meds, meds. My arm is healing well. I can see myself going back to work in the next few months.

The bad news: another financial crisis that I believe is actually illegal behavior on the insurer's part. The question is, do I lawyer up? (Don't stop reading here and yell YES, although I know it's tempting. There are tangible downsides.)

The workers' comp insurance claim is under the Defense Base Act, administered by one of the main two Evil Corporations who sell these policies. This is a long and emotionally complicated story, but chopped down, it is this: the adjuster pretended for months to be my friend and advocate. I, ignorant and desperate for social support, bought the song and dance. She overpaid me, and all along I believed the extra money was medical bills compensation, which they were obligated to provide.

Her boss caught her overpayments (after months and months) and she turned on me, accusing me of stealing from her, and faking my PTSD. She called me every name in the book and was as cruel as I've ever seen someone be. I sobbed and tried to convince her I hadn't acted with any malice. (I was devastated to the point where I had to schedule an emergency session with my therapist.)

What she landed on was that she would close my case now, pay me some sort of settlement this week, and take the overpaid funds out of that. (It didn't occur to me until later that will include $0 in treatment reimbursement.) She growled "and you WILL take that settlement!" I said "of course, whatever I can do." With her job then saved, the switch clicked and she went back to sugary sweet in an instant. ("Oh, honey, dry your pretty eyes, you're going to be okay. Do you need anything between now and next week, can you get by on the money you have?", etc.)

Obviously I am being royally jacked over. But from the online horror stories about this company's DBA claims, hiring a lawyer may result in a higher payout, but will add years to me actually getting money. Long term disability will continue to pay me $350 per month. If the settlement is enough, I can use it to keep working on healing. If it's not, I have to go back to work no matter what. Also under consideration is the emotional toll taken by the goddamn endless bureaucratic red tape and panics. It is having a severe impact on my stress levels.

So, do I roll over and take the settlement and be done with it? Or do I get a lawyer and continue the battle, emotional and immediate financial effects be damned?
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You have no way of knowing the settlement she is offering you (which no, you should not accept, why is she still even involved in your case?!) is legit. You must get a lawyer. You must. She is re-traumatizing you for fun and profit and is likely to do it again. You cannot trust this person to give you even what she is suggesting she will, which means you might end up with nothing, ever.

The upside of that is that the simple presence of a lawyer will mean that the scam artist's higher-ups will have to get involved.

I know that you are emotionally vulnerable but this person's personal opinion of you is not relevant to this situation. It's fine if she hates you, so long as you have someone - frankly, anyone - else to deal with instead of her.

She should have lost her job. She should still lose her job. Saving her job is not on you to do. (Also: she made money off this little drama she manufactured. Understand that. This is what she does.)

Please at least speak to a lawyer instead of convincing yourself you know how this will play out. I'm not entirely sure at this point that law enforcement shouldn't get involved, but a lawyer will likely tell you that much for free.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:36 PM on June 14, 2016 [23 favorites]

Initial consult with a lawyer should be free. You can speak to two or three of them to shop around. A lawyer discussing your case with you will have much better answers for than AskMe will. Such cases are often taken on contingency, which means they don't want to pursue a case they don't think can be won because they won't get paid.

Talking to a lawyer or three will also be a chance to process in a way that will do more for you than talking to a therapist. The best therapy is doing something constructive about the actual problem. Women get socialized to deal with their feelings and not deal with underlying problem causing their feelings. We get prescribed valium instead of being told to get divorced or leave the icky job or whatever.

Talking to a lawyer will help you decide what to do based on something real -- the facts of the case, the odds of making a case -- not on how you feel at this moment and not on social support.

I am so sorry you are going through this.
posted by Michele in California at 12:52 PM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Getting a lawyer does not preclude the settlement. Lawyers can do much more than just start long, protracted fights, and in fact, a lawyer might be the best person to negotiate a quick, sufficient settlement. Start by talking to one.

If nothing else, having a lawyer puts an end to the agent's belief that she's in control of the situation because you're traumatized. That alone might be worth it.
posted by fatbird at 12:54 PM on June 14, 2016 [10 favorites]

Another thought: if you get a lawyer, you never have to (you won't be allowed to) speak to those people again. The lawyer does it. No more red tape, no more con artist manipulating your moods so they can skim from your benefits, no having to deal with her "taking back" your settlement or extorting you or whatever her second act generally is. You'll literally be healthier if you have a lawyer.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:55 PM on June 14, 2016 [19 favorites]

I would only communicate with this person in writing. She is manipulative and dishonest. You are too emotional and vulnerable. Put it in writing. Stop talking to her. Lawyer up.
posted by cairnoflore at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

She growled "and you WILL take that settlement!"

Hell no. That definitely will not be possible.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:13 PM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are many stops between "take this victimising settlement" and "10 year law suit." Your lawyer can both review the settlement with you and negotiate a better one.

I am very sorry this is happening to you. And I am very sorry that you need to add "lawyer" to the team of people assisting you to recover, but you do.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:15 PM on June 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Do both. Get a free consult from a lawyer and ask for a quick settlement, even if it is less than the lawyer feels you could get for a longer battle. Be very clear with yourself and your lawyer that this battle should take no longer than one month. And then, no matter what the outcome, move on. Do not talk to your adjuster again, period. She knows your buttons and she isn't afraid to push them.
posted by myselfasme at 3:45 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry that this has happened to you, and that the people who are supposed to help you have either abandoned you or manipulated you.

Without speaking to a lawyer, you have no idea what you are choosing between. You may be demonstrably entitled to considerably more money, which a grown-up superior not desperate to save his own ass may recognize, or there really may not be much at stake. Given your situation, it would be dangerous to assume the latter. You're disabled. You may need that money in the future.

Also, a good lawyer will stand as a screen between you and the company, thus easing the emotional burden of the process. Hire a good lawyer and you will never have to speak to that adjuster again.
posted by praemunire at 3:55 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you actually know for a fact that her boss "caught her overpayments"? And how does paying you more money and taking money out of that payment help if the whole issue is overpayment? Paying you more will somehow lead to you paying back an overpayment?

Am I missing something obvious?
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:03 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

What I'm getting at is that something here is really, really off, aside from her treating you with rank unprofessionalism and over-involvement on a personal level. At the very least she knows her goose is cooked and she is attempting to manipulate you into taking some sort of responsibility for her failure to properly assess the payout of your claim. Lawyer and stop talking to her. If you feel you can go back to work, talk to your therapist about sliding scale payments or some sort of reduced or delayed payment schedule so that you can have support through this.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:08 PM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Loud and clear and now obeyed.

The lawyer currently has three open cases that began with people calling her sobbing when they discovered this adjuster had betrayed them. Three OPEN cases and a history of closed cases going way back. The lawyer asked "did she say [specific sweet things]?", and the adjuster had said them all verbatim. Basically the adjuster is well know as the least professional, nastiest adjuster in this [small] field.

TryTheTilapia, you're not missing anything obvious, I just didn't explain it well. There was always intended to be a lump sum payout when I was able to work again. What she threatened was to close my case, give me that lump sum, but subtract the overpayment total from the sum. Also, I don't know for a fact that her supervisor discovered the error. She said it, and it fits with her behavior is all I know.

Thank you guys so, so much. I have an actual advocate now, and I will, as Lyn Never mentioned (which completely motivated me) have to speak to this jerk again.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 5:34 PM on June 14, 2016 [24 favorites]

Go you!!! I know that was scary.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:08 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wish you the very best of luck. You had good instincts about this whole situation, even if it's hard to see that right at this moment. I'm so sorry about what you've been through. You didn't deserve any of this. I hope this woman goes to jail for malfeasance. She sounds like a real piece of work.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:41 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no additional advice to offer, I just wanted to say that I'm so sorry all of this happened to you. You seem like a very strong and intelligent person and I know you can get through this. You have friends here on Metafilter who are rooting for you.
posted by a strong female character at 6:50 PM on June 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

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