Woody: We reap what we sue!

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Have you been rear-ended by an 18-wheeler or received a hearty birthday hug from your favorite nephew?

If so, sue the no-good so-and-so's!

We've become accustomed to those TV ads showing thrilled "victims" turning cartwheels over their big personal-injury windfalls after getting hit by a truck, but awhile back the ambulance-chasers hit a new low.

A woman sued her 8-year-old nephew for hugging her too hard at his birthday party.

OK, it's a bit more complicated than that; the exuberant hug broke his aunt's wrist (so her lawsuit claimed) and she was "forced" to sue the kid because of insurance company mumbo-jumbo.

The lady, whose $125,000 lawsuit was thrown out of court, later appeared on a TV talk show to explain why she shouldn't be nominated for the Most Rotten Aunt in the World.

The kid even appeared with her, and mumbled that there were no hard feelings.

I noticed he didn't give her a hug after the show was over.

The interesting part -- and the part that's never mentioned in the ambulance-chasing TV ads -- is how much of the settlement do the lawyers scoop off the top?

Wanda Sue Airhead gushes about how her attorney got her a $750,000 settlement after an accident left her so stove up she almost missed one of her aerobic workouts. How much of that $750 grand did Wanda Sue actually get, and how much went to the vultures circling overhead?

Also, how come Wanda Sue's not in traction?

If the wreck did $750,000 worth of damage, how can Wanda Sue be dancing and prancing around like that? If getting hit by an 18-wheeler makes her feel that feisty and energetic, I wish one would rear-end me.

If I appear a tad cynical about the issue, it's because I've had personal experience with the 'personal injury' cult.

When my daughter Susan was a teenager, just starting to drive, she often mistook our suburban street for Indianapolis Speedway. She was going too fast one rainy day when she topped a rise and skidded into a car sitting at a four-way-stop.

The car's rear bumper was left with a tiny ding that you could see if you looked close. The driver claimed he was dinged, too, and hired a personal-injury lawyer who sued us for $550,000. Actually he wanted $500,000 and his wife tacked on $50,000 for "loss of consortium." They must have been doing a lot of consorting.

Seeing your name at the bottom of a $550,000 lawsuit will open your sinuses.

Eventually our insurance company settled the case, and it didn't cost me anything -- except for my insurance rates sky-rocketing, and months of sweating over the possible loss of our house, dog, and life's savings.

Keep that in mind next time you see one of those giddy personal-injury TV ads. The lawyer isn't sticking it to The Man; he's sticking it to you and me in the form of higher insurance rates.

In other words, we're paying for the party.

I can only hope someday a personal-injury lawyer will rear-end me -- or maybe give me a big, crushing hug.

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Larry Woody
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