Did you know that I’m an Eagle Scout? I earned my badge when I was all of 13-years old (so I know a thing or two about helping people cross the street).
I really didn’t know what all I was going to do with my life then, but my skills at helping people would blossom years later, when I became an information god (i.e. Law Librarian).
One of the reasons I went to law school was because I have a visceral need to help people. As a Law Librarian, I constantly get to help a whole lot of people solve a whole lot of different problems. There was the attorney working on a Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan. There was the pro se litigant trying to keep the bank from foreclosing on his house.
And then there was the guy who had been in an accident on the freeway. He was parked on the 405 freeway during rush hour when a car hit him from behind, then another car hit that car, and on and on resulting in a pile-up of about seven vehicles.
The guy wasn’t looking to fleece anyone; he just wanted to pay for his car repair and medical bills. He spent two years wrangling with insurance companies before he came to me, the law librarian, to ask what he was doing wrong. I said “Let’s go,” and off we went into the shelves.
First, because he waited two years I wondered if the limitation of actions on his case had run (negating his chances of recovery). So I steered us over to the California Code of Civil Procedure (which contains Sections 312-366.3 dealing with the limitation of actions for all causes of action). Guy said, “Why did you bring me here?” I explained and suggested he look in the INDEX under LIMITATION OF ACTIONS. You know the Index, that thing that is organized from A to Z?
Apparently, Guy had little experience with indexes or had forgotten how they worked, because after a few seconds fumbling with the code books he gave up and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing. Why don’t you just show me books about settling insurance claims?”
Because Guy is dealing directly with insurance companies pro se, I decided he needed to get into the heads of insurance people to know how they work. So, I turned around and walked him to the other side of the library to see:
- Insurance Settlements (James Publishing)
- How Insurance Companies Service Claims (James Publishing)
- Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide (NWC)
- Casualty Claim Practice (Irwin)
- New Appleman on Insurance (Lexis)
Guy said, “This is all great, but my accident happened in California. Don’t you have stuff on settling a claim in California?” We did. We marched over to the other side of the library where I suggested he look at:
- California Insurance: Law and Practice (Lexis)
- California Uninsured Motorist Practice (CEB)
- California Liability Insurance Practice: Claims & Litigation (CEB)
At this point Guy got exasperated, saying, “Well, why didn’t we start here? You’re just trying to confuse me!”
Confuse him? I did not run him all over the library just to confuse him. What I did do was show him many different resources to help him solve his own problems. As a librarian, I can’t give out legal advice. But I can hand people the specific resources they need to find answers for themselves. Guy thought about this for a second, grinned, and got to work protecting himself. Chalk up another served and satisfied customer.
Information god that I am, it’s still a warm and fuzzy feeling to know what librarians can do to make a difference by helping one person at a time in this crazy, mixed-up world. It’s that sense of satisfaction that makes all this worthwhile.