This is a request for help with my claim against the repair shop that destroyed my classic Volkswagen.
Part of the story is my attempt to get Pro Bono legal help in Las Vegas Nevada. Right now I have no car and I'm getting low on money - and the people that I thought would help are not helping.
Initially the repair shop owner acted in Good Faith. He was concerned that his insurer might increase his premium and put him out of business, but he was still willing to accept responsibility. Then his carrier told him that he did not need to be responsible. He wasn't in a position to challenge his own insurer.
What I need:
I contacted about four law firms in Las Vegas and was informed that they would not provide any Pro Bono service unless it was requested by one the gatekeeper firms. Two of the original three gate-keepers have said that they have no budget and no staff and are out of the helping business. The third gate-keeper firm told me, in writing, that they had certified my case for Pro Bono credit - but they did not provide any help.
Apparently I don't understand the rules. It seems that there is some kind of agreement between the gate-keeper and a number of law firms in Las Vegas who might offer Pro Bono services.
If you are a legal firm, this is a request for Pro Bono help. I believe that this matter will require no more than four or five hours of assistance and I believe there is no need for expert testimony or depositions.
I believe this because the case was documented in full by a hired examiner paid by the defendants insurance company. The examiners report proves my case. I believe that the insurance company will settle if the case is presented by a competent attorney. They would be seriously embarrassed if they had to defend their position in court.
Since the previous sentence was written, I understand the reason for some of the problems in communication. These problems came from the fact I never received a copy of the original letter of denial. A copy was later sent to my "non-attorney" at Legal Aid of Southern Nevada.
Legal Aid apparently assumed that I was aware of the same invalid information that they were using. Based on the contents of the letter of denial (which I had not seen) Legal Aid made decisions which made no sense to me. I thought they were irrational and I assume they felt the same about me. Their decisions were wrong, but I could not challenge them because I had no idea what was going on. When I asked some very specific questions about what they believed, Mr Wulz ignored my questions, merely informing me that I was on the waiting list for possible Pro Bono help.
The lack of answers to reasonable questions left me in the position of seeming to be some kind of crank if I continued trying to find out why nothing that I was being told made any sense.
When I requested a copy of the letter of denial, Nationwide initially refused to provide me with a copy of that letter "because I was represented by an attorney". Even after I provided them with a letter from Legal Services denying that they were representing me, I had to get past email and voice-mail and speak directly to the Nationwide representative - at which point they reluctantly sent me a copy of their letter of denial. Getting this done caused an additional 2 or 3 week delay.
This information shows that I was right in believing that the examiner's report proves my case. It also shows that a serious error was made by Legal Services of Southern Nevada in treating the letter of denial as evidence, rather than opinion. These mistakes were documented in the letter "Magic In Action".
This request for Pro Bono help may not be appropriate for your firm since I do not know your area of practice. I do assume that you have some interest in the common good.
If you are unable or unwilling to provide legal assistance (except by request of a gate-keeper), then I ask that you make a charitable contribution to the Pierce Auto Restoration Fund in the amount of $100. (If you are not a wealthy legal firm, then any amount will help.)
Because of the months of delay that have already occurred, some contributions might allow me to pay for a rental, and pay some basic expenses, while the case works its way through the system.
Click here to donate
Whether or not you are able to make a donation, I would appreciate it if you sent copies of the link to this page to a few other individuals or firms. I've been told that it's necessary to contact a few hundred people to find one or two who are able and willing to help.
The list of people to receive this message might include some firms other than law firms. It could include auto dealers or charitable foundations.
If you are part of a group that might be willing to help, I will add that group to my list. Depending on the total received, this money will go towards repairing or replacing my vehicle. It might go towards obtaining paid legal help if that seems appropriate.
If you want additional information I will send it to you at your request.
This message was sent as a link because it's too long to fit in the "contact me" block used by many websites.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is more than you need to know, but it is a summary of the last few years. My case is simple, but the actions of the insurance company, the repair shop and the legal services "gate-keeper" have made everything a lot more complex:
Before the incident with the automobile, I already had problems. My wife died because some people gave their word and did not keep their word.
I lost my car because the mechanic did not act on his own expert knowledge. The damage could have been much worse. In a way, I was lucky; but I have no car and no money for a replacement.
The defendant's insurance company hired a professional firm to examine my vehicle. This independent examiner's report proved my case. If you were to read the report, you would see that the inspector did a thorough, impartial job and included the statement that the defendant knew that additional fuel hose repairs were necessary.
The report also said that I had been informed and had declined those repairs due to cost. That statement was not true. I was not informed that additional fuel line repairs were needed.
The appointment with the shop was for a minor tuneup and some repairs to the steering wheel. When I discovered the fuel leak, I made it very clear that this was now the high priority. Both the shop owner and I were in agreement about how important is was to repair any leaks in the fuel system.
Fuel lines are inexpensive. Replacing one is simply a matter of cutting a new section of the same length and fitting it in place. In a few cases it might require tightening a clamp.The cost of a fuel line is documented on the shop receipt for the day at $2.99 each for 3.5 lines. It's a little difficult to interpret the 3.5 figure but it's clear that the cost of additional lines was very small.
Given the low cost of fuel lines and the importance of the repair, common sense shows that it was extremely unlikely that I would have declined to have this work done.
I believed that all necessary repairs had been completed.
I had a solid case, but I did not have the money to hire an attorney.
Pro Bono is a gift. Attorneys who provide Pro Bono help are trying to help society and they are supposed to help those who need help. To get Pro Bono help, you need to be approved by one of a few firms who act as "gate-keepers".I filled out all the forms, and I played by all of the rules. I was certified as eligible. I didn't get the help.
The gate-keeper is a 501(3)(3) organization and many people give money to support their work. Those contributions may qualify as a federally recognizable tax deduction.There is some published information that they receive over 12 million dollars per year in contributions - with a payroll cost equal to about 45% of this amount.
The two or three months since my claim was rejected by the insurance company were spent trying to get the "gate-keeper" firm to certify my eligibility for Pro Bono help. There is currently only one remaining firm in Las Vegas that will do this verification.
I followed up each week for several weeks, and finally they confirmed in writing that I was eligible for Pro Bono help.
When it was time to actually get help, I did not receive any help.
There was an exchange of emails where the gate-keeper firm requested that I provide costly expert testimony before they would either do any work on my case, or refer the case to a firm willing to provide Pro Bono help.
I've said that I believe only a few hours of Pro Bono time would be needed. I believe this because the examiner's report was comprehensive and covered everything appropriate to the case. No further expert testimony or depositions are needed. Should the defendant's insurer be unwilling to negotiate, the examiner's report covers everything that would be needed to represent me in court.
As I described above: The only item open to dispute was the statement that I had been informed that additional repairs to the fuel lines were necessary. Supposedly I declined those repairs due to cost.
That statement fails the "smell test". Fuel hose is very inexpensive. It's unlikely that I would have declined a critical repair because of a minimal additional cost. The seriousness of the necessary repairs was established by the fact the the vehicle caught fire.
I pointed out to the gate-keeper that the examiner's report was expert testimony and had already proved my case. I'm not sure whether the insurance company completely understood their own report.
Each time I pointed out that the gate-keeper's request was unnecessary, they ignored my statement and made a request for yet another form of expert testimony. Supposedly no firm would take a case with such high upfront costs - costs which do not exist. There were several emails, each one giving a different reason to avoid providing help.
Each time I demonstrated that what was requested was unnecessary, they ignored my statement and came up with yet another request for something else that was unnecessary.
In the process of responding to their requests, I had to read, re-read and understand the examiner's report. I came to understand that I had a very solid case.
I had a lot of difficulty understanding why neither the insurance company nor the "gate-keeper" were able to understand the examiner's report. As far as I was concerned, it was an expert opinion in plain English.
I grew up at a time when I, and most of my high-school friends, worked in a garage, pumped gas and did minor repairs. We grew up understanding automobiles. I had no problem understanding what was documented in black and white.
It was only recently - on the fifth or so revision of this document - that I realized that there's a good chance that neither the insurance company representative nor my supposed attorney can tell a fuel line from a valve stem.
My best guess is that the "gate-keeper" wanted an expert witness to read them the examiner's report so that they could avoid admitting that they did not understand what it said. That may be too strong a statement, but it is the only thing that I can think of to explain what seems to be irrational behavior.
They made the statement that if I were to find a legal firm willing to provide Pro Bono help, they would certify the case as eligible for Pro Bono Credit.
When I suggested in a later email that there were some problems with their representation, their Deputy Executive Director was quick to state that they took on the case for "investigation" and that they were not in fact my attorney. The actions they took, included sending a demand letter and negotiating with the insurance company. In my last contact with them, the insurance company refused to provide me with any information about my own case "because I had an attorney". I sent them the gate-keepers letter, but they have still not provided the information I requested.
These indicate to me that the gate-keeper was in fact acting as my attorney, but that is beside the point. I informed them that I wanted no further "representation". The only action I wanted was for them to find a firm willing to provide Pro Bono services.
My wife had been ill for two or three years with stage III lymphoma. She had received chemotherapy and home healthcare and was very gradually getting better. Her major problems were muscle weakness and loss of mobility. She was in her early 60s, I am in my early 70s.
Background - including some additional detail and some repetition:
My wife died last June a few months after her Medicare ran out. The only help she could get was from Home Hospice which does not provide any "aggressive medical care".
She was one of the original "Downtown Rejects", who were thrown out of Towne Terrace Apartments so that it could become a mostly Zappos Building. She had been ill with aftereffects of Lymphoma, but was receiving home health care and was gaining ground. The Downtown Project was informed in a letter to Tony Hsieh that forcing someone elderly and infirm to move could have very negative health effects. They forced the move, promising a "pain-free" move. The move was a complete disaster and led to her hospitalization and to her death last June 27.
After her death I took the family Volkswagen to the shop that had worked on it for a dozen years. It needed a minor tune-up and there were some problems with the steering wheel. Prior to the appointment I discovered a fuel leak and added that to the list of repairs.
On the way home from the shop, the engine compartment caught fire effectively destroying the vehicle.
I had planned to file a lawsuit on my own through Small Claims Court when I discovered that the listed values for the car (Bluebook and Craigslist) were larger than the Small Claims Court maximum. I was willing to sue for a smaller amount, but I discovered that I lacked the mental focus and energy needed to deal with a lawsuit
While the basic part of the case seems pretty clear, there are precedents and consumer protection regulations that apply. I really need professional legal help to present my case.
A few weeks ago I wound up in UMC Hospital unable to breathe. They diagnosed and treated it as pneumonia. They don't call it that anymore, but I believe that this medical condition was once referred to as "walking pneumonia". I believe that this has been a persistent condition for quite a while, and it's part of the reason why I did not feel able to deal with the legal issues myself.
Even now, after a week in the hospital, I still lack energy. This is part of the reason I believed that I needed Pro Bono help. While I have been treated for the pneumonia and while I am significantly better, it will still be a while before I am back up to 100%.
Currently I have used up my reserve funds. I have very little money and no transportation so I need all the help I can get.
I lost my wife because some people did not keep their word. I miss her.
I lost my car because the mechanic did not act on his own expert opinion. It could have been much worse. If you have ever seen someone whose fingers and toes were turned into burnt sausage by a fire, you know how much worse the damage might have been. I was very lucky.
Pro Bono is a gift. People who provide Pro Bono help are trying to help society and those who need help. I filled out all the forms, and I played by the rules. I did not receive the help.
The gate-keeper is a 501(3)(3) organization and many people contribute. That contribution may qualify as a federally recognizable tax deduction. Published information indicates that they receive about $12 million/year and about 45% of that amount goes for staff salaries.
Since I am not getting Pro Bono help, what I am requesting here is a contribution to the Pierce Auto Restoration Fund.
Click here to donate