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It’s Social Wellness Month – What Does That Mean For Personal Injury Attorneys?

July 21, 2021

July is Social Wellness Month and we’re observing this month’s themes of support and comfort by emphasizing the important resource of social support in the legal world. Social wellness is far from a trivial “bonus” in people’s lives – it’s a fundamental societal need and part of what makes us human. Social support helps people ground themselves in the event of personal tragedies or injuries, and having strong social support networks also helps people envision what they want their lives to look like in the aftermath of terrible circumstances. Social wellness is a core part of how Deratany & Kosner approaches law and justice.

What are some of the kinds of support that make up peoples’ lives? Emotional support, instrumental support – material, logistical support such as money – and informational support. Emotional support provides someone with empathy, compassion, and understanding. Instrumental support provides someone with ease of mind and material safety. Informational support provides information, knowledge, and options to people.

When we work with clients who have experienced personal injury, survived horrific accidents, or been wronged by the foster care system, we know that it’s our responsibility to give them grace and holistic understanding of their situation. It isn’t simply “about the money.” It’s a mistake to assume that the only important kind of social support is purely material, and throughout Deratany & Kosner’s experience advocating for the wellbeing of our clients, we’ve always approached our work trying to proactively cultivate social wellness for the people we fight for as well as reactively support them in the aftermath of tragedy.

There’s no “perfect” social support system, and no one person alone can make up for the extenuating factors of poverty, isolation, and stress that personal injury attorneys see frequently in their clients. We know that comprehensive social wellness is far more than what we can solely provide, but we wholeheartedly recognize that our work is about more than simply getting accident victims reimbursements and monetary damages.

Here are guiding questions that we believe every attorney should approach their work with.

  1. What emotional burden can you help someone shoulder? Attorneys aren’t therapists, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help alleviate the emotional burdens of our clients. As we’ve written about in the past, Deratany & Kosner works with clients who are operating under massive emotional stress or coping with PTSD. Given the prevalence of emotional weight in our field, we approach our clients with understanding and compassion. Whether that is providing a non-judgmental space for our clients to tell their stories and experiences or encouraging our clients to take care of their mental wellness, we believe that cultivating emotional support is a fundamental part of personal injury law.
  2. What can you do to logistically make things easier on someone? In personal injury law or settlements, this is usually the “end game” monetary aspect. Instrumental support such as access to medical treatment or monetary damages can make someone’s emotional burden less heavy and provide them with a critical opportunity for recovery. Every case and story we work with is unique. It’s important to ask clients what financial or material stressors are impacting their lives in regards to their case – and what outcomes they’d ideally like us to achieve.
  3. How can you make sure that someone is making the most informed choice? It’s our duty to provide people with as many options and information as possible. The information we provide to people might not make their burdens go away entirely, but it can certainly make things smoother. The world of civil litigation may be familiar to attorneys, but the average layperson who finds themself needing representation probably doesn’t know about procedures or potential strategies. It’s a crucial part of our work to make sure that we’re providing our clients with as much information as possible. Keeping people in the dark only fuels isolation – social wellness has to be empowering and illuminating to combat this.

Social wellness isn’t a one-time need. It’s a resource that we all must foster, develop, and replenish throughout our lives. As attorneys who work with highly emotional, stressful cases, we understand that it’s critical to approach our work through the lens of social wellness – for the sake of our clients and for the smoothness of our fight for justice.

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