Joan Rivers potential medical malpractice lawsuit reminds us it’s not about the money

There is the impression in the United States, that families that chose to hire a lawyer and investigate an injury case (negligence, medical malpractice, wrongful death, survival claim against health care provider, nursing home, hospital, doctor, etc.)  are only doing so because they are greedy, sue happy, money hungry. I’ve heard it all from strangers and even friends during my professional career.

Surely, people must be financially motivated in all of their actions?

It’s why we give to charity – just for the tax benefit.

It’s why we give to a homeless mother of two on the street corner – for the financial offset we receive when years later when our tax dollars are no longer paying for her foodstamps, or WIC support.

Everything we do as a society is motivated by money? RIGHT?


Most of our clients come to us with a potential injury lawsuit because they want some accountability, an apology, or some recognition for their loss and pain. They are shocked when we tell them the only thing a civil lawsuit in Virginia can accomplish is money.

Do you think Joan Rivers family needs the money? Do you think they hired a prominent NYC law firm because an extra million or two will really mean the difference between paying Joan’s Estate bills, or not? I don’t. 

I think most families, even those in the public spotlight, want answers as to how someone could die in the care of a healthcare provider of a totally preventable accident.

Loving daughters and wives want to know why they spent months in ICU praying their loved one would wake up, walk again or speak just a few words  – when they learn the doctor failed to read the test results, or see the signs of infection in their loved one before sending him home without adequate medication.

Families would rather have apologies, policy changes and accountability than money, and yet, we assume if they enter the courtroom and seek that accountability their motivation is purely financial.

At least when a wealthy person files a lawsuit we don’t assume it’s all about the money. For once we consider there may be an alternative motivation.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at