This post is one in a series of personal injury legal stories, told by the people who were hurt.  These personal injury stories come from people from all over the United States who suffered personal injuries and tried to do something about it.

These writers were not clients of our firm, Butler Tobin.  Some of the writers hired lawyers, and some did not.  Of those who hired lawyers, some had good experiences, and some had bad ones.  We’re presenting these personal, personal injury stories just as the authors wrote them, without judgment or comment.

Here is one person’s story.

Personal Injury Story: No Lawyer for Car Accident & Hurt Back

The Car Accident

It was a clear, beautiful day. I remember that only because it seemed absurd that an accident could happen on such a nice day. If there had been rain or it had been late at night, it would have made sense. Instead, it was a beautiful March morning when a truck slammed into the side of our car on the highway.

I won’t ever know why he lost control. Did he fall asleep? Was he on his phone? He blamed his car, the officer said. Typical.

There was only adrenaline at first, then confusion. The pain didn’t come until later. I remember bouncing around inside the car, waiting for it to end. My body was contorted at the time of impact because I had turned to grab something out of the backseat. The doctor said that’s what made it worse. Maybe it wouldn’t still flare up occasionally nearly two years later if I had been sitting differently, but that doesn’t matter now.

holding cellphone while driving

Injuries from the Accident

By the end of the day, I was staggering around my class trying to survive an afterschool tutoring session while the ache in my neck and back began to climb numbers on the pain scale.

The next day, after the doctor’s appointment, prescriptions, and x-rays, I received the first phone call from the insurance agent. She wanted me to tell her everything that had happened and let me know that she would be recording the conversation. I felt vulnerable. As I recounted the event, I was careful and aware that everything I said would be used to the agent’s advantage. It was the first of many conversations with the insurance company, each one feeling like a chess game behind a façade of pleasantries.

I took a few days off and then felt that I was healthy enough to go back to work. I taught during the day and waited tables at a popular restaurant in the evenings. I struggled through my first shift back at the restaurant. I hoped it would improve, but by the end of the week, I left a lucrative evening shift because of back pain. Stubborn, and determined to work, I attempted several times to return to my evening job. I was taken off the schedule after several failed attempts to make it through the night. I notified the agent and was told that I should not be feeling this kind of pain. I tried explaining how the constant standing, leaning over tables, twisting through the night only made it worse. I should have taken it as a sign then to hire a lawyer.

 

Dealing with the Car Insurance Company

I went to therapy hoping it would speed up my recovery. The insurance agent told me that I would have to pay out of pocket for the treatment, but that the company would reimburse me afterwards. I didn’t have the money and didn’t argue or insist that the company pay. Instead, I charged my credit card. It was in those moments, full of pain and frustration, trying to heal at my own expense while arguing with the insurance agent about the extent of my suffering that I felt the smallest.

I didn’t speak to a lawyer because I was already losing money and was afraid of paying a huge chunk of any settlement I reached. That was a mistake. I wasn’t qualified or experienced enough to understand my rights or question the procedures of the company. Instead, I felt I had to go along with everything and wait it out, hoping that I would walk away with my life returned to normal as quickly as possible.

I needed someone with my best interests in mind and with experience handling these situations to stand up for me. Instead, I thought I could handle it.

The insurance agent kept telling me that the airbags hadn’t deployed and that I shouldn’t be in pain. There were no broken bones or internal injuries or anything that showed up on an x-ray besides the typical swelling. But after failing to come back to my second job a month after the accident, growing aggravated in my classroom when the pain flared up, struggling to sleep through the night, and spending my free time lying in bed with my legs propped up and an ice pack on my back, I knew there were types of pain that didn’t show up on x-rays.

 

Car Accident Settlement

I was furious when I received the first proposed settlement months later. They had managed to reimburse my expenses, but ignored the interest from charging all the treatments to my credit card. The insurance agent didn’t understand the concept of tips either, or at least pretended not to. My restaurant shifts were averaged out at the lowest possible denominator after several back and forth arguments. Most insulting was the amount offered for pain and suffering. I furiously debated with the insurance agent who dodged my calls and kept me waiting. It was only after I threatened to hire a lawyer that I was sent an adjusted settlement.

I went from being a lead server working several lucrative shifts a week at a popular restaurant to a liability. I couldn’t sleep through the night without waking up in pain. I struggled to effectively teach my students through a schedule peppered with absences for treatments. My life had been derailed by an inattentive driver, and I was having to argue with someone who didn’t believe I was in pain trying to buy me off with a handful of dollars and cents as if it could alleviate months of discomfort and frustration forced onto me.

After complaining, the agent made a slight readjustment to the settlement as if only to say that any real compensation wouldn’t happen without litigation.

I folded.

I still regret it. I needed a professional to look out for my interests. I needed someone to stand up to a powerful company. I needed help so I could focus on trying to put my life back together. I needed a lawyer.

-James De Roche

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