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: Truck Accident & Inexperienced Lawyer
July 25, 1995
The light was green. Nonetheless, as I entered the intersection, a cement mixer barreling from the other direction took a turn and hit the driver’s side of my car.
I don’t remember the impact. I was rendered unconscious…regaining consciousness only after the paramedics arrived. When I opened my eyes, I saw my shattered windshield. A man at my window showed me a Polaroid of my car and told me to remain calm and to not move. Everyone’s voices sounded far away. Strangers slowed their cars and stared as they passed by. I saw my driver side door smashed in, and a man asked if I had been wearing my seat belt. I said yes and looked down for it, feeling pain for the first time. I felt a small piece of glass in my right eye. I looked up to the rearview mirror, but it was missing. I felt for the glass and pulled it from the corner of my eye. I’m asked for an emergency contact, but my entire family was out of state on vacation. I provided my neighbor’s name, Anne, and asked them to also contact my boyfriend.
I heard men’s voices as they tried to determine the best way to remove me from the vehicle. Two men pulled me through the passenger side onto a stretcher. I moaned and winced, most likely screamed. My ambulance sped toward Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The ride is bumpy, and my body felt each and every bump on those roads. Upon arriving, I’m immediately taken from the ambulance and wheeled into the ER. Every movement of the stretcher shot pain through my body.
Medical staff surrounded me; I was terrified. Anne soon arrived; she held my hand, stroked my hair, kissed me on the forehead…being a mother for me while my own wasn’t there. My clothes were cut off, my jewelry removed, and my contacts extracted from my eyes. I’m then catheterized and have an NG tube inserted, causing me to vomit.
I’m placed on a giant sling to be weighed. Then, X-rays and onto CT. I’m instructed at one point to hold my breath during the CT…which I attempted and failed due to feeling like my insides were about to explode. After being removed from the machine, I’m told my spleen had ruptured. Immediately, I’m whisked to an OR. My spleen was removed, and I underwent exploratory surgery to determine any further internal injury; I have a foot-long scar down my abdomen.
After surgery, my first visitor was my boyfriend (whom I’ve currently been married to now for twenty years). I’m hooked up to morphine, multiple IVs, a catheter, and compression sleeves for my legs. My parents and younger brother arrive by noon the following day…after having driven all night.
Unfortunately, due to insurance, I was discharged from the hospital a week after the accident…even though I could barely move due to pain. The bumpy ride home was grueling. Once home, I immediately threw up.
Lying flat in a bed was painful…and I couldn’t lie down or get back up without assistance. I chose to sleep in a recliner in the living room. My dad slept on the couch next to me in case I needed him. He’d awaken in the middle of the night to administer my pain medication.
Eight days after my accident, I took my first real bath. My mom had to lower me into the tub, wash me, help me back out, dry me off, and help me into my clothes. I was incapable.
I continued to hurt: knees, abdomen, sides, ribs, hips, neck, head, joints in my hands, and up and down my spine. I was unable to extend my right arm. I was unable to stand up straight. My face, knees, legs, arms…all bruised.
The next several months consisted of flashbacks during the day and nightmares during sleep. In September, I returned to college, yet needed to drop half my course load. Concentrating on my studies was difficult, and walking to class was painful. I quit my job because it was too taxing on my body. By February, I reached a point of wishing I had died in the accident. Pain endured daily. I was emotionally drained. I simply wanted to escape my painful existence. Immense physical pain persisted daily for well over a year.
Medical bills, loss of wages, extra semesters of college tuition, and more would need to be taken care of. The decision was made within a day of my accident to obtain a lawyer. I was unable to do so…I was hospitalized, on pain meds, and in excruciating pain. My parents chose for me…a friend of a friend who was a personal injury lawyer; he had practiced law for sixteen years. I put my trust in him to guide me and do what needed to be done. For nearly three years…depositions, expert witnesses, mediation, a failed jury selection. It was one battle after another.
Not until the day we went to court did my lawyer mention that it would be his first time, that he had always been able to settle. That disclosure didn’t sit well with me; I wondered if he was using this as a preemptive excuse in case the day went poorly.
Jury selection day was the first time I saw the other driver. Until then, he had been a faceless terror. When the company’s name was mentioned before jury selection, at least three potential jurors mentioned knowing someone who had been killed by drivers of the same company; they shared outrage. As a result, the judge threw out the entire tainted pool.
For three years, I watched my lawyer rack up fees willy-nilly. Flying here and there for expert witness interviews, hiring a company to create large sky-view boards of the accident area, not communicating enough with me…the client. I felt powerless. After the failed jury selection, I surrendered. I was exhausted and did not have faith in my lawyer to win this battle for me. I settled…for the amount offered a year prior…before another year’s worth of fees had been accumulated by my lawyer.
Ultimately, I received a check, minus my lawyer’s fees. That money is gone; however, my physical pain and weakened immune system remain…racking up fees of their own.
~ Alicia T. Rust