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Jon Lewis
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Food for Thought – Words from Actual Wreck Victim

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We were contacted yesterday by this woman about her case. I asked her if she would mind writing her story for others to read. I think it’s important for people to understand how injured victims actually suffer. When these injuries occur, you find out about all the things you take for granted on a daily basis. Your life is changed simply because someone else failed to pay proper attention to what they were doing. This is why we have insurance and why victims are entitled to compensation. We aren’t talking about millions of dollars – simply compensation.

So, here is her story

If you think you are safe while legally using a crosswalk, think again. On November 16, 2009 I was crossing a city street and a large City work van hit me when I was about a third the way across. First I thought he would stop, but he kept coming. I put my left arm out straight to protect help myself and my hand hit his front left fender. The van broke my wrist and it sent me flying. I hit the pavement hard some 8-10 feet away.

I guess you might think I’m lucky that’s all that happened, but as I watched his rear tire come within a few feet of my head, I didn’t feel lucky at all. My wrist was swelling rapidly and I was badly bruised and stunned from landing so hard. Fortunately, the police were close by and they called an ambulance. I spent hours in the emergency room waiting for care. The emergency room doc took x-rays and determined that I had broken my wrist, but was okay otherwise. They splinted my wrist, made me an appointment with an orthopedic doctor for the following day and gave me some pain killers. (Later that evening, it felt like my arm was on fire and it ached terribly even with the pain killers. I barely slept at all for the next few nights.)

I had to have a friend meet me at the emergency room that night. She drove me to my car which was in a parking lot across town. Driving home with one hand was just the beginning of a long ordeal of trying to do ordinary things with one hand. Trying to take off and put on clothes was remarkably difficult. Going to the bathroom meant trying to push down and later pull up your slacks and then under pants with one hand… which BTW takes a very long time. (I had some close calls!) Dressing in the morning was even more difficult. For you women out there, just try hooking a bra with one hand, or blow drying your hair with one hand. You can hold the hair dryer or hold the brush, pick one. Finding clothes that fit over a cast was challenging every morning for seven long weeks. I couldn’t even mop the kitchen floor because I couldn’t wring out the mop with one hand! Fixing meals, sweeping, and taking out the trash turned in to huge time consuming hassles. I had to get up an extra hour and half early to make it to work on time.

Because the accident happened in November, my job responsibilities included end-of-year spreadsheets. Ever try using Excel with one hand? The sheets took forever to complete. I worked a lot of overtime to make up for my slowness. I went from touch typing to hunt and peck. I could no longer talk on the phone and enter data. My arm ached and I worked late almost every night for several weeks.

After three casts (pink, purple and green), I started rehab. Breaking bones is very painful, but rehab is like breaking your wrist again and again at every visit. I kept thinking, “I didn’t do anything wrong, yet I am in so much pain! It’s so terribly unfair.” I fought back the tears at almost every visit.

A couple of weeks after the accident, the City’s insurance adjuster called to make an appointment. I wasn’t out to sue the City, I just wanted a reasonable settlement. I signed some forms so that he could get copies of my medical records dealing with the accident. He said it would take awhile, but it was in the works.

After several weeks I emailed him and he told me he had all of them but the emergency room records. He told me they had not responded. I called their billing office and they said the adjuster had never requested them. I had a copy of the signed form, so I faxed it to them. They never called me back and they didn’t send the records to the adjuster. I called again. This time they told me the form the adjuster had me sign was not HIPAA compliant. They finally accepted a letter from me, combined with yet another phone call.

The records were on the way. The adjuster was unavailable for several days, so I heard nothing. When I contacted him, he said he now needed a letter from my employer that could verify my pay and time lost from work. This took another week. If you are thinking it must be over now, it wasn’t. Next was my insurance carrier’s subrogation department. They think they paid the medical providers, but couldn’t really tell. It went on and on.

Finally, the City’s settlement offer came in an email this week. After a year and three months of waiting, my pain and suffering was worth $8,000 dollars to the City. I could hardly believe my eyes! For three and a half months my daily life had been turned upside down and this was their offer. I wish I had called an attorney from the emergency room! It has been over a year and my little finger won’t close all the way and I still have numbness and constant tingling in my arm. I thought the City would be fair and offer me $20—25,000, given I had not hired an attorney and was not looking to “retire” on the settlement. I told the City’s insurance adjuster from the beginning that I would accept a fair offer… and he seemed like a nice man.

Advice: Call an attorney right away. If you don’t think you need one after the first meeting, you can always go back to handling it yourself, but be prepared to wait a year or so and get a pittance for your pain, suffering, gross inconvenience, and lingering medical issues.