Life is risky and uncertain. We know that inherently, but we always assume that major accidents happen to other people and that our regular commute to work will not end in catastrophic injuries. We believe this because if we truly weighed the risk of every car ride, crossing of a busy street, or bike ride in traffic, we might never venture out.
However, the possibility that something terrible can happen to you, while ever-present, is not in our collective consciousness.
Many of us speculate over drinks with friends what we would be willing to endure for a million dollars. We would eat bugs, run naked down our street, spend the night in a haunted house, whatever your dare may be.
But what if you don’t get to choose what happens to you; someone else chooses for you? That’s what happened to our client “S.”
S had just gotten off the train that took him from his suburban home to his downtown office (this was pre-pandemic, so going to a downtown office was considered normal) when he began crossing the street. Admittedly, he was not in the crosswalk, was crossing mid-block, and was with a large pack of about a dozen or so commuters all jaywalking at 7:00 in the morning.
Just then, an SUV squealed around the turn and accelerated. Witnesses, all experienced train commuters, stated under oath that the driver appeared to be accelerating further and swerved into the path of the pedestrians. S had nowhere to go, no place to run, no place to hide. He was mowed down by the speeding vehicle.
Just like that, the married, digital production executive in his mid-40s, had his leg, and his life, fractured into pieces.
The femur is the thigh bone, the largest bone in the human body. It’s one of the most difficult bones to fracture because of its size. That’s good, because as you’ll soon read, if your femur breaks, you’ll be out of commission for a while.
Our client, S, was a super-fit marathon runner, so his femur bone was about as strong as it could be.
Nevertheless, the huge and strong bone was no match for a speeding two-ton SUV. His left femur fractured in multiple, jagged fragments, several thrust through the skin. This is what is known as a compound, comminuted fracture. It is one of the most significant and hard to repair fractures. The surgery requires a long titanium rod to be installed into the middle of his broken thigh bone, held in place with multiple screws and plates. S will likely have this hardware as a souvenir of his accident for the rest of his life.
Unfortunately for S, he also dislocated the opposite side shoulder (his dominant side) and sustained a fracture of the shoulder socket. The only “good” news about this injury was that he was able to avoid surgery.
With the shoulder injury on the opposite side from his leg injury, it was impossible for S to use a cane or a crutch for several months, so he was confined to a wheelchair. There was literally no household activity or activity of his daily living he could do without assistance from his wife.
No dog walking.
No carrying dishes.
No bathroom or showering without help.
Yup, that means he was completely helpless in caring for himself for several months.
Worst of all for a marathoner like S, he could not exercise. No swimming or running. He could barely sit in a chair at first. And his poor wife had to do all the things S used to do around the house, plus take him to therapy, AND do her own job.
S was in the hospital for about four days and then spent a few more weeks across the street at the rehab facility before he even set foot in his house. Even then, therapy had to come to him until he was strong enough to get into and out of a car to be driven for therapy.
For at least the first six months after this crash, he had very little autonomy.
Not so fast.
Insurance companies don’t just pay people.
Even when their insured pleads guilty to failing to exercise due care for pedestrians.
Even when their insured breaks a man’s leg into pieces that push through the skin.
They force you to file a lawsuit and go through the three-year process of deposition after deposition. The process can wear you down, and insurance companies know this. In fact, they count on it.S hired me because he knew I would be dogged in representing him and his wife, L.
The lawsuit was filed. Witnesses were spoken to. Doctors were interviewed. I put pressure on the insurance company and its lawyers. And I kept the pressure on for three solid years, while S focused on rebuilding his strength and his life.
In the end, S was ready to put this chapter behind him. He had recovered use of his leg enough that he could run regularly again. He has not yet attempted another marathon, something he was able to do annually for years. The doctor put the ball in his court, saying it depends on what pain he can tolerate. I would not bet against S trying another marathon.
Swimming is something else that S cannot do without discomfort, due to the lack of mobility from his shoulder injury. However, he has returned to strength training with weights, and he is just about as strong as he was before.
This is one of the more amazing and remarkable recoveries from injuries like these. S’s prior mental and physical conditioning allowed him to get back almost to where he was before.
For S and L, his physical recovery is fantastic. He can go through with the rest of his life and, for the most part, pursue the activities he always did before.
For the purposes of his case, this was not so great, as the insurance company and its lawyers argued that he was almost as good as new.
That’s how much S’s case settled for.
He would have accepted less, but I would not let him. I kept pressing, threatening, cajoling, and ultimately forced the insurer to come up by over $100,000.Could S have gotten more at trial? Perhaps. But trial is always a risk. You never know what a jury will do.
Also, with the pandemic now slowly reopening the court system and jury trials, it might have been another year or two before a trial date. Another consideration was the type of jurors in whose hands S’s future would have rested.
We sat down and assessed the risks and rewards, the pros and cons, together. And after lots of soul-searching, the case was settled.
Yes, a personal injury settlement compensates you for your medical bills, your injuries, pain and suffering, and loss of a normal life. But it can never turn back the clock. You will never be the same person you were before the crash.
Our civil justice system of torts is based upon monetary compensation to injury victims. We cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The only thing we can do is try to get him as much money as possible.
Next time you play the “what would you do for a million dollars?” game, remember to appreciate how little that money would really do. Isn’t it better to never get hurt in the first place?
And if you are a driver, shouldn’t you think extra hard every time you look down for a split second to change the radio station, or have a bad day, or steal a glance at your phone?
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.