Wednesday, May 11

Ever want to be on a jury

**This is an extremely long post and I apologize for it, but if you have time, please read it and give me your opinion.**

Back in Jan 2004 when I was 4 months pregnant with little L, daddy K and I were in an accident. Not the kind of accident you're probably thinking of, we were in a golf cart accident. We are now involved in a lawsuit and I'd like your opinion. Here's the story...

In anticipation of daddy K getting this job that would move us out of the country, we decided we would sell our house and move into an apartment. If the job didn't come through, we'd live in the apartment for a year and then buy another house. Our house was cute but small and not in the best neighborhood. One Saturday morning, we stopped by an apartment complex to take a look. Turns out this place didn't accept dogs and we have 2, but I wanted to look at a model unit anyway...I'm nosey that way. We rode in a golf cart with the apartment lady (she'll be AL for the rest of the post) to the model unit. The apartment was nice but not all that fancy schmancy. I made small talk with the woman showing us the apartment and mentioned that I was pregnant. At that time, I was just looking fat not pregnant.

We get back in the golf cart to go back to the management office. AL is driving, I'm sitting next to her and daddy K is sitting in the back seat that faces outward. Instead of reversing out of the parking space, she drives forward. She doesn't just roll forward, it is as if she floors it as hard as she could. In front of us is a parking curb and a then a 6 foot drop straight down into a ditch. The golf cart jumps the curb and drops head first down into the ditch.

It all happened so fast but it was like slow motion. I remember thinking - oh shit...we're going to crash...the baby. I grabbed a metal bar on the roof with my right arm as we fell and draped my left arm across my belly. I don't remember feeling us actually hit the ground, but I remember feeling us fall. The next thing I remember was hearing AL moaning and saying she was sorry. She had rolled out of the cart and was laying next to it. Then I saw daddy K on the ground about 7 feet away not moving much. I started yelling to him but he wasn't moving. Eventually, he got up on his hands and knees but was just staring at the ground not saying anything. I was laying on my right side and my right arm had gone through the roof. My arm was pinned under the cart and I couldn't move. I knew that my shoulder was broken. The seat cushion had popped out and was laying on top of me. In golf carts, the batteries are located under the seat so now the battery fluid is leaking all over my face and body. I moved my legs to make sure they were ok and they moved fine.

Daddy K was finally able to get up. He was thrown up into the air and landed on his back. He said he thought he was going to die and it felt like his chest was crushed. When I saw him on his hands and knees, he was trying to breathe. It took a long time before he could catch a breath. He came over to me and started freaking out a little but I was completely calm. In crazy situations, we tend to do that. If one of us freaks out, the other stays calm. He started yelling for help and for someone to call 911. I can still hear his voice full of fear, "Someone call 911! My wife! She's pregnant!" People started coming out of their apartments. I told him about the battery fluid so he got someone to give him some water and a cloth and he started wiping it off my face. I remember thinking - don't swallow it, it will hurt the baby.

The ambulances and fire trucks got there pretty quickly. The super nice firemen had to rip the roof off so they could pull me out. Since I was laying on my side and my arm was above my head, when they pulled me out, they made me lower my arm to my side. HOLY FUCKING SHIT THAT HURT! I also remember thinking that I must be looking so fat because my shirt was pulled over my belly for some reason. Maybe because I always kept one hand on the baby. It was not until I was in the hospital that a nurse said - do you want me to pull your shirt down? Anyway, they put me on a stretcher and lifted me out of the pit and into an ambulance. They did the same to daddy K and we were off to the hospital. AL was put in a separate ambulance and taken to a different hospital. Daddy K said she had hit her head because he saw some blood on her forehead. The EMT in our ambulance said kind of bitterly, "they better not bring her to the same place we're going." I know AL didn't do it on purpose and that it was an accident, but I had to smile when the EMT said that. During the ambulance ride, I really began to worry about daddy K. His vitals are not so great...his breathing, heartrate, and blood pressure were inconsistent. He was still so worried and freaking out about me, so I stayed calm and kept telling him we were going to be ok.

In the hospital, daddy K and I were separated. I'm brought into a room and immediately a portable ultrasound machine is brought in. I hadn't felt the baby move since the crash but at 20 weeks, I wasn't feeling him all the time yet anyway. I heard the heartbeat and that was the first time I cried since all of this happened. I completely lost it. I guess I was just waiting to see how the baby was before I broke down. They were tears of happiness and of fear because now I was freaking out about daddy K - he wasn't there to see me so it was ok for me to lose it. The dr told me to see my OB/GYN within a few days for a more thorough ultrasound.

Many hours later, we were discharged to go home and I was told to see an orthopedic surgeon on Monday. Physical injuries ended up being Daddy K had a separated shoulder and bruised ribs. Thankfully that was it for him. I had broken the ball (of the ball and socket joint) in my shoulder and tore my rotator cuff, several broken ribs, and burns on my face from the battery fluid. My OB did an ultrasound and said everything looked ok but there was no way to say with absolute certainty that the baby was not affected until he was born. The orthopedic surgeon said the break was pretty bad and there was no way to know the extent of the rotator damage and if I'd need surgery without doing an MRI. He didn't want to do an MRI while I was pregnant so we'd have to wait until the baby was born...5 months later. If I did end up needing surgery, they would do it not long after the baby was born.

Right after this happened was when I really started to show the pregnancy and feel pregnant. With my shoulder broken, I couldn't dress myself, wash my hair, fix my hair, put on make up...nothing. So for the rest of the pregnancy, I looked and felt like shit. I missed over 3 months of work (on doctor's orders) which was a huge pain in the ass because I was a teacher so I had to deal with lesson plans and substitutes all that time. I was in physical therapy three times a week which got harder and harder the bigger I got. I had to sleep sitting up on the couch. Sex could not happen, even if I wanted it to. I was terrified for a long time afterwards to be in the car, especially if we drove over and overpass because I was afraid of crashing. I'd even get scared walking in a parking lot because I was afraid someone would lose control of their car and hit me. And even though the ultrasounds looked ok, I was constantly worried about the baby.

Little L was born on May 26, 2004 and is a healthy boy. I had the MRI on my shoulder shortly after and thankfully, I didn't need surgery. I started physical therapy again a few weeks after he was born. But my shoulder is not back to normal. I can use it now but not in the same way as before. I don't have full range of motion. I can't lay on my right side for long or else it starts to hurt. I can't swim or tread water. I can't swing a tennis racket or golf club. I can't hold that arm up above my head for very long without pain and weakness. I can't reach back to little L from the driver's seat in the car. The burns on my face cleared up without scarring. These are only the things I can think of right now. It's been 1 year and 4 months since the accident.

So here's where it stands now. Our hard money damages total about $21 - that's medical bills and my missed salary, stuff that we can prove. The insurance company for the other side has offered us $40k to settle. Our lawyer gets 1/3 of whatever we end up with. Our lawyer was great in the beginning - he was a friend of my husband's coworker. However, his lawfirm deals with big time lawsuits. This case is small change to him. But I think he was banking on me needing surgery. If I had to have surgery right after giving birth, this lawsuit would be completely different. To me, this isn't all about money yet I'm insulted with what we've been offered. Hard money damages are one thing, but the psychological, pain and suffering, and permanent damage are much more important to me. In my opinion, seeing my husband laying on the ground motionless - even if just for a few minutes - is priceless. Or what about daddy K seeing me, pregnant trapped under the golf cart. But even more priceless was contantly thinking about the baby and if he was going to be ok...was there something that didn't show on the ultrasound or did I swallow battery acid that I'm passing on to him?

Like I said, this isn't about a dollar amount but at the same time, it is about a dollar amount. I know it was an accident, but that doesn't make it ok. I want this behind us, far behind us, but the past year and a half have been really hard because of this accident and I don't want to walk away from it feeling cheated. Our lawyer doesn't think we should settle for $40k but thinks we should really think about it if they go up to $50k. Remember, he gets a third. If they don't offer us something we think is reasonable - and that's all we want is reasonable - we will take it to court which will drag this on for another year or two. So finally, here's my question for you...

If you were a juror on a case like this, what do you think is a reasonable amount and why? Should I expect more? less?


At 11:47 PM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

Wow. What an ordeal, to say the least! I'm not sure what to say, as far as how much money you should get goes. But if the lawyer gets 1/3, then it seems like 40K would barely cover your proovable losses.

On another note, thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm jealous that you get to live in Guadalajara. I went there for vacation once and loved it. Plus, I'm in a ballet folklorico dance group in Houston, and all of my favorite dances come from Jalisco! Anyway, enjoy Mexico while you're there!

P.S. I'm an AF Brat too!

At 9:25 PM, Blogger ~Stephanie~ said...

My opinion is that 40k would not cover the time you have spent with everything..You have to look at it as a long term thing you are still having problems with it and it will never be the same..You have to deal with it daily so I think 50k plus would be a better for you and your family..I know how you feel as if it was a totaly accident and it is not the money but, you have to consider you are not able to do things you should beable to do..


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