It occasionally happens that bad things happen to people who are unable, because of their mental state, or other deficiencies, to thoroughly understand. The elderly and the mentally infirm, just like the rest of us, are not exempt from the negligence of others. It also sometimes happens, to the shame of all humankind, that when such handicapped individuals are injured they are misled by fully capable others who can and do take advantage of infirmity.
A Classic Atlanta Injury Case
A very old case that was heard by the Georgia Court of Appeals in 1956 demonstrates this horrible truth perfectly.
In the days before cell phones, an elderly woman and her husband who were en route to Atlanta, stop to use the telephone of a trucking company along the way. As they were parking the car to enter the building, one of the trucks in the lot backs into their car causing damage to the vehicle and injury to the woman. She was just getting out of her car to go inside when the truck slammed into the car. The car door forcefully impacts her back causing her to suffer excruciating pain. (This was long before the advent of medical tests like MRIs and ultrasound so the medical particulars here are not thoroughly understood.)
At the site of the accident, a witness – an employee of the trucking company – informs the woman that she cannot expect to collect from the trucking company for the damages to the car or her broken eyeglasses since the accident took place on the private property of the trucking company. This news sends the 76-year-old lady into panic and inconsolable distress.
She goes home and takes to her bed using hot water bottles to ease her pain. She is racked with physical pain and distraught that she will be unable to recover what has been lost to her.
A Lie to Hide From the Injury Expense
In the days that follow, representatives from the trucking company visit her and, while they demonstrate concern over her injuries, they share in her sorrow that she has no option at all for recovery. Eventually they raise the hope that the trucking company’s insurance company might be able to help her replace her glasses and help her to fix her car out of the goodness of their hearts.
The court record contains the woman’s signed statement and her deposition among other documents including a document obtained in the weeks after the accident by a representative of the trucking company’s insurance carrier who gave the injured woman a check for $125.00 in return for her signature on a release and settlement of her claim. As long as she didn’t cash the check, he told her, the release would not be binding.
The Lawsuit Filed 7 Years After the Accident
Some years later when she was 83, and still in pain, the woman filed suit against the trucking company.
When it became evident that the elderly woman’s trial court testimony was somewhat different from her initial statement made in the days after the accident, the trial court issued a directed judgment in favor of the trucking company. (Meaning that the court arrived at the verdict without allowing the jury to consider the facts and arrive at a verdict of their own.)
The plaintiffs appealed.
In 1956, when the appeals court reviewed the case they found that while there were inconsistencies in the woman’s testimony, the stories were generally consistent. The appellate judge overruled the trial court’s verdict finding that the woman’s advanced age, failing vision, and her mental anguish at the time caused her to be confused about some of the facts. Of course, her age and mental state should have been taken into consideration and left for the jury to decide.
History Can Repeat Itself With Injury Law
This case, though over half a century old, plays out again and again today. We human beings often make decisions, as this lady did, in order to make the best of the situation as we see it. We usually take the best option available to us. This woman wanted to fix her car and buy a new set of glasses, so she chose to believe the trucking company’s representatives and take the word of an insurance adjustor who plainly didn’t mind deceiving her.
If you are ever a victim in an accident caused by the negligence of others, don’t sign your life away. Don’t simply take the advice of an insurance adjustor who works for the other side. Before you sign anything, call the offices of The Millar Law Firm. Allow us to evaluate your case before you decide to give up what is rightfully yours – compensation for what you’ve lost.