- The best thing to do when you’ve been involved in an accident is to go to the doctor as soon as possible.
- The Eggshell Rule says when a previous injury or condition was made worse due to an accident, the person who is responsible due to negligence is still accountable for those injuries.
- Among the most difficult injuries to prove in a court of law are those that involve the back and neck – and these injuries don’t always present themselves right away.
Today’s heavily-congested highways are filled with trucks in all shapes and sizes. And inevitably, these rigs are involved in serious accidents every day. Because they are generally larger than the average passenger car, when truck-involved accidents occur, they often result in terrible tragedies.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a truck-related accident, it can be difficult to know where to turn. But it’s important to understand you don’t have to go through this challenging time on your own. The injury lawyers at The Millar Law Firm have been helping Atlanta families, friends, and neighbors recover much needed and deserved compensation for truck-related accidents for more than 29 years.
Here are some common injury-related situations and case result stories from other victims.
The Impact of Previous Injuries in an Accident Case
An “eggshell plaintiff” is used to describe someone who has a predisposition to certain injuries. You may know someone who has a “bum knee” that is easily twisted or sprained or a “glass jaw” that breaks at the drop of a hat. When a person with such predisposition is further injured in an accident, The Eggshell Rule comes into play. This rule is meant to protect victims when a previous injury serves to make him or her more fragile.
Essentially, the Eggshell Rule says when a previous injury was made worse due to an accident, the person who is responsible due to negligence is still accountable for those injuries. The at-fault person is not “excused” because the victim was already in a weakened or vulnerable condition. The at-fault person is legally responsible for the damage and required by law to leave the injured party “as he finds him,” even when the victim had previous conditions.
The law and the Eggshell Rule stand on your side to see that your costs and suffering are given all due consideration. Here’s an example.
Case 1: Accident Worsens a Motorcyclist’s Previous Injuries
A 46-year-old assistant principal of a public school was riding his motorcycle on I-285 near East Point when a bobtail truck — without a tractor — veered across three lanes of traffic from right to left. The truck’s lane changes were so rapid and unexpected that the motorcyclist was forced to lay down his bike to avoid hitting the truck, which, to make matters worse, drove away from the scene.
As a result of the crash, the motorcyclist sustained injuries to his back and knee. The injured plaintiff had been in multiple accidents prior and had undergone surgeries for both his back and knee before.
Because of his previous problems, the victim did not believe he would be eligible for a settlement and attempted to move on with his life as normal. However, the injuries sustained during this accident led to further complications that diminished the victim’s quality of life and, ultimately, led to spinal surgery. Legal action was necessary.
Trucker and Eyewitnesses Remembered the Accident Differently
The plaintiff brought a civil suit against the truck driver in Fulton County State Court. The trucker claimed that it was another unidentified truck that caused the plaintiff to lay down the motorcycle. But, luckily, the court also heard the testimony of eyewitnesses who were at the scene of the accident.
One of these eyewitnesses testified that he followed the defendant’s truck to get the license plate number and reported it to the police. On the day of the accident, the driver had been returned to the scene by the police.
In the end, the jury awarded the plaintiff a total of $700,000 ($349,177 for past medical costs and an additional $350,823 for personal injury past pain and suffering despite his previous injuries).
Neck and Back Injuries Are Often Delayed
Among the most difficult injuries to prove in a court of law are those that involve the back and neck. Conditions like whiplash and inexplicit back problems are often the result of the impact of a collision. Necks and spines are poorly protected and easily injured due to the physical forces a collision bears.
And the worse thing about these injuries is they often don’t show up instantly. Very often, victims of vehicular trauma feel stiff and sore after the accident, but don’t feel bad enough to go to the doctor or hospital with a specific complaint.
However, in time, the injuries make themselves known through signs, including pain, numbness and muscle weakness. Sadly, these symptoms can occur after the unsuspecting victim has settled with the other driver’s insurance carrier and must bear the cost of treatment on his or her own.
Understanding Back and Neck Injuries
Your spine is a marvelous system. It is made from individual stacked vertebrae, the spinal cord that runs through those vertebrae, and the discs that lie like cushions between the bones. Despite its relatively small size, your spine can take all kinds of contortions. It bends, twists and rights itself every day.
Unfortunately, when the spine gets an unexpected jolt — as can happen in an automobile accident — painful and debilitating results can occur. When the cushion between your vertebrae is forced out from between the bones, it’s called a herniated disc.
According to Mayo Clinic, “A spinal disk is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disk occurs when some of the softer ‘jelly’ pushes out through a tear in the tougher exterior.”
When the gel-like material spills out of a tear in the capsule of the cervical disc and protrudes into the area of the spinal column, it can press on spinal nerves or the cord itself, causing pain, numbness and muscle weakness. Here’s how a herniated disc can affect the quality of life.
Case 2: A Young Woman’s Journey After a Herniation
A 26-year-old woman employed as a checker at a local convenience store was stopped in the traffic lane of a two-way Georgia highway waiting to make a left-hand turn. She was using her directional signal, and her brake lights were on. Nevertheless, a man driving a delivery truck for an Atlanta trucking company didn’t see her stationary vehicle in time to stop and hit her at approximately 20 mph.
At the instant of impact, her head was forced forward and snapped backward. Her airbag didn’t deploy because they are specifically designed not to inflate in rear-end collisions because doing so can render the driver blind to oncoming traffic or other cars around, making matters worse.
At first, it appeared that nobody was seriously injured. The woman was shaken up, and her neck felt like an old rubber band, but she was otherwise whole and glad to be alive. She decided not to go to the hospital and instead waited for a tow truck to remove her badly-damaged car.
A few days later, she noticed weakness in her hands and arms, and it became difficult for her to lift a 12-pack of soda as required many times each day at work. She also began experiencing tingling in her arms and shoulders, as if the muscles were asleep. When this annoying numbness turned to pain that radiated down her right arm, she went to the local urgent-care facility.
The clinic suggested that the woman pinched a nerve and recommended seeing a neurologist. However, because her medical insurance pays very little, she opted to see a chiropractic practitioner instead.
After several months in the care of the chiropractor, her symptoms became worse, and she began to miss work as a result. Finally, she scheduled an appointment with a neurologist where an MRI showed she had a herniation of the disc between vertebrae C6 and C7.
She realized that she might eventually need surgery, so she engaged an attorney and filed suit against the driver who hit her six months previously and the company where he was employed.
Refusing Medical Help After an Accident Can Complicate Your Claim
This young woman had several factors working against her. First, she refused medical treatment at the time of the accident. Had she gone to the hospital, there would have been medical records and clinical observations documenting the accident and her weakened neck. Because she denied having any injuries at the time, it can be expected that the lawyers for the insurance company would use those statements against her in court.
The severity of the woman’s injury wasn’t evident at the time of the accident, but disc injuries can become more painful with time. This can make it appear that the injury happened after the accident and that the two are unrelated — and insurance company lawyers will invariably claim this, whether it’s true or not. Their job is to convince you and the jury that your injury is not the fault of their insured in hopes they will have to pay as little as possible — or nothing at all, if they can manage it.
The Importance of Seeking Medical Attention Following an Accident
The best thing to do when you’ve been involved in an accident is to go to the doctor immediately. Understand that the adrenaline pumping through your body after a crash can mask even intense pain.
Remember this: After an accident, you are in no condition to pass judgment on your wellness.
And if follow-up appointments are recommended, try not to miss them for any reason. If you fail to attend doctor appointments, therapy sessions or scheduled tests, it will look as if your injuries are not as serious as you claim. Even if you don’t think you can pay for treatments or tests, get them done.
The Importance of Keeping a Journal Following an Accident
The second thing you can do is write everything down. Journal precisely how the accident happened. The police will also provide necessary reports, but your recollections of the event will be important if you go to court. If anyone saw the accident, write down their names and phone numbers for your attorney. Any information about witnesses can be helpful.
Also, keep a detailed daily record of your symptoms. If those symptoms cause you to miss work, as they did for our young lady, document every day and each hour that you are unable to earn money as a result. Lost earnings can be a big part of your damages, so be precise and thorough.
Careful Documentation Can Help Win Your Settlement
The average accident victim doesn’t understand that the insurance company’s attorneys will try every tactic to evade responsibility for your injuries. They will try to convince the court that you’re making it up or that your injury happened before the accident. (Perhaps the neck injury happened when you were playing tennis in high school?)
Ultimately, payment for the damages done to you will come down to your documentation and your personal injury lawyer’s skill at nullifying the arguments made by attorneys for the defense.
The documentation you provide, including journal entries, medical records, police reports, witness statements, and the testimony of friends and co-workers, are all critically important. Any statements about how you or your life has changed since the accident can be useful to determine the degree of your injury, too. Your notes about lost work and medical expenses will also be considered as will any temporary or permanent changes to your lifestyle as a result of the accident.
This young woman may be facing surgery. She may never be able to do the things she used to do. She is young, and the impacts of this accident may be with her for many years. Detailed documentation will be the key to winning her claim.
Here’s how another victim’s life was forever changed after a tuck-involved accident caused a herniated disc.
Case 3: A Teacher’s Herniated Disc Forever Changes Her Life
An 18-wheeler veered into the plaintiff’s lane on State Route 316 in Barrow County, Georgia, crashing into the passenger vehicle head-on. The plaintiff’s vehicle was totaled, and the driver’s door was torn off by the collision.
The plaintiff, a 30-something married school teacher, suffered herniation of discs in both the lumbar and cervical locations of her spine, necessitating multiple spinal surgeries. She claimed permanent disability that would keep her from working for the rest of her life.
The woman asked the court to award her $450,000 in past medical costs and $25,000 per year (equating to $750,000) in wages lost for the approximate 30 years she would have worked if not injured. She also asked for damages for her permanent pain and suffering.
The truck driver admitted liability in the accident. However, to try to play down the plaintiff’s injuries, the defendant tried arguing that the plaintiff had pre-existing spinal problems that may have been aggravated by the accident. However, the plaintiff denied having any pre-existing spinal conditions. The defendant also insisted that the plaintiff could return to work if she wanted, but chose to stay at home and spend more time with her children.
Despite these aggressive efforts by the highly-paid insurance company lawyers to convince the jury the plaintiff was a liar, it didn’t take the Cobb County jury long to decide in favor of the school teacher. When the plaintiff’s lawyer was finished, the jury only took little more than a day to conclude that when a semi-truck leaves its lane and slams into an oncoming passenger vehicle, restitution should be made.
Multiple Injuries Can Lead to a Long Recovery — Especially for the Elderly
Very often, when a truck is involved in an accident, victims suffer multiple injuries throughout their bodies. Numerous damages can make healing more difficult, even when none are life-threatening. Combined, they can make it impossible for you to conduct your personal business or enjoy your quality of life — costs which are often difficult to express.
Here is the story of a 67-year-old Atlanta woman who sustained multiple injuries as the result of a truck-involved accident.
Case 4: A Senior’s Battle With Multiple Traumatic Injuries
The victim, who was married, retired, energetic and in good health, was on the way to the neighborhood Piggly Wiggly one late afternoon. As she attempted to make a left-hand turn into the grocery store parking lot under a green arrow, a soft-drink delivery vehicle ran the light in the opposite direction. When the victim realized a collision was inevitable, she stood firm on the brake pedal, and her left leg was locked and braced this way when she was hit on the front passenger side.
The woman was transported to a nearby hospital by ambulance. After X-rays and a CT scan, it was confirmed that she suffered multiple fractures, including a compression fracture of the spine at L4 and a comminuted (splintered) fracture of the knee that extends into the knee joint and up to the femoral shaft. She also suffered a fracture of the femoral head at the left hip.
Because of her age and her weakened bones, the medical team agreed that the victim would need both hip and knee replacement surgeries to recover successfully. Her spinal fracture was expected to heal on its own in time with a back brace and medications to combat osteoporosis. A long and painful recovery with lots of physical therapy was ahead.
She was essentially immobilized by her several fractures, but her medical team recommended that she not simply lie in bed while the injuries healed. Instead, doctors instructed her to continue moving her muscles and tendons so her new joints could begin to support her.
A few days after surgery, she was moved into a rehabilitation facility where she spent three weeks learning to walk and carry out ordinary tasks while not aggravating her spinal fracture. The process was frustrating and painful, despite the pain medications the doctor ordered.
The Elderly Endure Extended, Complicated Recoveries
This woman’s lawyer anticipated that the insurance company attorneys would likely say it was the victim’s advancing age that led to her injuries. They will try to convince the jury that her injuries are the result of not taking proper care of her body.
While her lawyer knows this is not a viable defense, the fact is that the victim’s injuries would probably not have been so serious if she had been younger and fitter. But, here again, we see Georgia’s rule of law come into play.
The Elderly Are Still Protected By Law
The law in Georgia takes the position that the injured individual must be accepted as he or she is found at the moment the accident happens. In other words, our plaintiff’s age and fitness level should not matter in court. Still, when allegations are made that the plaintiff was partly to blame, it can sometimes sway a jury. The plaintiff’s lawyers must prove that the victim was not bothered or incapacitated by the condition before the accident to prove damages.
Establishing Damages Through Witnesses
The victim’s husband can be called upon to testify about the ways she can no longer function since the accident, including her inabilities to lift her grandchildren or play tag with them at the park. She tires easily and needs to continue the housekeeping services she contracted immediately following the accident because she can no longer complete these tasks on her own.
Friends and neighbors can also be asked to verify her new limitations: She can no longer garden or carry her groceries from the car. She can no longer volunteer at her church’s thrift store. And, since the accident, she must use a walker and receive help to the car with her purchases when she shops.
In the end, statements made by friends and family will help this client prove that the negligence of the other driver served to make her full and happy life much more difficult.
Assessing Quality of Life for Elderly Victims
Lawyers for the insurance company will try to make the point that since the plaintiff is retired, the daily activities she can no longer participate in have no monetary value. Her counsel will argue that there is, indeed, a benefit derived from her charitable activities. Not only did her work give her personal gratification and a sense of purpose, but it also added value to the community in which she lives. These losses represent more than just money.
Determining the Value of Damages
The victim’s lawyers must anticipate and prepare for all the ways the insurance company attorneys will try to minimize injuries and diminish the consequences of their insured’s negligence. The plaintiff’s attorneys will not only use medical bills but also evidence of how the injuries have impacted the victim’s quality of life. The pain and suffering she endured will also be part of this calculation, as will the expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
Negotiations are the first strategy and may continue until both sides agree on a settlement figure based on the evidence and the settlements seen in other, similar cases. However, if no agreement is reached, the case may go to court, where a jury will be asked to listen to the facts, consider the medical bills and care required, and judge whether or not the victim’s quality of life has been diminished. They will also decide what her case is worth in terms of dollars and cents.
Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Truck-Related Accident
You can easily see from the cases above, how critical it is to work with an experienced car accident lawyer for your truck-related accident. When you choose a lawyer, expertise and experience in handling personal injury cases can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Personal injury law is challenging and ever-changing. Although many lawyers may dabble in personal injury law, you should consider hiring a law firm where personal injury is the sole focus of their practice.
For more than two and a half decades, The Millar Law Firm has pursued one goal: To protect the rights and interests of those who are hurt or killed by the negligence of others. We invite you to a free case evaluation where we can review the facts of your case and advise you on what to expect in terms of a successful outcome. We can also discuss an anticipated settlement value or verdict for your injury case.
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Contact The Millar Law Firm for your free case evaluation by phone at (770) 400-4000 or through our website.
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