Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rear Ended - Case Notes

Yesterday was a day that started off like most any. I was in the living room of an injury victim. This one, a 33 year old mother of three. Let’s call her Latonya.

Latonya’s mother was also there, guarding her daughter from the
unknown quotient… me…. the investigator. I identified myself, explained my mission and endured Latonya’s tough mother’s interrogation.

Latonya said she was driving the kids to a matinee, stopped at a stoplight behind another car. She said she was careful to leave lots of space in front of her behind the car ahead. She said she always does that. It was mellow she said, quiet. Everything was cool until they all heard it. A loud screech then BAM! One huge hit sent Latonya’s head into the steering wheel. Two of the kids in the back also hit their heads, one hit on a laptop he was looking at. The other hit the window. There was no airbag deployment because there was no frontal impact.

All went to the hospital by ambulance. Latonya’s car was totaled. So was car that hit her – a large latel model Cadillac driven by an old white man with a black name, Latonya said.
She couldn’t recall his name. I looked at the police report.
I tell her his name is Jerome. That’s no name for a white boy, I said. Latonya and her mother smiled. The ice was broken.

I probed deeper, the attorney needs to know everything about a client so they aren’t cold-cocked at the time of trial. I asked about pre-existing injuries, other accident, anything. She said no other accident, nothing… except… one thing. I noticed he takes a long breath before speaking. She said she was shot in 1994.

Where I ask?
In the neck, she said.

She told of being on a corner, with a group of people, near a shopping area. They all had just stepped off the bus and were waiting for the light to change. They heard voices behind them. Shouting. Latonya said just as the light changed, she heard more screaming.

She said she remembered turning to the woman beside her, a older Asian lady, Their eyes met in a questioning glance. Then bang! Bang! Fast as that. Latonya said, she went down and so did the lady she was looking at. They were both shot. Their eyes were still locked as they fell to the ground. The Asian lady died. Latonya told me stone-faced.

Latonya was airlifted to Harborview. She was both paralyzed and four months pregnant. The baby lived. Latonya eventually walked. Decades pass to the point we’re at. The living room. I was noting all this when Latonya’s mother added one more key element to the equation.

The bullet is still in her neck, she said.

I put down my pen and studied Latonya. So walked through fire…. gunfire. She endured… got great jobs… was going back to school. Everything was cool, she said, until this white dude named Jerome rear-ended her and the kids at what police estimate was 50 mph.

No wonder, I told her, you have tingling in your neck. There’s a bullet in it! No wonder, I said, you haven’t gotten better in the three months since the accident. I asked if the ER or Chiro she had seen did Xrays, MRI’s of her neck, spine. She said no.

This is the stuff you see out there. People who survive it all, only to be taken down by the last straw. I told her there was plenty of insurance in place. And if I was her, I said, I would get myself right down to the same hospital and the same doctors who treated that gunshot wound almost 15 years ago. I would have someone look at that bullet today and make sure it didn’t move.

As Latonya’s tough eyes filled with water, and her mother nodded in agreement., I reached for my camera and asked if I could take pictures of her to prove I was there. She said yes. I talked to her as I look through the lense. First, a long shot.

She is a beautiful girl, underneath her pain.
I said, “You’re such a beautiful young woman. You look like a model.”
She thanked me and said she used to want to be a model.
I zoom in.
You still look like one I, I said. Well, maybe… a broke down model.
Latonya started laughing, harder and harder.
Yep, I said, That’s your new handle, broke down model.

She laughed again, repeating the words, broke down model over and over. Then she groaned. She told me to be sure to add that to my case notes, laughing makes her neck hurt.

I worried about the bullet moving and encouraged her to use all the insurance in place to get that bullet checked out mass rapido.

As I was leaving I slipped my business card in her hand and said to keep in touch. She may need backgrounds on her kids on one day.
That caused another round of laughter as I headed to my car and worried about the bullet moving.

This is why my problems see so small at the end of the work day. Bad as it gets, I don't have a bullet in my neck.

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