Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Case De Jour: Pedestrian In Crosswalk

He is 59 years old. Diagnosed with colon cancer that weaved its way through his body like a poisonous snake. He had several surgeries, the last was to place and ostomy bag at his side. He was staying in a rehab place they call "cottages" to recover. It appeared to be a very nice place, in good neighborhood, the staff seemed competent and caring.

He told me how it happened. He decided to take a walk on the 4th of July. The cancer wasn't slowing him down he said. In fact he just bought a bicycle to get some exercise. He showed the bike to me because it was next to where we were sitting, outside his cottage. He was smoking a cigarette. I was listening, taking notes. He was sitting in a wheelchair now, the doctoprs told him he would not be able to walk for a year.

He said he was walking to the store across the street. He stopped at the crosswalk. There was a red car stopped at the crosswalk. The light said walk. He stepped into the crosswalk and the red car that was stopped, with a woman at the wheel, suddenly sped up, into the crosswalk.

He turned to look at her. He said she was looking in the back seat and not at him. He held his hands out, yelled for her to stop. She stepped on the gas, hit him head on. The main impact was to his knees, which knocked him backwards. And then she ran over his legs.

He ended up under the car on his back, only his head sticking out. Plenty of witnesses and good Sams were on the scene. They stopped the DEF driver from fleeing. The driver was trying to back away and when she backed up, he said he was sort of "spit out the front of the car".

He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Because he has no health insurance, they spent just 2 hours with him Took x-rays. Then said, "Your right leg is fractured in three places. You have one fracture on the other leg. Here's a wheelchair. Bye." No cast, no treatment.

In other words, "See ya....Wouldn't want to be ya'."

By the time I saw him I was the only one who'd seen his legs and feet since five days earlier when he was in the ER. The staff of the home he was staying in hadn't looked.

I had to consciously calm my stomach and I helped him pull off his socks and saw, then photographed the wounds. The purple, swollen legs, jutting broken bones, deep gashes, dying feet.

He told me he's dying. "I'm living on borrowed time" he said, he explained how deep the cancer was moving in and through his body. He said he thought it was bad enough to have the cancer. Then he gets hit by car. "Talk about dumb luck," he said with a laugh.

I told him I am worried about him and his case on many levels. First, he needs to get another doctor a better hospital, Harborview, where he is normally treated. They are used to trauma.
I tell him we need to get the police report and identify the defendant driver.
We need to find out whether she has insurance. Then... we find or hope for enough insurance money in the policy to cover all his medical bills, let alone a pain and suffering judgement.

I tell him the lawyers will pay for his investigation, and there are no guarantees. If there's no insurance there, we walk away.

He listened intently, and calmly. He seemed so calm and peaceful. I asked him what meds he was on. He is on percocet, nothing else, he said. He said he has come to terms with his life. And death.

All he wanted, he said, was to get a settlement for his son and daughter.
While he's waiting to die, he added, he's taking up knitting and painting. He showed me a scarf he knitted and gave me a picture he painted... two sailboats and a lighthouse against a setting sun. I am touched by the offering, accept it. And we part with a handshake.

I emailed the law firm from the parking lot. And then called his son. The son, a police officer in another city, had not seen his dad or legs since the accident. I told the son his dad is in very bad shape and he needs to get to a trauma hospital ASAP. The son and lawyers got in touch...
and I passed the ambulance arriving as I left the road leading to the man's house.

There is something very rare and gratifying about my job. I get to help. To make a difference.
And no matter how bad my troubles seem, no matter how rough my waters, I have yet to find a life I would trade for my own.

1 comment:

  1. "If there is no insurance there, we walk away." That says something about the tort claim business.