Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wheelchair Vs. Suburban

This will be a brief blog post because it's one of those cases where there's nothing to say, or do. Just report.

Jim, a pseudonym, was 35 years old, in a nursing home. He spoke with a slur... like a stroke victim... he struggled to get the words out in a raspy whisper. However, all the bulbs in Jim's head were lit, said the attorney who sent me to Jim via email.

The attorney said Jim had serious pre-existing injuries due to a prior accident. As a result of those injuries, Jim was confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home. The attorney said Jim was difficult to understand when speaking. He did manage to get the facts of the accident out of Jim.

Jim was in his wheelchair, he had one good foot he could push with. Every morning when it wasn't raining, he'd wheel himself from the nursing home to the corner convenience store for his coffee.

Jim said he waited at the crosswalk until "the little white man in the walk sign said Go."
Jim entered the crosswalk, pushed himself along in his wheelchair with his one good leg. He was half-way through the intersection when a woman in a black Suburban ran her red light and struck Jim.

The woman tried to flee the scene, but couldn't because Jim's wheelchair and Jim, were stuck under her car. And lots of Good Sams and witnesses were present, so they blocked her and her car until the police arrived.

It was evident to all, the woman was intoxicated, she reeked of gin. She was arrested at the scene.

When I met with Jim in the nursing home, I explained to him that the lawyers would investigate his case at their cost. If the woman had no auto insurance, that meant there was no insurance to go after and the lawyers would resign his case. Also at no cost to him.

Jim asked why, if it turned out there was no auto insurance, the lawyers don't sue her personally: take her house; her car; freeze her bank account; dock her pay. I explained the attorneys I work for go after insurance money not personal assets. That's because people who are sued, declare bankruptcy and you never collect anyway.

I studied Jim as we talked in the nursing home. As a result of the crosswalk hit, his good leg,the one he used to push himself with, was broken in two places.
"Both my legs are dead," he said.

He also got a nasty head injury when his wheelchair toppled, and his head hit the pavement. I photographed the wound and his right wrist, which was also broken in the fall. Add insult to injury -- he was right-handed.

As Jim spoke, he whispered in a long, drawn out slur. I had to put my head very close to his mouth to understand his words.

I asked him what injury brought him to nursing home in the first place. I said that it appeared to me, something worse happened to him many years ago... before I was sent to see him.

He told me when he was 16 years old, he got drunk and he fell off Deception pass.

For those of you who don't know what Deception Pass is, click on the title of this blog post, it will take you there.

Bottom line, Jim hit the bottom from a very high top and broke, he said, every bone in his body.
"I'm more metal than man," he told me.
He'd been in nursing homes ever since.

My response to Jim's story was calm on the outside. On the inside, I was blown away by the facts just served up. I had never met anyone who had fallen off Deception Pass. I didn't think anyone would live to tell of that.

I was further blown away by the fact that he survived all these years, made it this far, still had one good leg.... until the DWI in the Suburban hit him in his wheelchair.

Jim was concerned with practicalities. He wanted insurance money, he wanted the woman to pay his medical bills, his future medical bills. He wanted her to pay for his pain and suffering.
I told him the attorney and I wanted the same thing for him.
However, first things first.
We needed the Police Report.
The lawyers had to order it.
I told him it could take two weeks to much longer to get it, depending on whether there was an on-going criminal investigation.

But, I added, if he went to the police station himself, the police would give him the report sooner.
Jim shook his head slowly and said, "I ain't going nowhere."
And he was right.
Even if he wanted to go somewhere, he couldn't.
He was trapped in a body that did not work.

Last night Jim called me. He was crying. He said the law firm just called him. The police report arrived. The Defendant driver, the lady in the Suburban had no auto insurance. She was cited for DWI, driving with no insurance and driving with a suspended license. But that was of little comfort to Jim.

I listened as Jim released venom directed at his life, the system, the woman, his losses and pain. He said the lawyers resigned his case. He asked what else he could do.

The only thing I could suggest was crime victim's compensation. It isn't much... I told Jim... but maybe he qualifies and something is better than nothing. I gave him the contact number, told him how sorry I was for him, wished him well and closed the conversation.

When I hung up the phone, I returned to my life.
And Jim did the same, only his life is no kind of life.
Yet somehow... he manages to live it.

Being a private investigator is finding the truth even when the truth is painful, unjust, or just plain wrong.

I and the attorneys hoped for the best case scenario: a huge insurance policy in place; money for Jim's medical bills and pain and suffering.
Instead, worst case scenario.
One more beaten down human being who deserves a whole lot better.

Case closed.
But not satisfactorily so.


  1. If the driver is convicted of a crime, cannot the court order restitution?

  2. yes the court can. its crime victim's compensation. the challenge of course, is collecting it.