The morning of August 23, 2018 started like any other day for our client, RM—he woke up, ate breakfast, and walked his dog through his neighborhood on Vista Leaf Drive. He continued past one house on Vista Leaf Drive to where its driveway met the street. Suddenly and without warning, a driver accelerated backwards out of that driveway and struck him on his right side. The impact threw RM more than halfway across the road and his head hit the pavement with such force that it fractured his skull. When the at-fault driver got out of his car, he found RM unconscious and bleeding on the pavement. (The dog was okay).
RM was knocked unconscious but gained minimal consciousness by the time EMS and other first responders arrived. He was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Grady Hospital where he spent the next 2 weeks in the surgical intensive care unit. RM was diagnosed with a TBI (or a traumatic brain injury). He was non-verbal, could not walk, and required extensive, round-the-clock evaluations on his brain and heart.
Once he was stable enough to be transported, RM was moved to an inpatient rehabilitation facility where he would regain some of his ability to talk, walk, and perform day-to-day tasks. During this time, RM learned he had lost his hearing out of his left ear. While that would substantially change anyone’s life, this was particularly disabling for RM who worked as a jazz music critic. If he was unable to regain his hearing, he would not be able to work or do what he loved.
After over a month of treatment in hospitals, RM was finally able to go home. He spent the next 6 months receiving physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. He frequented neurologist offices for his traumatic brain injury and associated symptoms. RM also received treatment from several audiologists who sought to remedy his hearing problem. Unfortunately, he was told that his hearing was unlikely to improve.
With every day, week, or month that passes after an injury, evidence starts to disappear or become unavailable. That’s why we had to act fast to preserve some of the evidence of RM’s claim. This is especially true where the client—who would otherwise know the most about what happened to him—could not communicate and was incapacitated due to his injury. Over time, cars are repaired, debris is cleaned up, memories fade, and people become harder to reach.
Because of how recent RM’s injury was, we knew we had to act fast. We immediately sent letters to the at-fault driver requesting that he preserve everything—his car, his phone, any photographs, etc. We also sent a similar letter to his insurance company asking not just for the at-fault driver’s car insurance, but any other insurance that may cover him for the crash. Through this we would later learn that the at-fault driver had a $1 million umbrella policy in excess of his $500,000 car insurance policy.
We also requested dash cam and body cam footage from the officers who responded to the scene and records from the fire fighters and paramedics who responded to the scene. Not only did we want to see what they recorded about RM’s treatment, but we also wanted to be able to contact every person that witnessed any portion of the crash to see what they remembered. First responders respond to several crashes a week—sometimes several a day. Even where the injuries are particularly gruesome, their memories may fade simply due to the fact that they see horrific injuries all the time. That’s why it’s important to talk with them soon after an injury happens to ensure they remember the event.
Once we submitted requests for this evidence and to preserve everything related to the crash, we started gathering evidence that we did not have to wait on a response for. We wanted to speak to anyone on the street where RM was hit who may have seen part of the incident. So, we went to Vista Leaf Drive to knock on doors and take photos. When we arrived, we saw that the at-fault driver had not gotten his car fixed. Thanks to our letters, it had been preserved in the same condition as when the crash occurred.
From the photo below, you can see exactly where the car ran into RM. We were able to match up the height of the dent in the car with the height of RM’s right shoulder.
As we knocked on doors and met the people who lived on or around the street where RM was hurt, we were able to fill in the gaps about what happened in the time between RM walking his dog and the paramedics arriving to take him to the hospital. One witness we talked to was first‑aid and CPR certified. She happened to be in her driveway at the time RM was hit and ran to his aid immediately. She told us how she ran towards RM immediately and saw that he was non-responsive. She also told us how she shined a flashlight in his eyes, and they were pinpoint and non-responsive to light. We obtained an affidavit outlining what she knew:
That witness, and several others in the neighborhood, also told us that the at-fault driver was a frequent dangerous driver. According to them, he constantly drove too fast through the neighborhood even while children were playing.
This information was confirmed even more when we received the at-fault driver’s driving history. Because we requested it shortly after we were hired on the case, we knew within weeks that this was not the first time the at-fault driver had driven in a way that was dangerous to others. We uncovered prior speeding tickets, reckless driving tickets, and 2 other crashes where he collided with the car in front of him after following too closely—both crashes were within 4 months of the incident where he struck RM.
Because of all the evidence we had gathered in such a short time and because our client was evaluated by the best doctors to diagnose the extent of his injuries, we were able to settle this case without having to file a lawsuit, and less than 6 months after RM was discharged from the hospital. We did so by laying out all the evidence we had gathered about the case in a time-limited demand to the insurance company. We also highlighted our previous results and track record in handling cases at trial just like RM’s. This showed the insurance company that if they failed to settle the case for their policy limits prior to filing a lawsuit, we would go obtain a verdict in excess of those limits.
After he was struck, RM’s hearing limitations prevented him from writing and reviewing jazz music like he had before the crash. Due to his physical limitations and the symptoms of his traumatic brain injury, RM was also unlikely to work as a homebuilder again. But because of this settlement, our client RM will not have to worry about paying for future treatment despite not being able to work like he could before this crash. We are proud of our work on RM’s case and grateful he allowed us to work for him.