From Lawyer to Client
I started driving at age 15. Over 26 years of driving, I logged more than 400,000 miles. Whether traveling back forth between Fort Worth and the University of North Texas in my 1982 Camaro or driving from Oklahoma City to Austin and all points in between to represent clients. I’ve logged a lot of miles over the years. Fortunately, despite representing hundreds of clients that had been involved in car wrecks, I drove from 1988 until 2014 without having a wreck. That all changed on November 4, 2014.
The afternoon of November 4, 2014 wasn’t unusual for North Texas. It wasn’t particularly cold. It wasn’t particularly windy. It wasn’t gloomy and there was no ice on the road. The streets however, were slightly wet from a light rain. I took a late lunch that day – very much the norm for me, as depositions, discovery and court hearings usually take the first part of my day. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, I caught a sale at local camera store. My wife, a very skilled lawyer, amazing wife, excellent mother, but so-so amateur photographer had a dropped a few not so subtle hints about what she wanted for her upcoming birthday. Never one to pay more than I have to, I bought the new camera and printer (33% off) and placed them in the trunk of my car and headed back to the office. Unfortunately, the short drive to the office was interrupted by the sort of negligence that my clients have known for years.
I can’t believe she is…., Yep! @#%*! Bam!!! Just like that I switched from a Fort Worth Texas Magazine Top Personal Injury Lawyer to an injured person. While I am certain that the lady driving the pick-up truck didn’t want to injure me, her negligence is irrefutable. She drove around two vehicles that were waiting for a safe point to enter into oncoming traffic. She made a left hand turn from a right turn only lane, across the lane of traffic next to me and stopped her pick-up truck in my lane. Oncoming traffic made it impossible for her to go any further. The water on the road made it impossible for me to stop and so it happened. Our vehicles collided and while her 19-year-old pick-up truck didn’t look all that bad, my two-year-old car was demolished and ultimately declared a total loss.
After the wreck I did what I always advise my clients to do. I got out of street, called 911 and took pictures. I used my phone to take pictures of the other driver’s license, license plate and both vehicles. While I was in pain, I told the 911 operator that I would not need an ambulance. Truthfully, I didn’t think it was that bad. I had some pain in my knee, lower back and hip. In the split second before the 6,000 pounds of metal collided I slammed on my brakes with everything I had. Unfortunately, the crash could not be avoided and my knee struck the dashboard of my car. Thankfully, the knee issue was a non-issue. Nothing was torn, nothing was broken. It was no different than unexpectedly bumping into a wall or chair. Unfortunately, the hip and back injury were much more significant and while, like a lot of my clients I tried to tough through it, I would ultimately have to see a chiropractor, two medical doctors and a physical therapist. Suddenly the 41-year-old who was often mistaken for 20-something was now living in pain, limping and moving very slowly.
The pain and the doctors’ appointments affected my work and my family life. I could no longer walk the stairs at my home with ease. I had to reschedule appointments, missed opportunities and relied very heavily on my staff. Once a very brisk walker, who was often asked by my amazing wife “why are you walking so fast?”, now I struggled to keep pace with my six-year-old son. Simple things like tying my shoes, driving, sitting at my desk or lifting my daughter from her crib caused pain to shoot down my leg. I became intimately familiar with chiropractic manipulations, prescription pain relievers, muscle relaxers, MRI’s, injections and the dreaded physical terrorists – a very nice woman named Candy and her assistant Erica who seemed to have an endless number of ways to “stretch and strengthen” my displaced hip. I was officially living with many of the same issues I often litigated for clients.
While I always took care to try my best to place myself in the position of the injured person I was charged with representing, now my perspective was deepened. Now my car was totaled. I was missing time from work. I couldn’t do the things I used to do with my family. I was living in pain and to top it all off the insurance company for the other driver was denying liability.
Fast forward 10 months, I am feeling a lot better. Although the pain persists, the chiropractic care, medical treatment and physical therapy worked as well they could. However, as I was going through it I often asked my wife and law partner what we would have done if we couldn’t afford medical treatment. What if we didn’t have the means to get a new car while the insurance company was denying the obvious? What if we couldn’t buy food because of the time I missed from work? Now more than ever I feel connected to the people I represent.
The nagging pain in my hip is not a handicap. It is a reminder and motivator that my job is to do all I can ethically and legally do to restore balance to the lives of the people who trust me to be their advocate. While it may seem somewhat oxymoronic, on some level (except when I can’t lift my daughter from her crib) I am grateful for the negligent driver. The gratitude is not because she could have killed me or someone else, but because her negligence caused me to live the reality of the people who hire me. When I stand before a jury to argue my clients’ issues I speak from personal experience.