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Mom Overcomes Fear of Using a Lawyer and Wins Settlement in Child’s Bike Accident Case Despite Police Report Blaming Child For Accident

For adults, one of the hardest things to do is just ask for help. It’s often worse when you’ve got a legal problem. No matter how serious the case is, many folks just dread getting a lawyer involved, try as I might to make that first meeting easy and welcoming, as shown by this quick video

This is the story of how a tenacious mother overcame that dread to enlist me to help her child win a losing battle in a serious injury case.

A Child’s Severe Injury and a Seemingly Stacked Deck

Leslie’s 4-year-old daughter Dior loved riding her bike on their quiet street. She often joined her siblings and other neighborhood children. On a warm summer evening, she got on her bike to do exactly that, but she never made it. As she drove out of her driveway, she got hit by an SUV. It flung her off the bike onto the ground.

Dior got rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered she’d suffered a shattered thigh bone. It required an emergency operation to hammer a rod into her bone. Then, she needed another operation months later to remove some of the plates and screws surgeons attached to the bone.

It got worse for Leslie. The investigating police officer concluded the crash was Dior’s fault. That meant she’d never qualify for legal compensation—or so it appeared.

But one thing everyone can learn from this case is never count out a mother’s loving tenacity.

Leslie Wrestles With What to Do, Then Does the Right Thing  

Dior’s parents were shocked at the outcome of the police report. How could the driver not see Dior coming down the driveway unless the driver wasn’t paying attention?

And regardless, the biggest question remained: How could they ever win against the police report? Leslie felt they couldn’t win on their own.

Still, she resisted hiring a lawyer and initially decided Dior would just have to live with it. But as she saw Dior, her lively 4-year old, suffer in agony, struggle to relearn to walk, and retreat into a shell of pain-induced depression, Leslie’s motherly instinct took over.

She chose hope—hope the wrong could be righted, at least legally.

In her search for an injury attorney, she found me on the internet. We met so I could answer her questions. She didn’t hire me right away. But after deep, prayerful consideration, she turned Dior’s case over to me.  

Turning the Tide

Leslie was right. She faced an uphill battle with that awful police report. We stood no chance of getting the officer to redo the investigation and change his report, which was months old by now.

Instead, with Leslie’s help, I launched my own investigation. She directed me to a couple of neighbors who were just down the street when it happened. One of them gave a compelling account proving it was the driver’s fault. The neighbor told me:

  1. It was still early summer evening daylight when the crash occurred.
  2. Children came over to his house to ride bikes. There were 6 or 7 of them, including his two girls and Dior.
  3. He supervised by standing at the stop sign at the end of the street.
  4. The driver waved at him as she drove by.
  5. Critical point 1. The driver knew children were in the area, as she drove past several before she reached Dior’s driveway.
  6. Critical point 2. The neighbor saw Dior on her bike coming down the driveway. She wasn’t flying down it, and she didn’t dart into the street. She did nothing to prevent the driver from seeing her, if the driver had looked.
  7. Critical point 3. The driver drove the speed limit. At that speed, she could have stopped and averted the crash.
  8. The final critical point. The neighbor spoke to the driver at the scene. The driver told him she was looking for a dog. She seemed caught up in doing that.

Folks often don’t want to “get involved,” but the neighbor readily agreed to do a sworn statement. I submitted it to the insurance companies with pictures I took mapping the driver’s path and highlighting the clear view of Dior’s driveway from the road.

Based on the sworn statement, I made it apparent the driver should’ve been looking for Dior or should’ve actually seen her, but didn’t because she was driving distracted—looking for the dog. I also included favorable law covering this situation.

After reviewing our package, the liability insurance company called. Our presentation turned the tide. They agreed the driver was at fault.

But Wait—There’s More

Maybe you noticed I referred to “insurance companies” above. That’s because I found more insurance to help Dior.

For any serious car crash, I investigate all avenues of potential coverage to pay. One is underinsurance or UIM.

Luckily, Dior’s parents had some. We made a claim for that, too.

Leslie Does What’s Best in the End

We still had to prove the severity of Dior’s injuries. That also took a lot of work. We gathered her medical records and summarized them to bring out the most important points. Then, I wrote detailed summaries about them to submit to the insurance companies. Most importantly, I prepared a summary based on extensive information from Leslie about Dior’s pain and suffering—which I call “human loss”—to convince the insurance companies there was way more to this case than just medical bills.

In the end, the liability insurance company exhausted the limits of its coverage, paying $100,000. UIM agreed to pay $40,000, leaving $10,000 of coverage.

  • First big decision. Leslie had to make a decision whether to settle the case or file a lawsuit and fight it out over the remaining $10,000. Leslie decided it was in Dior’s best interest to end the case. She didn’t want her daughter to undergo the extra time and strain of a lawsuit.
  • Second big decision. But she still had another huge decision to make: how to best protect Dior’s settlement. South Carolina law requires children’s settlement money to be protected, giving parents several options to handle it. Leslie wisely selected a structured settlement that should provide for Dior’s financial independence as she reaches adulthood. Because Dior will get interest on her settlement money, she will stand to receive far more than the $140,000 settlement. Because the settlement is “structured”, Leslie was able to select when Dior gets the money. She will get payments at distinct points in her life after she reaches 18, spread out over several years.

Finally, we went to court to get the settlement approved by a judge. Because we were prepared for the hearing with all documents and evidence in order, the judge issued an order allowing the settlement to go forward.

What We Learned

Some things are worth fighting for. Don’t count yourself out if you or your child has a severe injury but you get a negative police report or have other evidence against you, like a prior injury. Sometimes hiring the right lawyer to confront bad facts can turn your losing battle into a winning one. And if you don’t try, one thing’s for sure: You’ll never have a chance to change things in your favor.

And never, ever underestimate the power of a mother’s love and determination for doing the best thing for her child. This was an extremely rewarding case for everyone involved, and Leslie and I feel especially good about providing for Dior’s future.

$140,000

Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg, South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.

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