Even professionals with high-paying jobs get abused by insurance companies after a car accident.

Sally and Joe came to me after she was involved in a severe rear-end car accident in Gaffney. They are smart, high-performing, but very laid back, calm, and respectful people. I knew a jury would like them and want to help them.

And they needed professional help because the insurance company fought them ruthlessly from the start.

The Cause of the Crash

Sally describes it like this:

“I was driving home from work. As I was at a complete standstill waiting for oncoming traffic to pass so that I could take a left, an SUV rear-ended me at approximately 60 miles per hour. My car was thrown forward approximately 50-60 feet.

A few seconds prior to the impact, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the SUV coming at me at full speed. All I could say was, ‘Please don’t hit me, oh please don’t hit me.’ At that point, I covered my face. The next thing I knew, I was on the side of the road.”

Astonishingly—or maybe not—Sally heard no brakes and saw no skid marks on the road from the crash. Worst of all, the at-fault driver told her he never saw her and that he didn’t know where he was.

Car Insurance Lowball Offer Forces a Car Accident Victim to Hire Me

Despite the severity of the accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company offered Joe and Sally just $500 to settle. Even after they hired me, the fight was far from over. In a shocking development for my clients, their own car insurance company tried to make them fall prey to one of the oldest tricks in the book: the insurance company blamed Sally’s injuries from the car accident on prior injuries.

Her own insurance company even hired its own doctor to call both her and her and her doctors a bunch of liars.

Here’s how we changed their tune.

How We Handled the Impact of a Prior Medical Condition

We were upfront from the beginning about Sally’s prior spinal surgery because the truth was on our side, and we had nothing to hide. I actually gave the insurance company copies of her records related to that surgery.

As I explained, Sally had major back surgery less than three months before the crash.  

  • Before the operation, she struggled with back pain for over 15 years.
  • After the operation, she considered her healing to be “excellent.” She even described herself as making a “posterchild recovery.”
  • At her last visit before the crash, her neurosurgeon described her as “doing well.” He noted her improved pain and leg strength. Then came this crash.

Sally returned to her neurosurgeon for treatment after the crash. He concluded the car accident had no effect on her surgery. He found what the car accident really hurt—Sally’s piriformis.

I’d never heard of that either, so I had to learn some new medical terms to understand the injury so I could help Sally. I learned the piriformis is a small muscle deep in the buttock running from the lower spine to the upper femur (thigh bone), with the sciatic nerve running underneath or through the muscle. It helps the hip rotate, turning the leg and foot outward.

The neurosurgeon referred Sally to a different specialist for this treatment.

Sally Undergoes Grueling, Long-Term Treatment for Piriformis and Hamstring Injuries From a Car Accident

As small as the piriformis is, it dogged Sally for nearly two years. During that time, she endured countless visits to PT and many shots in her low back and hips. These included a somewhat revolutionary treatment her devoted doctor chose for her, called platelet-rich plasma shots. It’s an advanced therapy where Sally’s platelets got taken, then injected directly back into her hips to encourage healing.

Her relentless pain and disability did ease up as this treatment progressed. But neither she nor her doctor were satisfied. Sally was blessed with a doctor who realized she should be getting better. He became concerned her injuries weren’t just to her piriformis. He ordered more MRIs, which revealed torn hamstrings.

The doctor referred Sally to a hamstring specialist. I learned he’s one of the few hamstring specialists in the region. He concluded her hamstring tears were caused by the car accident.

There was no way to repair them other than an operation. He ordered surgery for both hamstrings. This would require months and months of additional treatment since the operation’s so debilitating the surgeon can only operate on one at a time and can’t operate on the other until the first is almost fully healed.

Sally’s Human Loss From the Car Accident

Most folks call this “pain and suffering.” I call it human loss, because pain and suffering is just one piece of a much bigger picture. We captured that picture for Sally, and here’s just a small example of it covering the initial toll these injuries took:

  • She hurt constantly. “I have constant pain in my lower back, hips, and down my right leg. The pain in both hips is present every minute of the day. Every time I took a step, it felt like a knife was stabbing into my hip and lower glute muscles. Often resulting in aching and numbness down my calf and my toes. There was a searing pain in the side of my hip for well over a year.”
  • It changed her life. “By the end of the day, I am physically and emotionally exhausted. I used to come home and work out, ride bikes, work on the farm, tend to our animals and garden, enjoy a night out with my husband, or sit in the living room to share stories about our day. Now, while I will still sit in the living room for a short while, I am forced to lie down in bed to relieve the pain and fatigue.”
  • For close to 18 months, she was unable to sleep. “Throughout the night, sharp pains run down my legs and wake me up when I stay on one side for too long.” She’d wake up 10+ times per night in extreme pain.
  • More basic limits. “I can’t sit for more than 10-15 minutes without extreme discomfort requiring me to stand while I work.”
  • She lost her self-image. She gained over 30 pounds due to the lack of activity. “It is embarrassing to be this heavy with very few options to lose the weight. I am not comfortable with my husband and feel ashamed in front of my colleagues.”
  • The emotional toll was heavy. “Constant pain and limited ability to enjoy my life wears at me daily and interferes with my relationships and my hopes and dreams for our future.”

This doesn’t cover what Joe lost during that time in his life. He had a case for loss of consortium. We thoroughly developed evidence of that.

The Legal Battle Rages as Sally Treats for Her Injuries

Because she hired me, Sally didn’t have to worry about handling her legal case. She could just focus on getting better, which was about all she could handle.

We finally settled with the at-fault driver’s liability insurance company for the full policy limits of $30,000. That didn’t scratch the surface of Sally’s medical bills or what she and Joe had been through as a result of the wreck.

Luckily, Sally and Joe had coverage on their policy that could help pay. It’s called underinsurance. They were shocked when their own insurance not only refused to settle but turned against them.

I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. It didn’t surprise me.

In response, we filed a lawsuit. The insurance company hired an attorney who informed me the insurance company ordered him to hire a doctor to “review” Sally’s medical care.

In other words, the insurance company planned to call Sally and her doctors a liar. But we kept fighting and made sure the insurance company got our mounds of medical evidence in the discovery process.

That evidence included questionnaires from doctors. I met with Sally’s piriformis and hamstring doctors about her case. Because her case was so long and complicated, I met with both twice. After those meetings, I drew up the questionnaires asking yes or no questions for the doctors to answer. The questionnaires highlighted major parts of Sally’s medical care and made it clear it’s all related to the car accident.

From my meetings and the questionnaires, I knew both doctors’ testimony would be solid. I was confident the jury would believe Sally and her doctors who actually treated her over the insurance company’s hired gun who’d never met her and just got paid to Monday-morning quarterback the doctors who actually did the work on her.

In time, the insurance company reached the same conclusion. It offered to settle for $190,000, just $10,000 shy of its limit.

At that point, Sally and Joe made a sound business decision to end the case without spending extra time and money on it.

Health insurance paid Sally’s medical bills. We had to repay the health insurance company but did so at a discount I negotiated. She and Joe also got a satisfying amount of money in their own bank account. It was a long fight, but it was well worth it. I give a lot of credit to them for not taking a lowball offer and toughing it out with me as we overcame their own insurance company’s hardball tactics.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.