How the Motorcycle Accident Happened
July 26, 2020, was a bright, beautiful Sunday. Our client Zeek celebrated it with a motorcycle ride. Despite the heat, he put on a helmet, protective jacket, and gloves, then set out.
Around 12:45 p.m., Zeek came up Union Street in Spartanburg when a company driver in an SUV coming from the opposite direction suddenly veered left and slammed directly into him.
How hard will a company fight you if their driver causes an accident? This hard. Before I got hired, the company already had a lawyer from a high-powered firm. As Zeek suffered in the intensive care unit, the company hired an expert crash reconstructionist to prove it wasn't at fault.
Once I found this out, I hired an expert of our own. After he investigated the scene and downloaded "black box" data from the company vehicle, he met with the company's expert. The company's expert revealed the company was at fault, which our investigation confirmed.
The real fight would be over how much they should pay. When an insurance company has a lot to lose, they fight even harder. I got to work proving our case.
Zeek's Massive Injuries
The damage from the motorcycle accident was horrific. Zeek's worst injuries included:
- Peroneal nerve palsies, causing permanent foot drop in both feet. That means his feet drag when he walks because he can't pick them up. The nerve damage causes foot numbness and significant ankle weakness.
- Right fibula (small lower leg bone) compound fracture, meaning the bone pops out of the skin.
- Right popliteal artery severed. That's the major artery behind the knee.
- Right knee fracture
- Left wrist fracture of both arm bones, shattering the joint and disfiguring the wrist. His surgeon describes it as "unusually severe." Zeek lost most of his ability to lift his palm up and has arthritis. He likely requires "salvage procedures" such as partial or total wrist fusion.
- Left hip dislocated, with broken socket and ball. The top of the fibula broke off.
- Broken L2 spinal vertebra
- Lacerated liver
Multiple Operations Required After Motorcycle Accident
Zeek required eight surgeries, including:
- Emergency operation on his right leg. To combat extreme swelling and pressure, surgeons performed a drastic four-compartment fasciotomy, cutting his leg open on both sides and leaving it open. Eventually, they stapled it shut. But he required a "wound vac" to suck blood and pus out. This caused inhuman agony for months.
- To save the leg, they grafted a vessel from his groin to repair the popliteal artery.
- Repair of broken, dislocated left hip.
- Left wrist operation his surgeon describes as "unusually extensive." He later required a second one to remove the metal plate installed in the first one.
- Right leg skin grafts to seal post-fasciotomy wounds in the right leg.
Zeek was at Spartanburg Regional for a week. Part of that included ICU. He spent 16 days in a rehab hospital.
For months after, he endured a steady stream of home health care, orthopedic/vascular surgery/plastic surgery follow-ups, psychological counseling, physical therapy, and neurology and pain management.
His medical bills totaled $457,692.34.
An Active Life Ground to a Halt
After he got out of the hospital, Zeek was bedridden for four months. Luckily, he is blessed with a supportive family in town. Zeek and his two young children moved in with his brother, whose front room became Zeek's life for four solid months. I remember when he moved back into his home at the end of 2020. It was a big day.
Zeek couldn't walk without a wheelchair or walker for five months. After that, he needed ankle braces and boots to prevent foot drop and falls.
His Work Life as He Knows It Is Over
Zeek couldn't work for over a year and a half. Before the motorcycle crash, he was a warehouse supervisor. He couldn't do that anymore. His optimistic spirit opened the door to a limited role in a prior job: roofing. A compassionate roofing company made him a supervisor who instructed workers from the ground. Unfortunately, hot weather caused his injuries to flare, so he had to leave that job.
A Light Brushstroke on Zeek's Pain and Suffering
Zeek’s motorcycle accident injuries changed his life forever. It rendered a highly active, adventurous, athletic, single father who loved to "play hard" with his children, brothers, and nephews into a bedridden invalid beset by unending torment from wound vac sessions that often reached wretched proportions, leaving him screaming and desperate to escape. Agony and helplessness launched suicidal depression and a sincere desire to have his legs amputated.
Zeek described this dark time as an out-of-body and out-of-mind experience. He suffers tremendous guilt from what he put his loved ones through.
He told opposing counsel, "I hated my life, and I took it out on others." He summed it up, "I wish I was normal."
Now, he can't run. He can walk about two blocks before needing a rest.
How We Settled a Big Motorcycle Accident Case Without a Lawsuit
My team and I compiled the evidence to tell this story, and by now, you know it's a long one. Here are key things we did:
- I spent a lot of time with Zeek learning what he went through and how it impacted his life. I spent hours with him where he lived. Learning who he is helped me tell his story. He inspired me with his kind, grateful spirit. I admire him deeply, and I am proud we are friends.
- I handled opposing counsel. It was plain that they would fight this case hard. I piled evidence on them to weaken that resolve.
- My team and I compiled medical records and sent detailed analyses of them. Over the two years he was treated, I sent over ten letters.
- We presented compelling pictures and videos of injuries and treatment. We got graphic pictures of his leg cut wide open in the hospital. We sent a video of an awful wound vac session. As time wore on, I sent pictures of his scars and videos of his struggles to walk and climb his front porch stairs.
- I commissioned a medical illustration that depicted his major injuries in living color. It cost $5,000 but had a major impact.
- I handled negotiations. This was a high-stakes case. Opposing counsel proposed settlement talks through mediation, but I told them we would only participate if they offered the medical bills first. That meant they had to offer almost $500,000 for medical bills before we considered negotiations. Opposing counsel had to present that to officers at corporate headquarters in a faraway state. They agreed.
- I sent an extensive record of Zeek's human loss compiled from meetings with Zeek and his loved ones.
- I did something unusual. Opposing counsel asked to meet with Zeek. Exposing a client to opposing counsel, especially one as skilled as this one, is a major risk. But I trusted Zeek, and I knew his goodness would shine through, so I allowed it. As expected, Zeek shined and it had a powerful impact.
- I met with his doctors to understand his injuries, treatment, and prognosis. Then I distilled these talks into simple questionnaires for the doctors to confirm the major medical issues.
- I made an effective mediation presentation. I sent the mediator everything we'd sent opposing counsel in a notebook. I also met with the mediator and Zeek beforehand.
The main thing I learned is to handle big cases like small cases, with adjustments reflecting the high stakes. In every case, we work to know the client, master the medical evidence, and get solid proof of human loss to understand the impact of the injuries in every case because each is a unique person. Bigger cases require more long-term, high-cost investment in evidence of injuries. They also require tougher negotiation tactics. You can never underestimate the ruthlessness of an insurance company faced with a potentially large settlement.
Best of all, Zeek was satisfied with the settlement, which gives him financial security as he learns his "new normal." He's got a goood head on his shoulders. Upon settling the case, he met with his bank to develop a financial plan to preserve the settlement, which includes an annuity from a company I put him in contacct with, to give him some guaranteed income for decades.