After a long and hard battle to uncover the truth about the car accident, we obtained a $4 million settlement for our client a few days before trial was scheduled to begin. Fault for the collision was originally unclear, but our client was paralyzed from the waist down, so we dug in for a fight because we knew he needed our help.
Here is the story.
Our client was a rear-seat passenger in a black Kia Sportage heading south on Northside Drive through its intersection with MLK Jr. Drive in Atlanta, Georgia. The defendant was driving north through the same intersection in a gold Chevrolet Tahoe. The collision occurred in intersection, but it was unclear (at first) who was at fault.
Early in the case, we obtained and looked at the police report. According to the police report, the Kia Sportage was turning left in the intersection, and the Tahoe was going straight. In other words, according to the police report, the car accident occurred as shown in blue in the diagram below. That was bad for our client because the driver of the Sportage had absconded and apparently gone into hiding. We never could find him, and our client could not effectively collect from him.
But a police report isn’t the be-all, end-all piece of evidence. Occasionally, the police get it wrong. We started digging in.
Finding Witnesses to the Collision
First, we called the only uninvolved eyewitness that had been listed in the police report. We left a message and called again. And again. And sent letters. And knocked on her door. Finally, on our second trip to her apartment, we got to talk to the witness. “Witness 1,” as we’ll refer to her here, did not want to be involved in our case. But she agreed to hear us out, and we explained that our client was a 19-year-old kid who was paralyzed from the waist down who really needed someone to tell the truth. She said she’d talk to us for ten minutes. Then she told us something really important – she said that the Tahoe had not been going straight through the intersection after all, but instead the Tahoe had been turning left, as shown in red in the diagram above. Not only that, she said that the Tahoe had been trying to turn left but was behind a slower-moving car, so the Tahoe swerved to the right around that car, and then cut back to the left to make a reckless turn in front of the Sportage. This was big news. We immediately obtained a written witness statement from Witness 1. Here is a link to that witness statement, with the most important parts shown in the excerpt below.
We kept working. After getting in touch with Witness 1, we sat down with the police officer who had written the report, even though we were starting to believe that the police report was wrong. It turned out that the officer had a notebook in which he’d written the name and phone number of two other witnesses, but had not put their names in his report! Thankfully, the officer still had the paper notebook. We contacted the next two witnesses – we’ll call them Witness 2 and Witness 3– and after lots of following up, leaving messages, and knocking on doors, we got in touch with both of them.
They agreed with Witness 1 and disagreed with the police report. They remembered the Tahoe waiting in the left-turn lane, then impatiently swerving to the right around a vehicle in front of it, then recklessly turning back to the left and speeding into the intersection. In other words, they supported the version of the accident shown in red in the diagram above. This was huge news for our client.
We immediately confirmed their testimony. If you’re a lawyer talking with witnesses who may be reluctant to be involved, you have to move fast and take whatever kind of confirmation the witness is willing and able to provide. Witness 2 was more cooperative, so we typed up a sworn affidavit for him to review and sign (link here, and excerpt below). Witness 3 was harder to get ahold of, so Jeb recorded a verbal witness statement on his phone and then we had the verbal statement transcribed later.
With our evidence in place, we felt confident that we could prove to the jury that the police officer had made a mistake, and the driver of the Tahoe was really at fault for the collision.
About Our Client
We had the pleasure of representing a wonderful client, who we’ll call “Mike” for purposes of this webpage. Mike had gone through a terrible tragedy. He was 19 years old at the time of the collision, and was working toward a professional dance career. He was really talented. He was also a natural performer, and had done some singing and modeling as well. But dancing was his real talent.
Obviously the car accident, spinal cord injury, and paralysis ended that. But Mike stayed positive. He was young and of course he experienced grief and anger. But he dealt with those emotions, kept working to stay as mobile as he could, and kept living his life.
Mike was a pleasure to work for. We admired him greatly.
Settlement of the Car Accident Case
We did what good lawyers do – we got ready for trial. Eventually, somewhere deep in the hallways of the insurance company, someone put two and two together. They realized they were in trouble, and started asking us to settle the case.
The trial was set to begin on Tuesday morning. New defense lawyers appeared in the case and started calling and emailing. Late on the Saturday night before trial, while Jeb was in the office preparing his opening statement, the insurance company finally offered enough money that Mike decided to accept it. The case settled for $4 million.