Names and other personal data has been changed for privacy regulation, and these may or may not be current or former clients.
Andrea was so excited back in 2009. After an ugly divorce and living in a crappy apartment for a few years, her and her new boyfriend finally purchased a home to live in together. It was similar to the layout of the apartment, but with one key difference. In the old place, Andrea would walk out of the bedroom and make an immediate right to the bathroom. In the new place, the bathroom was straight across the hall. Well, sure enough, a few months after moving in, Andrea woke up in the middle of the night and made the wrong turn. To the right in the new house was the basement stairs. She took quite the tumble. After a 3 am emergency room visit she was out of work for a couple days and on muscle relaxers for the soft tissue neck injury, with full recovery in about 10 days.
Fast forward to 2012 – Andrea is driving to work on a busy two-lane road on New Year’s Day. She crests the hill to see a garbage truck stopped and a worker loading trash into the back. She stops to wait, hoping it won’t make her late for her shift. Coming up behind her stopped compact car is a midsize sedan that is not slowing down. All she could think about was smushing the worker in the crash. She cut the wheel left and braced for the impact. She was hit so hard that she not only crossed the lane of oncoming traffic, but went 10 feet off the road and landed against a fence. Her neck immediately began to ache, and she ended up heading to the ER in an ambulance. Here, the force of that impact brought back that old neck injury, and significantly worsened the damage. Andrea now has migraines and neck pain continually, and misses several days of work per month with FMLA. FMLA is unpaid time off.
With limited tort, Andrea would only be able to recover the medical bills for the ER visit, the time she missed from work, and the cost to replace her car, as it was a total loss. With full tort, Andrea could obtain monetary compensation for loss of future income earnings, estimating the days she misses from work unpaid for the years she has left before normal retirement age.
Andrea did have the full tort option on her insurance when this accident happened, but she decided not to recover nonmonetary damages. She truly believed the young woman who hit her just made an honest mistake, and she didn’t have very good insurance, so Andrea felt bad at the thought of the young woman’s wages being garnished or a judgement being assessed. You see, just because you have the right doesn’t mean you have to use it.