Ohio Health Victimizes a Pedestrian Injured in a Car Accident

The car accident was bad enough, but what happened to the victim afterward was even worse. In this case, an Ohio hospital victimized its own patient. As Ohio personal injury attorneys, we were determined to make it right.

The pedestrian car accident

Freddie* was 30 years old, mentally disabled, and lived with his mother. Despite his limitations Freddie was a very productive young man. He had a job at a neighborhood restaurant and he went to work every day just like anyone else.

One day, Freddie was walking back to work after a break when a careless driver made a rolling right turn through the crosswalk Freddie was using, and hit him square on. It was a devastating accident. Freddie sustained a serious head injury, and his shoulder was hurt badly enough to require a replacement. Worse yet, Freddie lost his job because he was unable to work after the accident. In addition to his long and arduous recovery, the accident left Freddie with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He didn’t want to leave his mother’s house, much less get in a car or cross the street—his life was totally transformed by the tragedy.

According to Ohio law, if a driver strikes a pedestrian who’s outside of a crosswalk, the driver can’t be held liable for the accident. That’s the position the driver and her insurance company took. We countered their position by hiring an accident reconstruction expert. Speed analysis measurement and eyewitness testimony were used to establish that Freddie was indeed in the crosswalk when he was struck by the driver’s car. By proving the driver’s negligence we were able to secure a settlement that would help Freddie on his road to recovery.

Establishing the driver’s liability was great news for Freddie, but it certainly wasn’t the last obstacle that he would have to overcome in regards to this accident.

Ohio Health preys on a vulnerable man

As a patient of Ohio Health, Freddie’s medical bills totaled over $110,000. If he’d had insurance, or if he’d been covered by Medicare or Medicaid, the insurer would have offered to pay a certain percentage of the bill, the hospital would have accepted it, and that would have been the end of the story. It’s a common practice in the healthcare business—hospitals bill one amount, but they take whatever the insurers are willing to pay. Because hospitals know they’ll only get a fraction of the amount billed, they have an incentive to inflate the bills.

Ohio non-profit hospitals have a state-required program called H-CAP, which is a charitable program that covers medical bills for those in our society who are uninsured or impoverished. The day after the accident, someone from Ohio Health’s billing office went to Freddie’s room with a form to determine if he was eligible for H-CAP. This person asked Freddy—who was badly injured, traumatized, and on pain medication—how much money he made. On the form, that person recorded that Freddie’s income was $18,000 a year, which made him ineligible for H-CAP.

But Freddie never made $18,000 a year in his life. Now maybe he said $8,000 and somebody wrote it down as $18,000. Or maybe he was on pain medication and didn’t say anything. (They never even tried to ask his mother, who was present and who certainly would have been able to provide that information.) Denying Freddie H-CAP assistance would be a big win for the hospital. H-CAP eligibility would eliminate his debt entirely, but if Freddie wasn’t eligible, the hospital would be in line for a big payday from the insurance company. So the hospital was financially motivated to keep Freddie from receiving H-CAP benefits, even though he was precisely the type of candidate the program was designed to benefit.

Freddie’s employer didn’t provide him with health insurance. So here’s a man with no private insurance and who, according to Ohio Health, is ineligible for H-CAP. It gets worse: Rather than trying to collect the amount that Ohio Health would have accepted if Freddie had been insured (something in the range of $40,000) Ohio Health demanded the whole $110,000. And it didn’t just try to collect, Ohio Health actually sued Freddie for everything—his medical bills, his therapy, for every last dime of the inflated bill.

Ohio Health’s financial greed led them to prey on an impoverished and mentally disabled young man in the midst of an incredible hardship, and it’s despicable.

Helping Freddie land on his feet

It was our goal to keep Freddie from having to pay the overinflated $110,000, which would have amounted to a significant portion of his settlement. He’d been through enough at that point and we believed his settlement should have been used to help him get back on his feet, not compensate the hospital at exorbitant rates. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate a much more realistic bill, and Freddie was able to retain the majority of his settlement.

Sometimes good people get taken advantage of, and we’re just glad to be able to our part in correcting these situations when we can. It hasn’t been easy for Freddie or his mother, who had to take a lot of time off of work to take care of him. Freddie has a lot to live for and we’re eager to see him recover physically, recover from his post traumatic stress disorder, and get back into the world.

*Names in this article have been changed to protect our client’s privacy. The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances of the case.

Paralyzed But Not Immobilized

Receiving a call that your son or daughter has been involved in a car accident is every parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately for one Ohio family, this nightmare became a reality. When Marc’s* family learned that he had been injured in a car accident they were distraught. His life had been spared, and for that they were grateful. They were not, however, prepared for the complications that would follow the accident.

The car accident

Marc and two of his friends were on their way home from a night out, when the driver took a curve too fast, causing the car to fly off the road and hit a tree. Because they had been wearing their seatbelts, the driver and front passenger were able to walk away from the accident. But Marc, who’d been sleeping across the back seat, was not as lucky. For a while, doctors were not sure if he would survive. To his family’s relief he did survive, but his neck had been broken and he was left paralyzed—he’d lost the use of his arms and legs.

As time passed, Marc made progress—first he moved a finger, then a hand, then he regained some sensation in his upper body. Despite his progress, doctors told his family he would be permanently paralyzed from the waist down. They would have to reconfigure their home with wheelchair ramps, pay for expert home care, and purchase a van to transport Marc to medical appointments and anywhere else he needed to go. Ensuring a good quality of life for Marc and themselves was going to be costly.

The insurance complications

Though Marc had insurance, there was some question as to what costs the various policies would cover. Because his situation was complicated, the family could look forward to two or three years of court battles before any settlement would be made.

Marc’s family decided to seek help from Ohio accident attorneys, and that’s when we got involved. Our goal was to help make life as easy as possible for Marc and his family, as quickly as possible.

Avoiding a trial

The great part of this story is that we were able to achieve positive results for Marc and his family without actually going to trial. Many complicated insurance cases end up in court because the insurance companies push the limits, and refuse to settle in cases where they know the insured has weak legal representation. We, on the other hand, have established a strong reputation across the state of Ohio as litigators who will certainly go to trial—and succeed, if insurance companies won’t settle. And frankly, that can be intimidating. Our reputation makes good-faith negotiations seem like a better alternative than a court battle.

We gathered information and spoke with experts. But most importantly, we identified the decision-makers at the various insurance companies—which can be a daunting task, especially for a family undergoing such a drastic life change. We then negotiated with those decision-makers and their attorneys. Through hard work, creativity, and forceful arguments, we were able to secure the family’s economic future. Marc could continue to live at home with his family and begin moving forward with his life.

A new lease on life

Beyond the insurance settlement for Marc’s family, his story has an even greater positive outcome. He’s not letting his injury hold him back. He’s active in the Christopher Reeve Foundation, helping others who share his disability. Marc has even gone bungee-jumping—in his wheelchair. Everybody who knows Marc is cheering for him from the sidelines, including us.

*Names in this article have been changed to protect our clients’ privacy.

The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances of the case.

Expectations and Justice After a Car Accident

“The customer is always right.” How many times have we heard that well-known concept? But what happens when, despite doing everything in your power to help a client, their life remains negatively affected after a case?

The following case helps to illustrate the challenges we sometimes face when trying to meet clients’ expectations—and, perhaps even more important, the challenges clients face trying to make sense of unimaginable injury or loss.

A car accident changes everything

The event that preceded Dierdre Jenson’s* life being turned upside down was something many of us can identify with: sitting in traffic.

One day during rush hour, as Dierdre was trying to get on the interstate, a large truck hit her from behind. The truck, loaded with scrap metal, couldn’t brake soon enough and knocked Dierdre into the car in front of her. Fortunately, it wasn’t a fiery wreck, but there had been damage to the vehicles, and Dierdre went to a local hospital to be treated.

Although she’d gone to the ER, she wasn’t admitted. Instead, she was sent home with some ice packs and instructions to check back if the pain she was experiencing didn’t subside. As it turns out, after a week or so she was feeling worse, with joint pain, back pain, and headaches.

She continued to go back to the doctors, who thought maybe she was stiff from the accident or had experienced a sprain in her neck. Each time she was sent home with more Ibuprofen and other medication. But her injuries and pain persisted.

The accident had occurred in the summer and she was supposed to start a PhD program that fall in Ohio (she lived in Canada), but she simply couldn’t—she had become incapacitated in ways that nobody really understood or had foreseen.

Meanwhile, her condition seemed to get even worse.

An unexplained spiral of pain

She was referred to us, and we filed suit on her behalf. It looked like a relatively minor lawsuit at first, but as we spoke with her and dug into the case, we just couldn’t shake the notion that she was experiencing one of those invisible injuries that won’t show up on an MRI or a CAT scan. It was something that was very difficult to diagnose and test.

Yet it was clearly very real for Dierdre. From her perspective, her injury had been a debilitating, life-altering event, every bit as serious as if she had been paralyzed in the car accident. Essentially, she could no longer enjoy even the simplest parts of life that many of us take for granted like working or shopping. The injury had significantly affected her life plans—it prevented her from starting the PhD program she had been planning on that fall.

Pursuing justice

We spent considerable time researching her condition, trying to get a handle on fibromyalgia and its causes, and whether fibromyalgia could have been traumatically induced in Dierdre’s case. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by various types of chronic joint and soft tissue pain, many of which Dierdre was experiencing. The problem, however, is that it’s difficult to medically identify or diagnose.

Considering the serious pain and disruption Dierdre was experiencing, we made a demand for the limit of the defendant’s auto insurance policy. The defense attorneys laughed—given the minor property damage, low speed of impact, and lack of any readily identifiable injuries, they felt our demands were unreasonable.

So we went to trial. And although there had been differing opinions among jury members as to the severity of Dierdre’s condition, we won. The verdict was, at the time, the highest ever in that county for what is known as a soft tissue injury—basically an injury that doesn’t involve a broken bone, or that won’t show up on an MRI.

Yet Dierdre was devastated. Given how dramatically her life had been altered, she’d expected a much larger compensation.

The client’s challenge: identifying one’s needs

We take great pains trying to understand our clients’ objectives, goals, and expectations of what the civil justice system will provide. This allows us to make clear right from the offset what the justice system can and can’t do, and what juries are likely to do when it comes to providing compensation. This approach makes sense; it not only helps rein in unrealistic expectations, but it ensures we’re seeing the case from our clients’ perspective, so they can receive the justice they require.

But accident cases aren’t always so clear-cut. And really, how could they be? Imagine yourself in Dierdre’s shoes, your life and livelihood drastically altered by crippling, unexplained pain, only to have doctors tell you, “Well, we can’t see anything wrong with you.”

In our many conversations with Dierdre’s husband, he explained that the car accident had changed not only her life, but her behavior as well. She started seeing one doctor after another, becoming more and more distrustful when none were able to provide her explanations or solutions.

When faced with such a situation, what do you ask of the justice system? To have your health back? To have the medical community properly diagnose and acknowledge your pain? Wouldn’t you do virtually anything for the chance to have your old life back? Ask for virtually any amount? Looking at the process from Dierdre’s perspective, it’s no wonder her expectations of justice were so high—or, for that matter, so hard to meet.

The Ohio accident attorney’s challenge: meeting a client’s needs

Although we may not have provided Dierdre with as much compensation as she had hoped for, we were able to help her in other ways. Besides the compensation, which could help pay for treatment and, ideally, rehabilitation, we made sure she got a jury trial—a public forum where she could tell her story and explain in her own words what she was going through. This was important. Through the jury’s verdict, we think she recognized on some level that the jury members understood she hadn’t been in a simple fender bender, and we believe that gave her some comfort.

Unfortunately, though, we just don’t know to what extent our work helped Dierdre, or whether she was ever able to recover from her injuries. One of the consequences of her increased distrust of people was that she became extremely difficult to contact. She had only provided a post office box mailing address, not her residence, and when we tried several times to talk with her on the phone after the trial, she couldn’t be reached.

Measure of success

It’s tough. As Ohio accident attorneys, we become plaintiff’s lawyers because we want to help people through difficult circumstances. And we like to think that if we do the best we can and really dig in and work hard, we’ll provide them with that support. But the fact is, sometimes all of our hard work isn’t enough. Sometimes, especially in terms of the healing process, we just can’t deliver everything clients want or need.

That said, cases like Dierdre’s accomplish something special. They serve as reminders that we can’t just pat ourselves on the back and say, “What a great job we’ve done — we got a nice verdict or settlement.” Because that’s not ultimately what matters.

Our clients’ lives go on after the trial. And the quality of those lives after a major injury or tragedy is what really matters the most.

*Names in this article have been changed to protect our client’s privacy.

The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances of the case.

Instinct: The Secret Weapon of Successful Ohio Accident Attorneys

When your livelihood involves seeking justice for living, breathing people, you tend to dig a little deeper into a case, even when the facts seem bleak. You listen to your instincts. You follow up on hunches you might otherwise ignore. And you realize it can completely change the outcome of a case.

A troubled family, a fatal accident

When Diane Baker* came to our office seeking an Ohio auto accident attorney, we had our doubts. Not about Diane — we really liked her, and we could tell she and her family needed help — but about the case itself. It was a case many law firms probably wouldn’t take.

It stemmed from the death of her ex-husband, Jordan*, who had been struck by a car while riding his bike one morning.

A little background: Jordan had had a drinking problem. About a year before the car accident, his drinking had caused him to lose his high-level supervisor job. It had also resulted in the end of his marriage, and in his moving out of his family’s home. Those had been tough times, both for Jordan and for his family.

But Jordan wanted a better life, especially for his two kids. He wanted to contribute to the family again. So he went to rehab, got a new job, and began turning his life back around. The family was on the mend. They had all gone through a pretty rough divorce, but now the kids were starting to rekindle relations with their father.

One night, however, Jordan apparently had a relapse with his drinking. Part of his normal exercise routine had been to ride his bike around 5:00 a.m., and that morning he tried go bike-riding like he normally did, perhaps to work off the alcohol.

He traveled in a bike lane, but it was in an area with hills and curves. He was struck from behind by a car going 55 miles per hour. He survived for a couple of hours, but ultimately died.

Overcoming difficulties: Strategies of an Ohio auto accident attorney

This looked to be a tough case. Jordan had been intoxicated, and his bike didn’t have any reflectors. Defense counsel was claiming Jordan’s clothing had been too dark to wear on a pitch-black morning.

But we had a hunch. We hired an accident reconstruction expert to recreate the exact conditions leading up to the car accident and Jordan’s death. The expert, along with one of our attorneys, went out to the site at 5:00 a.m. To determine where the car had been, where the bicycle had been, what the contour of the land was, how much daylight there had been precisely at the moment of impact, and what the lighting conditions had been like.

Here again, we chose a path other law firms might not have taken. Hiring an accident reconstruction expert is an expensive proposition, especially given some of the other challenges surrounding the case.

But our gut told us this would be the best direction, and we were right. After reconstructing and recreating the tragic scene, the expert came to a powerful conclusion: The conditions would have allowed the driver to see Jordan. Driver negligence had in fact been responsible for the accident that killed him.

Interestingly, there was something else that we did that bolstered our case. Because one of our attorneys had been to the site that morning and actually witnessed the expert’s evaluation firsthand (something many attorneys probably wouldn’t do), he was able to authoritatively counter any criticisms mediators brought up about the expert’s report.

Based upon that report, and our vigorous defense of it, the defendants ultimately settled with Diane and her family.

A settlement and its intangibles

The settlement was a big deal to Diane’s family, but not necessarily for obvious reasons. Yes, Diane could now pay for her kids’ school activities and whatever else it took to provide them with as normal a life as could be hoped for after this tragedy. And a trust created from the settlement ensured that the kids would have assistance when they were ready for college.

But there were potent human intangibles also at work. First, think of Jordan. Here was somebody who’d made some mistakes, who’d let his family down, and who’d been working hard to earn back their trust and create a better life for all of them.

True, he stumbled, but that didn’t excuse the driver negligence that ended his life. Establishing the driver’s fault helped defend Jordan’s memory in his family’s eyes. We’d like to believe that winning the settlement helped him in a small way provide for his family, which was something he’d hoped to do as he was putting his life back together.

Then there were the children. These kids would never have time with their dad again. We wanted their last impressions of their father to be as positive as possible. The last thing they needed was for a prolonged trial, with the defense harshly characterizing their father and his alcoholism. So there was a sense of satisfaction, as well as relief, that we could end with settlement.

Trusting instincts and digging deep

Good instincts and the willingness to follow through on hunches — it’s a big advantage for us as attorneys.

It drove us to hire an expensive accident reconstruction expert, in spite of obvious challenges to the case, and accompany that expert during 5:00 a.m. tests. It led to proving that Jordan’s death was caused by driver negligence, not Jordan himself.

But those sorts of successes pale in comparison to the real value of being aware of your feelings: understanding your clients. Being able to walk in their shoes. Trying to feel what they feel, so you can provide them with what they need during a crisis in their life, whether it’s justice, validation, moral support, compensation, or something else.

That sort of awareness guided us to take on Diane’s case so we could help her and her family. And it motivated us to do everything we could to get a settlement, both to honor Jordan’s wishes of becoming a positive influence for his family again, and to protect his children’s memories of their father.

It’s probably not something people consider much when they’re thinking about attorneys, but it works for us. And it definitely works for our clients.

*Names in this article have been changed to protect our clients’ privacy.

The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances of the case.