I told you about the actual accident. Told you about the injuries. Now to the "other" stuff. After the Highway Patrol Officer informed me that the person who hit me was drunk, my parents insisted I get a lawyer. A good one. Enter Sam. My mom drove me to a big law firm that is on the back of all the phone books and I met with Lawyer Sam. The first time I met with Lawyer Sam it was very somber. "I'm very sorry for your pain, I'm sorry this happened to you. Blah, blah, blah." He said all the things you would expect him too. I signed releases for him to get the police report and my medical report. And then I told him that the person who hit me had been drunk. He immediately perked up. "Oh, really! Well, that changes everything!"
The next day I got a phone call from Sam. I was injured and hurt, but I've never heard such pure joy in someones voice before.
Sam - "Guess what?"
Me - "What?"
Sam - "I know something you don't know..."
Me - "Again, what?"
Sam -"Well! It turns out she was drunk. Very drunk. Blood alcohol .26!"
Me - "This I know."
Sam - "But this part you don't know. She got drunk where she worked."
Me - "Who gets drunk at work? Where did she work?"
Sam - "The Blankety Blank Blank (bar name hidden for legal reasons)."
Me - "Was she a waitress? Bar tender?"
Here is where Sam sounds really giddy.
Sam - "Nope. She was a stripper! Apparently she got tanked before she went on stage to perform and then she drove herself home. You know the rest."
Me - "So what does this mean?"
Sam is practically laughing.
Sam - "It means the bar is liable. It means that she got drunk as an employee and anything she did while being their employee they are responsible for. Especially if they knew she was drunk when she left."
This information changed everything because now we were dealing with cooperate insurance. Sam realized how big this case was going to be and got another lawyer (his best friend by the way) to help with the case. Enter Lawyer Darren.
I have never really had much interaction with the field of law. The prosecution, the trying of cases. I don't even watch Law and Order on TV. But what I figured out about injury law, it is a three-ring circus.
First, Lawyer Darren didn't even try to act sad that I was hurt. He just kept saying how great this whole case was turning out to be. I couldn't have asked for a better set of facts. Second, the ENTIRE division of law in greater Salt Lake was run by a bunch of potty mouths.The following is an actually conversation that I heard over the speaker phone with the District Attorney of Salt Lake and my lawyer.
D.A. - "So we got a real f***in' ball buster on our hands here, huh?"
Lawyer - "Oh yeah. That bar, they are going to pay f***in' big time. And it was a f***in' stripper! It doesn't get better than that!"
D.A. - "So tell me about your client. Please tell me she's a crack whore. Please. If a stripper hits a crack whore nobody cares. This will all go away."
Lawyer - "Nope. She's actually a 29 year old cute, blonde, stay-at-home mom with three kids who happened to be in the car with her."
D.A. - "Sh**."
Lawyer - "Guess where her husband was at the time? Serving our country in the Middle East. That is going to sound great on the stand."
D.A. - "Double sh**."
It was a little surreal to know that all these people knew about my life. The D.A. knew my name, had a file on his desk about me. Then when the case about the bar came up, their lawyers really did some digging on me. When I went for the deposition, they asked me everything from where I went to elementary school to what kind of car I had when I was 18. They knew EVERYTHING about me, I saw the file. They only asked me things to see if they could catch me in a lie about things in my past. Of course, living all my life in suburban Utah I didn't really have much of a past for them to dig up. They were looking for something I had done so that it didn't look so glaringly horrible that this woman crashed into me.
And that woman. I only saw her a few times at her criminal hearing. When Lawyer Sam and I went to the first one we were both really anxious to see what she looked like. When she stood up to have the charges read against her, Lawyer Sam said and I quote - "Looks like bars are picking out their strippers at the local K-Mart." I burst out laughing in the court room. The judge told me to keep it down or they would have to remove me. Oops.
Another thing about Lawyer Sam and Lawyer Darren. They quoted movies all the time. Especially Raising Arizona. Having worked at a video store, I was quite familiar with this movie. They would call me and tell me to come down to the office to sign a document and I would end up staying there for three hours hanging out and quoting this movie. "Daddy, daddy, Mr. McDunough wet himself!"
The civil trial (the trial for monetary damages) never went to court. We went right up to the day before the trial when the bar countered with an offer we just couldn't refuse. And thus, my professional relationship with Lawyer Sam and Lawyer Darren was over. Now we're just friends. These two men were a big part of my life for almost three years and I'm lucky to now count them as such. I have even referred several cases their way. They were funny and some of my best friends when I felt lost and alone. We still talk every couple of months. And they still have potty mouths.
Dr. Greg was the man who physically put me back together. And he was a great guy too. Every appointment I had to go and see him he told me the same joke.
"There was this lady who was watching the news and she saw that they were doing a special report that someone was driving down the freeway the wrong way. She realized that this was the way that her husband took to work so she frantically called him on his cell phone. Honey, honey! Watch out! Someone is going the wrong way on the freeway you are on! The husband answers, Babe, there isn't just one, they're all going the wrong way!!" I heard this every appointment and he always told it the same way, like I had never heard it before and that it was the funniest thing he had ever said. This doctor was like none I had ever had. He hugged me every time. He gave me his personal cell phone number to call him if I couldn't get through his receptionist. He had his wife bring in lunch as a surprise to one of my appointments and the three of us sat and talked. As bad as my foot got, I had complete faith he would be able fix me. And fix me he did.
Another group of people who played a major part in this were my physical therapists. They were Damon and someone I will call S. I'll only call him S because he started to get a little "friendly" with me and it made me a more than uncomfortable. So friendly that he said he would leave his wife for me if I left my husband. What?!?!? Let's just say that after I told the director of the physical therapy office about that, S didn't treat me anymore. I was left to the capable hands of Damon. Damon really became a good friend during that time. I spent two hours a day, three times a week with him for a year and a half. We got to be pretty good friends. We talked about our kids and our spouses and told jokes. If a treatment had been especially painful or difficult he would call me later in the day to see how I was doing. When he handed me my diploma and my T-shirt at the very last appointment, we hugged and we both had tears in our eyes. He had been a witness to one of the worst times of my life and he was a constant source of reassurance that everything would be okay. We recently just saw each other at another medical office and we sat and talked for two hours. It was like old times.
Those are the people who healed me. I met them all through this challenging ordeal. At first meeting, they were just part of the background, part of the circumstances of the accident. But as time went on, they all became friends. I don't know if it was because I gave off this feeling of needing something or because Matt was gone for a lot of the aftermath of the accident, but they were all very protective of me. They were kind. And above all, they were funny. They added humor to a situation that I felt was drowning me. About a year after the surgery (almost four years after the accident), I went and saw all of them in person and thanked them for what they did for me. I thanked them for being them.
So there you have it. That is the story of the infamous accident. There are some things that I didn't really talk about. Like how Channel 2 news came and interviewed me two days after the accident and it was on TV. Like how the National Guard made a video about the accident and how important it is to wear your seat belt. Like how the drunk driver at first was charged with a felony and then begged my lawyer to plea bargain it down to a misdemeanor and in exchange she would testify against the bar at the civil trial. She ended up not doing that. She said, and under oath I might add, that she never said she would do any such thing. Funny, you would think that strippers who drive drunk the wrong way on the freeway would have a higher sense of morals.