I know a lot of very nice people, who refer other nice people to me when they need legal help. As a result, most of my clients are pretty great.
But the Robinsons are particularly kind, good people. They didn’t deserve to have their lives changed like this.
The Robinsons were heading home on southbound I-5 on a sunny March afternoon. Rory was driving. Jennifer was in the passenger seat. Their young daughter was in the back seat.
Meanwhile, a trucker was traveling northbound on I-5.
He had driven his semi-truck and trailer from Vancouver, British Columbia to Beaverton, Oregon. He delivered his cargo, picked up another load, and turned around to head back to Canada.
Then the trailer’s rear wheel came off.
It crossed over several lanes of traffic, and bounced across the I-5 median into the southbound lanes of travel.
In one terrifying moment, the tire slammed into the Robinson’s car, causing it to flip.
Learning about the brain injury case
I met the Robinson family about 2 years after the crash.
There were some difficulties resolving their injury claims: because of my experience in commercial truck crash cases, their attorney contacted me to handle the litigation with the trucking company.
Rory and Jennifer are very nice people. They both have studied and worked in early childhood education; I could see how they were suited to work with children. Their young daughter, a wonderful kid, was the focus of their lives.
All three were injured in this crash. The impact on their lives was sudden, severe—and long-lasting.
Rory had the worst of the impact: he suffered various injuries, including a traumatic brain injury.
“The last thing I remember was seeing a black object coming at us, and then waking up in an ambulance.”
Rory always had a passion for teaching young children. Before the crash, he was an effective, well-liked preschool teacher, and enjoyed his work.
Since he sustained a brain injury, Rory has dealt with dizziness and headaches. He has struggled with simple, day-to-day tasks.
But he was walking, talking, and functioning: the extent of his trauma wasn’t immediately revealed after the crash.
He worried about his ongoing cognitive deficiencies.
But he was also worried about his job, and family finances. His medical records note that he made it clear to his doctors that he wanted to return to his job. So Rory went back to work. But his symptoms just kept getting worse.
The case against the truck driver and trucking company
Every commercial trucking company and truck driver are responsible for making sure that the trucks they operate on public roads are safe.
What happened to the Robinsons was not an “accident”. The rear tire of that trailer didn’t spontaneously fall off the trailer.*
During the investigation of the Robinsons case, we discovered very serious violations of federal trucking regulations and a lack of maintenance:
- The truck driver hadn’t done the required inspections of the truck and trailer.
- The trailer’s owner did not have a proper maintenance program.
- No one could certify that the wheels and tires had ever been properly mounted and torqued onto the trailer.
The lawyers for the Defendants—the trucking company, truck driver, and owner of the trailer—couldn’t mount much of a defense based on the facts.
Instead, they decided to argue about the extent of Rory’s injuries—and shirk responsibility for the damages.
This is a common tactic.
Rory’s strong work ethic and his commitment to providing for his family pushed him to return to work several months after the accident.
And it masked his eventual diagnosis: “moderately severe traumatic brain injury.”
Because he went back to work, the defense argued, he had mostly recovered from his brain injury.
But Rory was struggling. Easy tasks had become difficult. Names were escaping him. He couldn’t keep track of time. In the years since the crash, it has become clear that Rory can no longer work as a preschool teacher. He will probably never be in charge of his own classroom again.
It’s a huge loss. For my client, it’s not only an economic loss, but also a loss of part of his identity, and his role in the world.
Resolving a brain injury case
Many people don’t understand the huge amount of time and effort it takes to recover from a traumatic brain injury like Rory’s.
Or they don’t understand that no matter how hard the injured person works to get better, full recovery may not be possible.
After years of independent medical exams, discovery, mediation, and negotiations, the insurance companies finally offered a reasonable settlement for the Robinsons lawsuit.
The settlement will help Rory as he rebuilds his life and learns to live with a traumatic brain injury. It will help the family learn to cope with life with a brain injury victim.
This will be the end of the family’s personal injury claims, but it won’t be the end of Rory’s permanent injuries, and the new reality in which he and his family will live.
No one asks to live with a brain injury because a group of strangers at a trucking company neglected their job duties.
It can be frustrating to be a personal injury lawyer: we can never undo the damage that has been done to innocent people. The only thing we can do is to help people get the justice they deserve.
But when I can help good people get justice and find accountability, maybe I can make the road to rebuilding their lives a little smoother … and I remember why I became a lawyer.
Since this blog was originally published, Coluccio Law has changed the way we speak about motor vehicle crashes. We do not use the word “accident” to describe a preventable crash, like the crash that affected this family.