Rear-Ended!

(car-accidents.com)
(car-accidents.com)

By: Wayne Brown

 

Often we hear the reference as to what a litigious society America has become.  It’s quite true and I am certain that the circumstance has evolved because the only thing America has more of than rats is lawyers.  They are interwoven into the fabric of our society like termites infested into an old wooden barn.  Statistically, they say that only 10% of Americans ever really need a lawyer.  If that is true, and I believe it might be, then there is no wonder that the old adage is true that one lawyer practicing in a town by himself will starve but two lawyers can make a damn good living. Most folks would agree with that premise I am sure.

 

I felt the sting of the lawyer’s bite many years ago and got a good feel for the term “negligence”.  I would advise anyone who has not been sucked into the cesspool of wreck-chasing lawyers to stay alert and do everything in their power to stay out of any situation which might allow you to experience this dark world which operates under the umbrella of our democratic society using rather irrational logic as its justification.  I think once you have heard my story that you might agree that this is the case.

 

I was in Houston, Texas on business.  Houston is certainly not one of my favorite towns and I have this gut feeling that the very first redneck was birthed somewhere near there.  Houston is terrible for traffic in the early morning hours, at noon, hell, all the time is probably the best thing to say. If they don’t have a traffic problem, they will quickly create one for you.  That was the case on this day as I made my way southbound on I-45 through the downtown area of Houston on a bright sunny morning.  All southbound lanes were running bumper to bumper but the joy of it all was that the traffic was still moving at a steady rate.  I was relieved in that it seemed that I would make my 9:00 AM appointment on time.

 

I was driving in the middle lane of the southbound freeway watching the signs for an indication of my upcoming exit ramp.  As we approached the exit for Scott Avenue, I was totally unaware that up ahead some idiot in a BMW decided that this was his exit so he came across two lanes and cut the cars off in the far right lane getting to the ramp.  As he did so and sped away down the exit ramp the first car that he had cut off slammed on its brakes setting off a chain reaction of rear-enders in that lane that seemed to just go on and on.  In the middle lane, life was serene.  We were moving right along. In fact, the lane in front of me had opened up and was clear of traffic ahead of me for at least a hundred yards or so…all for no apparent reason.

 

At just that moment, in the right hand lane adjacent to mine, a driver in a sign installation bucket truck saw that he was going to be involved in the chain reaction rear-ending going on in the right lane. He quickly swerved to my lane but still hit the car in front of him which then turned him 90 degrees across my lane and to a sudden stop.  That left me with no where to go as I had cars on either side of me and no time to get stopped before piling directly into the side of the stalled truck and watching the front of my car crumple up in slow motion.  I remember thinking, “I really don’t need this today.”

 

Suddenly, the freeway is a mess and most of the lanes are now stopped.  A man rushes up and taps on my window.  He hands me his card.  He is an editor with USA Today and he tells me that he saw the whole thing and will be glad to testify on my behalf.  I am thinking, “Wow, I am just now accepting the fact that I was involved and you are already in court!”  I thanked him and shoved the card in my pocket.  By now police cars were beginning to arrive on the scene and they had only one purpose…clear the freeway as fast as possible.  I was told to attempt to start my car and drive it.  I was then directed down the off ramp to the parking area of an abandoned service station.  The police divided the people into equal groups.  My group met at the service station.  Others met in different areas.  I was never sure how many cars there were involved but I would estimate that the number had to be more than a two dozen.

 

There were six or eight people in my group. We parked our cars in the lot and got out to talk with the officer.  He had us huddle around him and he immediately explained that we needed to get our paperwork and insurance in hand because he was about to write each one of us a traffic ticket.  I said, “Wait a minute officer, you are going to give me a ticket…for what reason may I ask?”  At that point, he turned to me and stated, “Sir, the law states that you must maintain control of your automobile at all times.  Obviously you were just in an accident and sustained damages therefore you must not have been in control of your vehicle as the law clearly states.”  To that I replied, “You better call someone because you are not giving me a ticket.”  The officer then left and went to his cruiser to call his supervisor.  Shortly he returned, had us all crowd around and stated, “Okay, I am giving everyone a ticket except Mr. Brown here.”  Amazingly, all the others nodded their agreement and lined up to get their tickets.

 

I was able to drive my wrecked car home to the Dallas area although I had to make the trip in daylight hours as my headlights were pointed skyward now.  At the time, I was also going through a divorce. This was the icing on the cake for me.  At least I had survived and not had to leave my car in Houston for repairs.  I guess that seemed to be the silver lining in that dark cloud.  Little did I know but this was just the beginning of a long, frustrating experience that would outlast my divorce proceedings.

 

A few months passed and life fell into place again.  My car was repaired, my divorce was final, and the stars were slowly realigning themselves in the heavens.  I actually thought that I was on my way to “normal” wherever the hell that is.  It was then that I received a visit from the local county constable who served with me legal papers.  When I inquired as to the content of the papers thinking that it could only be another chapter in my divorce proceeding, I was shocked to hear the constable state, “You are the defendant in a negligence case”.   “What!” I thought, having all but forgotten the accident in Houston months before.  I tore into the papers and began to read.  It only got worse.

 

I along with several others referred to in the legal papers as “etals” was being sued by the people who had been cut off by the exiting BMW on that sunny morning in Houston.  My name was listed first on the defendant list as if I were the primary culprit.  It seems that the participants in the accident had been listed in alphabetical order in the police report therefore my name came up first when the wreck-chasing lawyer was digging through the files.  Well, up to now I have been mad.  Now, I am madder than hell and I want to kick someone’s ass for including me in this frivolous charade.

 

I call my insurance company and inquire as to how they plan to participate in this kangaroo trial.  They tell me to calm down and just take things in stride.  They already have a lawyer to represent me on retainer in the Houston area.  They will take care of everything.  I need not worry, just let them handle it.  I feel a sense of relief and hope that justice will be served and things put into their proper place.  I feel violated.  I feel raped.  I want the scales of justice to be realigned into their proper balance.

 

As promised by the insurance company, the lawyer calls me to discuss the case.  I explain to her that I am being bamboozled and gave her the details of what had transpired on the freeway in Houston that fateful morning.  She simply laughed and told me that I was taking this situation far too seriously.  After all she said, “This is Texas, we sue everybody here and let the courts sort it out.”  I reiterated my anger then pointed out that I was innocent and that this was a travesty of the judicial process.  Again she laughed and pointed out that I really could not make such a claim and that I was probably guilty because, after all, I had been involved in an accident therefore I must be at least a portion of the blame.  I could tell right away that me and this woman saw the situation in a totally different light.

 

Soon there was a process of depositional testimony and drawings as to what transpired in the accident.  The police did nothing to cite a cause that was correct; they just ticketed everyone involved except me.  Some Houston attorney who regularly peruses the police files or pays some local cop to tip him off every time there is a significant accident had filed the case on behalf of a Hispanic couple who had been the first car rear-ended.  There was some question as to whether these folks could even speak English…all the better for the wreck-chasing lawyer.

 

Months went by with no real activity in the case.  In the interim, I received a summons to appear in court in Houston to testify against a man who I had never heard of or met.  I had no choice but to show up and see what was going on.  As it turned out, this man was in the same accident.  He had been driving a delivery truck and was traveling in the far right lane.  He came over a slight hill only to find the accident already in place.  He had to hit his brakes hard in an attempt to avoid the car in front of him.  He also steered the truck off to the right.  He did a pretty good job of it in that the only contact that he made was to brush the rear bumper of the car in front of him with his left front tire.  The police cited him as “The Primary Cause of the Accident” because he was the last vehicle in line.  It turned out that he had contested the ticket and asked to be tried for the charge.  We sat beside each other in the courtroom waiting for the trial to start.  He explained to me that if he was found guilty, he would lose his job.

 

We waited for most of the morning but court did not start as planned at 9:00 AM.  Finally, as we neared the noon hour, an officer of the court emerged from the back and told us that a settlement had been reached and the case would not be tried.  It turns out that the man’s lawyer had gained approval for him to plead “Nola Contendre” which is apparently either an old Latin term or a Hispanic one, which means that he is not guilty nor is he innocent but that he does have to pay a fine.  I had to shake my head as I left the courthouse realizing that the court only cared about the fine in the first place.

 

Time ticks along and more months pass in succession.  Now we are approaching two years since the lawsuit was first filed.  I hear from my attorney that they judge has now sent word to the plaintiff’s lawyer to either try the case or he is going to throw it out of court.  Again, I am relieved for it sounds like the plaintiff’s case may not be strong enough to go to court and succeed.  Once again, my naïve understanding of our legal system was going to bite me in the butt.

 

After several more weeks, I had not heard from my lawyer.  I could not believe it was taking this long to get this case to trial.  I wanted to see justice carried out and I wanted to see myself vindicated from these accusations.  To my surprise, one of the legal aides in the lawyer’s office tells me that my case is over.  She then immediately transfers me to the lawyer to get the details.  As you will remember, the judge had instructed the plaintiff’s lawyer that he must try the case or drop it.  Apparently this was the bluff that had been played not only in this case but in every one.  The plaintiff does not want to go to trial and the defendants are hoping that he will not.  The plaintiff wants to settle out of court and keeps the bluff in place in the hopes that the defendants will come to the table.  My lawyer advised me that the case had been settled and she gleefully added that I would be happy to know that she contributed $1,000 to the settlement in my name to arrive at the terms.  In other words, all the lawyers got to together and worked out a deal.  I was tossed in the trash so that the insurance company could forego defending my good name. In doing so, they contributed money in my name for the good of the overall settlement. In essence, it sounds like I pleaded, “Nola Contendre”.

 

Suffice to say that the particular lawyer involved would never see me again even if she was the last lawyer on earth and I was up to my ass in court proceedings.  I thought we had a justice system that considered people innocent until proven guilty.  There was no attempt to prove me guilty but I was rendered at least partially so by my lawyer’s willingness to give someone money.  Thus the scales of justice never truly aligned for me.  The lawyers made money.  The insurance companies were happy that a settlement was reached.  The plaintiff got some monetary concessions.  And me, well I figure I got the shaft.

 

So, what is the moral of such a story?  I think it might be that one should never cruise down the road on a bright sunny day carefully driving along and otherwise minding one’s own business and not be cognizant of the fact that at any given moment the American justice system can invade your life and convict you unfairly and without due process.  Think about that next time you head to the grocery store. 

 

 

© Copyright WBrown2011.  All Rights Reserved

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Comments 27 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

It looks like 'your' lawyer was actually looking after the interests of the insurance company. The company was her client, not you.

I learned early (and the hard way!) to retain a lawyer to look after me.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Wayne, very interesting hub. WillStarr is correct, when an insurance company tells you "not to worry" that should wave a big red flag for you. Glad it kind of worked out for you, these things can be a real mess to sort out and bring to a close.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

After you learn to drive, Wayne, the first thing you do is get a driver's license. The second thing, you get a car. The third thing, you find a good lawyer.

Very interesting but painful story to read.


tnderhrt23 profile image

tnderhrt23 5 years ago

My God, Wayne! Think I'm gonna give up the car and buy a horse! Yikes! What a nightmare! So did you get a big fat bill from your most generous lawyer for kickin in your share? This is pretty darn scary stuff to me!


rkhyclak profile image

rkhyclak 5 years ago from Ohio

Ugh Wayne, what a shitty situation! It's baffling to me how people can be so ignorant, greedy and just down right mean. And it's truly disheartening to know that every aspect of what runs our country and what it was founded on is so disgustingly corrupt.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

Yikes! Not much positive in this situation, huh? Guess you missed the appointment too? They say 45 is the training ground for road crews. It has been under construction for years and years (from town to Galveston). I am teaching my 15 year-old to drive. His birthday is this fall, and I so don't want him behind the wheel. Your experience is just one of the many reasons why.


TimBryce 5 years ago

No small wonder why people flee the scene of a crime Wayne, the lawyers are more vicious than the police. Great hub.

All the Best,

Tim


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

Having driven on the Houston roadways, I can attest to the wickedness of the driving skills by more than a few drivers there.

Lawyers are like snakes. Beheading at times seems to gentle for them Wayne.

Another good diatribe and voted up.


Fay Paxton 5 years ago

How timely. I thought about it just last night when I got halfway to my destination and realized I'd forgotten my wallet, so had no driver's license. I decided to go ahead and wouldn't you know it...there had been an accident right in front of where I was going and police cars were everywhere. I got lucky!

up/useful


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@WillStarr...You hit the nail head-on, Will. In the end, that is all they cared about...getting the insurance company off light. They may as well all be working out of the same office. WB

@Old Poolman...You and Will are correct. You have to hire your own skunk or otherwise you come out with the smell! WB

@drbj...Ha! I love your sense of priority Doc! Thanks much! WB

@tnderhrt23....No, at least that part was true. They paid the bills and just left me with my guilt and bad name! LOL! WB

@rkhyclak...It was truly a lesson in "follow the money"...if you did that it was obvious where it was headed. I am amazed at how many judges refuse to give people their day in court and simply demand a settlement be made....justice is not very well served for the victims. WB

@Truckstop Sally...One good thing to look at, if he survives driving in Houston, the rest of the world should be easy. We worried a lot about my son roaming all over the metroplex here in DFW. The worries never came true. He was always too afraid to go very far from home for fear of getting lost. Sometimes fears can be a blessing! WB

@TimBryce...That is certainly the truth, Tim...and nobody looks for them. They don't have time...their too busy answering those false home burglary calls that people like me are always setting off which cost them oodles and gobs of wasted time and money each year...especially if you factor in the entire cost of the police department infrastructure into each call. Thanks much. WB

@The Frog Prince...Yes, you know the old joke about lawyer's and white rats. The only reason we use lawyers is because there are some things that white rats refuse to do! LOL! What a racket! Thanks much! WB


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Fay Paxton...You are far luckier than me. The minute I realize I am doing something wrong, they are already behind me with the lights on! LOL! Thanks much! WB


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Sorry you had such an aggravating experience. The Justice system works slowly and often backwards which is why you do need a a lawyer with integrity to get you through the roadblocks. Honestly, there really are some terrific people out there who practice law. I should know, a few of them are family.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@breakfastpop...Yes, it is a profession in which 10% of those who populate it give it a black-eye which the other 90% have to wear. There are a lot of crooks hiding behind the good intent of our laws and skewing them to their needs. I guess that is the price we pay for democracy or something that resembles it. Thanks, Poppy. WB


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I've run ito that with insurance. Not quite as dramatic. I had an accident years ago in which i felt it was the other parties fault but the insurance company was ready to pay off the other person. I talked to the Insurance attorney.he said I could file a counter claim. there's was for several thousand dollars. I filed a $100 counter suit through the insurance company. About five years later I got a letter telling me the other party dropped their case.


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

With gas prices where they are, your story has given me all the ammo I need to get my bicycle out again.....Now, if it would just stop raining...


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Wayne...I hear your pain and figure we are here to be screwed every which way by our 'system'....I got a ticket for turning into a mismarked entry onto a road. I did cause an accident but apparently this particular road had caused TONS of accidents...just so happened I had to be present for one of them. It could have been a deadly accident, too because when I slowed down due to the confusing sign, a motorcycle ran into me! Super...

I also wish folks knew how to get a clue once in a while as to how they will look when they hit something going 70 mph....it's not pretty. Some people behind the wheel just don't have a clue and those of us who plod along as you were that sunny morning are just at risk by being on the road with them.

Sorry for your troubles and I hear you on how it feels to be reamed by the system! I also agree lawyers are snakes.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

Maybe the lesson is to never visit Houston but you sure got of raw deal. I thought the police were supposed to figure out what actually caused an accident and the that was who would get the ticket. I would have been hopping mad also. I'm sorry you went through such a a terrible time and quite honestly I think good lawyers are few and far between, at least that's been my experience.


sunflowerbucky profile image

sunflowerbucky 5 years ago from Small Town, USA

I have learned the hard way, too, that when a lawyer is involved, the only person who comes out on top is the lawyer. I have seen murder trials that were shorter than the length of my husband's divorce modification shenanigan. I used to be naive and believe in justice. Not anymore. It's really sad!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@dahoglund...Sounds like you outfox the wreck-chasing lawyer, DA..Good going! WB

@Stan Fletcher...Be careful. I know a guy that retired to ride his bicycle...they killed him the first week. Oh, and this surely the most optimistic statement ever made in the northwest, "You don't need an umbrella, the rain will stop soon!" Thanks Stan! WB

@akirchner...Why did I already know that you had suffered a similar plight...could it be that I am getting to know you through your writing? LOL! I always love that joke about the definition of a "crying shame"...a school bus loaded with lawyers going over a cliff with one empty seat!". Thanks Audrey! WB

@Pamela99...I think the ABA should be made to use the skunk as their official symbol until they clean up their ranks! Thanks Pam. WB

@sunflowerbucky...I feel a poem coming on called "Rats, Skunks, Termites, and Lawyers!" I am sure the words will come to me somehow! LOL! Thanks Bucky! WB


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Superbly written, Wayne. Insurance companies head my list of "ptui's." Attorneys run a close second. :) Up and awesome.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Genna East...Thanks so much, Genna. It is easy to write that way when the passion is high. I wrote a poem yesterday called "Critters". It's about rats, skunks, termites, and lawyers. I have to get feeling mean enough to publish it! LOL! Thanks for those good words. WB


OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 5 years ago

Wayne

First of all, great writing of this ridiculous situation.

Second, I think your 10& giving the black eye for attorneys, is really more like 90%.

Third, I hope we don't have a traffic code in Ca like you have in Texas. How ambiguous is the phrasing you must be in control of your vehicle at all times.

Fourth, I would have thought that have the parties in alphabetical order and making Brown the cause of the entire accident should have been grounds for dismisal. Having the police move all the traffic without making their report first or at least identifying the chain, would make the police report kind of vague and inaccurate.

Did you get a copy of the police report? Did your Attorney? There should have been statements from all those involved in the accident. Also being so close to the off ramp, maybe there were traffic cameras that recorded the accident. I would think that these are the kind of things that your lawyer should have been working on.

Fifth, There could have also been a conflict of interest with your lawyer from the insurance company if she was representing more people that were in that accident.

Sixth, I believe that getting a ticket from the accident is not a slam dunk for showing your guilt and additionly the no contest plea is for that purpose as well. I'll pay the ticket but I am not saying that I am guilty or not. At the same time, the fact that you didn't get a ticket while the others did had to work in your favor.

Seventh, Apparently ethics in not a requirement or held high in the Legal System in Texas. Well, even in CA where they have to take Ethics as part of the BAR exam, it really doesn't show in practice. Just be thankful you didn't have to pay her from your own pocket.

Eigth, Did your insurance company hold you responsible for the accident, as far as raising your premiums? In Ca when you an accident is attributed to you as your fault, the insurance company can raise your rates, drop you or say that's one, and next time we are going to do something bad to your rates.

Ninth, This accident must have created a number of lawsuits and counter suits, but it was unclear from your details how your invlovement in the accident appeared in the law suit.

I got the impression that the plaintiff named you and sevral others from the accident as being responsible for their damages. So while etAls are OK in the beginning, once the parties are identified then usually they get their name on the defendant list along with their counsel. In a case of negligence, there are elements that have to be detailed on what that negligence was, how it affected the plaintiff etc. That should have all been detailed in the papers that you were served. I doubt that there would have been any specific information about you that wasn't in the police report.

Tenth, your lawyer would have made a legal response initially to the plaintiff. It does sound like the plaintiff didn't do anything once he filed the initial papers.

Finally, I was impressed on your success with the officer and the ticket. I believe that he could have charged you with another crime for not co-operating with the directions of an office. In Ca they would have just handcuffed you and taken you to the station. If you were really a problem, maybe you might get some special treatment.

The legal system in this country especially the civil suits are just ridiculous. Filing bogus law suits has become a revenue center for many law firms.

I would have liked to have seen some lawyers try to defend the actions of "your" lawyer.

Thanks


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@OpinionDuck...I think it is fair to say that all of your points are good ones. That was my first brush with truly being naive in the American justice system...never again! WB


OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 5 years ago

Wayne

Wayne

I just watched a movie that was about the insurance industry as the plot for a thriller with Paul Sorvino that you might find interesting. Escape Clause 1996.

Thanks


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@OpinionDuck...Thanks for the heads up. I like Sorvino...I'll look for it. WB


Ghost32 5 years ago

As it happens, I've actually got several dogs in this hunt. Spent 12 years as a commercial insurance underwriter, some with humongo carriers, some with regional and/or specialty types. Then, turning off a Santa Fe Springs street (L.A. County) in my 18 wheeler one fine morning, I watched a Puerto Rican lady in her shiny new SUV try to pass me at high speed on the right, bounce off a telephone pole, and knock herself out. Followed by just downright fascinating interaction with various folk including the LAPD, witnesses of various stripes, the courts, and--yep--a fistful of ambulance chasers.

Guess that's my Hub for tomorrow!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Ghost32...Heck, they probably got that bounty hunter Dawg looking for your butt...won't rest until your buried in an umarked grave somewhere the other side of Terlingua. Don't sell the rights to your story too cheap...I think we might have us a full-length motion picture here by golly! See...sometimes good things come from bad people! Thanks,Fred! WB

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