Federal Jury Awards $4.25 Million to Michael van der Veen’s Severely Injured Client in Tractor Trailer Accident
Damien Wallace∗ enjoyed a simple and happy life. He worked two jobs to help provide for his wife and two children, and enjoyed spending time with his friends and family. His world changed, however, the day a tractor-trailer made an improper left hand turn in front of Damien’s station wagon, blocking his car’s right of way. Unable to avoid a collision, Damien braced for the impact. He stood on his brakes and locked his arms, but when the dust settled and the helicopter arrived to take Damien to the hospital it was too late to save his simple and happy life. Damien Wallace was rendered tetraplegic by the force of the collision causing a spinal injury.
Tetraplegia is sometimes also known as quadriplegia and is recognized as paralysis resulting in the partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso.
Following the accident, Damien was transported to a specialized hospital facility in Philadelphia to treat his traumatic injuries. Damien spent a month in the hospital before he was even stable enough for doctors to operate on his spinal cord. Ultimately, the doctors fused vertebra in Damien’s cervical spine and inserted a titanium bone graft. Three weeks following the surgery, Damien was sent home where he continued treating for his injuries.
The rehabilitation process was extraordinarily painful and frustrating for Damien. He followed the program recommended by his treating physician, a spinal cord injury specialist. In addition, Damien saw a number of other specialists recommended by his doctor, which produced some favorable early results. Unfortunately, this initial improvement was temporary and Damien’s condition deteriorated to the point where Damien could not walk more than a few steps and he was in constant pain. This condition never improved.
There is a loss of feeling in Damien’s arms, hands and legs, which are all prone to spasm. The list of permanent physical and psychological injuries caused by this crash is extensive and Damien is heavily medicated as a result. He has been declared permanently disabled by the Social Security Administration and Damien Wallace will never work again. His deficits are too great and his specialized needs and requirements are too many.
How would Damien and his family be able to cope with his disability? How would they be able to afford his past medical bills and the staggering cost of his future expenses? To make matters worse, the trucking company and driver responsible for the crash claimed that Damien was exaggerating his condition. In addition, they argued that any injuries Damien may have suffered were his own fault because his car did not have an airbag. Could this be true?
Faced with an insurance company that offered nothing to the Wallace family and was taking an extremely aggressive position in denying their claim, attorney Michael van der Veen filed suit in state court on behalf of Damien Wallace and his wife. After the defense had the case removed to the US Federal Court, van der Veen continued the fight in that venue. Forced to litigate multiple legal issues all they way to trial, van der Veen successfully turned aside each of the insurance company’s arguments and their justifications for denying the claims of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace.
In addition to convincing the court that the insurance company’s air bag defense was improper, van der Veen also persuaded a federal court jury that the accident was the fault of the trucking company and its driver. They were ordered to pay Damien and his wife $4.25 million in damages.
Besides the physical and psychological pain that Damien Wallace suffers on a daily basis, both he and his wife nearly lost their independence on the day of the crash. Without the means to support Damien’s specialized needs and care, he would truly have become a prisoner to his disabilities. The most basic tasks complicated beyond reason because of a lack of funds. Fortunately, this never happened. Michael van der Veen fought tirelessly, despite a change of venue to a more challenging jurisdiction, to cast aside each of the insurance company’s aggressive arguments to allow Damien and his wife to regain and maintain a reasonable measure of comfort, support and stability.
One of Philadelphia’s foremost personal injury, criminal defense and commercial litigation law firms, van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin combine nearly a century of passion-driven comprehensive law practice and client-centered representation for the full benefit of their clients. Their experience fighting for clients, serving the community and excelling in litigation has earned them the reputation as one of Pennsylvania’s toughest, hardest-working law firms.
* Not his real name