Michael van der Veen Goes Above and Beyond to Win $4.8 Million for Bicyclist
Jennifer Watson∗ was nearly killed when a drunk driver hit her from behind as she rode her bicycle along the side of the road. Although she was traveling straight and well away from the car’s lane of travel on the shoulder or bike lane, the driver who struck her was so intoxicated that he was unable to control his vehicle. The force of the impact was so severe that it shattered Jennifer’s bicycle and her helmet.
Jennifer was taken to the emergency room where she complained of significant pain in her back. Incredibly, the doctors at the emergency room saw fit to discharge Jennifer and they sent her home. Jennifer’s pain, however, did not improve. She called attorney Michael van der Veen who made a trip out to visit Jennifer and saw the extent of her distress. van der Veen immediately had Jennifer rushed to the hospital for further testing.
This time, the doctors were able to find the source of Jennifer’s pain. She had suffered a significant injury to her spine, including a fracture to her back that required surgery to repair. Jennifer also suffered nerve damage and bulging disks in her back that caused pain and numbness to radiate down her extremities.
van der Veen helped Jennifer find the appropriate medical care, and surgery was performed to repair her fractured spine. The seven-hour surgery and recovery time kept Jennifer in the hospital for two weeks, and her back is now held together with metal pins and bars. Apart from her physical limitations, however, Jennifer also had another issue for which she needed van der Veen’s assistance. She wanted to be able to testify against the drunk driver in his criminal case.
The driver who struck Jennifer had a shameful prior driving record consisting of 28 moving violations, including four careless driving and four speeding citations. His record had earned him eight license suspensions over the years. Jennifer wanted to be able to tell the court what happened to her. Even though the driver was pleading guilty to the crime of driving under the influence, she wanted to try and help stop this driver from committing a future offense.
Unfortunately, a hearing was scheduled for the driver and he pleaded guilty without Jennifer’s knowledge. It seemed like she would never get to tell her story. van der Veen, however, helped convince the prosecutor to reopen the case and get Jennifer her day in court. A new hearing was scheduled, Jennifer was able to tell her story, and the driver was sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed by the law. Michael van der Veen then moved on to recovering damages for Jennifer’s injuries.
Jennifer Watson suffered a significant spinal injury. She was in constant pain, could not work, and was in danger of losing her home. van der Veen prepared the case for trial against the drunk driver who injured Jennifer. Jennifer Watson was awarded $4.8 million in damages. Although Jennifer still has pain and remains unable to work, she at least has the comfort of knowing her financial and medical care will be covered into the future.
Jennifer also knew and respected the fact that van der Veen stood up for her when no one else did. He visited her right after the emergency room physicians sent her home on the day of the accident, saw her pain and immediately arranged for proper treatment. van der Veen then fought for Jennifer to get her day in criminal court to tell her story when no one else placed any value in her testimony or her feelings. Being fully present for Jennifer Watson made all the difference in the world not only to her legal case, but also to her as a person, which is what being an effective advocate is all about.
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 her real name.