Michael van der Veen Wins $10 Million Settlement, After Offer of Nothing
A mother was devastated by the news that her normal, healthy child suffered a traumatic brain injury, requiring a lifetime of care and support. Even worse, the insurance company representing the tractor trailer that crushed her child’s skull denied responsibility. The insurance company dug in its heels and was not offering to pay anything to the boy or his family, delivering yet another blow to an already overwhelmed family. She was truly overwhelmed, angry, and feels she has nowhere to turn. That’s when attorney Michael van der Veen stepped in.
Nine-year-old Ricardo Hill∗ was walking to his grandmother’s house after school. Ricardo was crossing a busy road at a marked crosswalk when he was struck by a tractor-trailer driver who later admitted to police that he never saw the boy before hitting him. The truck knocked Ricardo down, dragged him, and then ran over his head with the truck tires. Despite the fact that Ricardo’s head was crushed by the truck tires, the driver would not even have known he struck the boy if he had not been alerted by a third party.
After the accident, Ricardo stopped breathing twice and had to be brought back to life. He was stabilized at a nearby hospital, but Ricardo’s injuries were too profound to be treated at that facility, so he was airlifted to another trauma hospital. Ricardo spent more than a month at the second hospital with his distraught family by his side. Most of this time, Ricardo was in a coma, and he endured five major surgeries before he was stable enough to be transferred to a specialized rehabilitation facility.
Ricardo spent nearly four months in-patient in this facility, where doctors worked on his many physical, neurological, and psychological problems caused by the accident. While the care at the rehabilitation facility and his ongoing treatment helped Ricardo tremendously, his injuries were permanent; Ricardo requires a lifetime of advanced medical care and support. His parents had no idea how they would cover the enormous costs. They wondered how they would ever be able to take care of Ricardo when the responsible party offered no compensation at all.
Attorney Michael van der Veen filed suit on behalf of the family against the trucking company and the driver and prepared the case for trial.
As the trial started, the insurance company offered zero compensation, saying it was Ricardo’s fault. After day one of the trial, the insurance company offered the family $1 million. Unfortunately, this was only a fraction of what Ricardo would need for his ongoing care and support. The offer was rejected by van der Veen on the family’s behalf, as was the $2 million that was offered after the second day of trial. After the third day of trial, the insurance company offered the Hills $4.5 million, which was getting closer to the experts’ assessment of Ricardo’s future needs but was still not enough. When this offer was rejected, the insurance company’s attorneys tried a new more aggressive tactic: they sought to have van der Veen removed as the Hill’s attorney for not accepting their offer.
The Hills’ faith in Mr. van der Veen was rewarded. The court denied the motion to have him removed as the Hills’ lawyer, and after lunch on the fourth day of trial, the Hills agreed to accept a settlement offer of $10 million.
Ricardo Hill was in the third grade when this accident occurred. For months, his family lived with the uncertainty of his medical condition. Would Ricardo survive, and if he did, what would his life be like? How would they be able to afford his care? Ultimately, they kept faith in Ricardo’s doctors and faith in Michael van der Veen that the responsible parties would be held accountable.
While Ricardo does suffer from permanent disabilities, he persevered through his limitations and committed to his rehabilitation. Thanks in large measure to a world-class support system, Ricardo Hill returned to school, attended special education classes, and ultimately graduated from high school.
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