14-year-old Kieran Winter was on her way to a local soccer tournament when a semi-truck broadsided her family’s station wagon. Kieran was critically injured, including head trauma, fractured pelvis, lacerated spleen and a punctured lung. After waking up from her coma with left-sided paralysis, Kieran spent the next few months in rehab learning how to redo the basics like eating, walking, and talking before being released home in a wheelchair. Kieran had a traumatic brain injury.
If there ever was a need for having an attorney to help guide the way through the complexities of police reports, insurance claims, medical treatments and bills, a brain injury would most certainly qualify. But, many people believe that hiring a personal injury lawyer is wrong because they’re just in it for the money. They will point to the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit as the classic example of a frivolous lawsuit–and why they don’t like personal injury claims.
The real story
However, a little digging shows another side to the story. A grandmother from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Stella Liebeck was upfront that spilling the coffee was her fault. However, there are a few details that most people don’t know:
- The coffee was heated to 190 degrees–similar to hot radiator fluid.
- Stella was in the hospital for eight days with third-degree burns on her thighs, groin, genitalia and buttocks. (Third-degree burns are the most severe type of burns as they penetrate the dermis and affect deeper tissues, resulting in numb-feeling white or blackened skin.) Treatment consisted of multiple painful skin grafts.
- McDonald’s had received 700 complaints previously about their hot coffee policy.
- Stella initially asked for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses. McDonald’s offered her $800 instead.
- The jury thought she deserved a high amount and added $2.7 million in punitive damages–the amount that McDonald’s makes in just two days from their coffee sales. Stella settled for around $600,000.
- McDonald’s changed their high-temperature coffee policy after the suit.
After the accident
After an accident that results in a traumatic brain injury, most people do not know what to do next. On many occasions, the insurance company may dispute the claim and try to reduce the compensation or deny it altogether. Personal injury attorneys can help their clients fight back and pursue financial compensation for lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses and damages.
This compensation is significant because symptoms of brain injury can be with the victim for the rest of their life. Of the patients hospitalized for a brain injury, almost half had a brain injury -related disability a year after the injury. Some of the short-term and long-term issues resulting from brain injury include:
- Cognitive function: memory and attention
- Motor function: weakness of extremities, impaired coordination and balance
- Sensation: hearing and vision changes, impaired perception and touch
- Emotion: anxiety and depression, aggression, lack of impulse control and personality changes
With the help of a personal injury attorney, you can pursue compensation for your injuries and start the process of moving on with your life again. There’s nothing wrong with that.