A Devastating Truck Wreck Changes Barb’s Life
Barbara O. spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and attained the rank of Chief Master Sargent (E9), a distinction that only about 1 percent of enlisted Air Force personnel hold. She was also highly decorated, having earned awards and distinctions such as:
- The Airmen’s Medal for Heroism
- The Meritorious Service Medal, with three oak leaf clusters
- The Air Force Commendation Medal, with three oak leaf clusters
- The Air Force Achievement Medal
- The Humanitarian Service Medal
She retired from the military in 2005, earned a Master of Arts degree in social work in 2006, and began her career as a high school Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) instructor. Just before the crash that changed her life, she was working at a San Antonio area high school, teaching several classes each day.
On a clear, sunny afternoon in August, just before the start of the school year, Barb was traveling in her pickup truck on a state highway in Floresville, Texas, just outside of San Antonio. Behind her, Roberto R. was driving a loaded semi in the same lane. It was a long, flat, straight section of highway, and Barb was towing an empty trailer.
Barb switched on her turn signal, slowed down, and began turning left to head home. Unfortunately, Mr. R. failed to notice these signs until it was too late. Although the right shoulder of the road was clear, he inexplicably attempted to pass Barb’s pickup on the left side.
Mr. R. barreled into the front of Barb’s truck as she tried to turn, forcing her vehicle across the opposing lane of traffic into a row of mailboxes and then pushing it more than 200 feet through rough terrain on the road’s median. Finally, he drove up on top of Barb’s pickup, crushing the vehicle and trapping Barb inside.
Floresville EMS and Fire reported to the scene and had to extract Barb from the driver’s seat of the truck, which had become a barely-recognizable tangle of twisted metal. By the time EMS got Barb out of the vehicle, she looked pale and was taking shallow, irregular breaths.
EMS personnel soon determined that Barb was confused and disoriented, bleeding from multiple lacerations and abrasions, and suffering from respiratory failure. She needed to get to a trauma facility — fast.
University Health System was the closest suitable hospital, and doctors there got Barb into surgery immediately.
The procedures she underwent over the next few days included:
- A right EPL tendon repair in the forearm
- A right EHL tendon repair in the foot
- A left palm laceration repair
- A left index finger laceration repair
- A facial laceration repair
- An open reduction and internal fixation for a fracture of the left glenoid (a bone in the shoulder)
Other injuries Barb suffered included:
- A left scapula fracture
- Broken teeth
- A left cheekbone fracture
- A fracture of the left lamina (a bone in the spine)
- A left ankle fracture
Barb spent nearly two weeks hospitalized at University Health System and then received another week of inpatient care at Reeves Rehabilitation Center. She was finally discharged almost a month after the crash.
During the months that followed, Barb spent most of her time seeing various doctors, some to treat her physical injuries and others to treat the mental symptoms she began exhibiting after the wreck.
“I Don’t Have a Life”: Living With a Traumatic Brain Injury
After the crash, doctors diagnosed Barb with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The imaging of her brain was consistent with a diffuse axonal injury. With this type of TBI, the brain’s long, connecting nerve fibers are stretched, damaged, or torn as the brain shifts inside the skull.
In Barb’s case, her TBI resulted in debilitating mental problems, including:
- Altered mental states
- Crippling cognitive problems, such as attention deficits, trouble finding words, and losing her train of thought
- Fatigue, loss of appetite, and chronic pain
- Catastrophic memory loss and difficulty remembering things
- Depression, stress, anxiety, and irritability
- Problems with planning and decision-making
- Difficulty with walking and simple coordination
- Struggling to understand language
- Social impairments and personality changes
Doctors believe Barb’s brain injury is permanent, and it has had an irreversible impact on her ability to navigate each day of her life.
Over a year after the wreck, during her deposition (a statement taken under oath), an attorney asked Barb what she did the day before. Many of us might feel a little fuzzy on the smaller details of what we did yesterday, but Barb broke down into tears. She could not remember a single thing from the day before.
Frustrated, overwhelmed, and exhausted, she told the attorney that even simple tasks have become impossible for her:
“I can’t… I can feed my horse, but I can’t… I can’t put up hay. I can’t. I have to get the boys across the street to do it. I can’t do anything on my own anymore. I used to do it all by myself. And now, I have to get people to help me do everything.”
“There is no yesterday. I don’t have a life. I’m completely isolated from everybody because I have nothing to offer. Nothing.”
Barb could no longer continue teaching due to the injuries she suffered from the wreck. Doctors believe she may never be able to work again, and she continues to get treatment today, years after the crash.
As one of Barb’s many doctors put it, she “will be highly unlikely to be successful in pursuing her life goals,” and “her diminished quality of her life and impaired ability to experience pleasure, appreciate humor and engage in social interactions” will be ongoing, permanent issues that she’ll face for the rest of her life.
Her injuries and deficits have also taken a toll on her family as they have supported her through her treatment and helped her adapt to the impossible, terrible reality of her life after the wreck.
Conflicting Statements by the Semi Truck Driver
Two and a half months after the crash, Barb hired Crosley Law Firm to handle her case. Although Barb’s brother was a lawyer, it was an attorney Barb knew through her work in the military that referred her to Tom Crosley because of his expertise in trucking accident cases involving traumatic brain injuries.
The tractor-trailer driver, Mr. R., gave multiple statements, some of which contradicted each other, about how the crash occurred. In his first statement, he indicated that he saw Barb in the same lane a quarter of a mile ahead, knew she was turning, and tried to avoid the crash. In another, he said he didn’t see Barb’s pickup or its signals and didn’t know that she was planning to turn. In yet another, he said that he signaled to pass on the left and Barb turned into his path.
Later, during his deposition, Mr. R. admitted that he did not see Barb’s pickup slowing to turn. He claimed that he was busy checking his gauges and mirrors and didn’t realize the pickup had stopped until it was too late. He also confessed that he did not know how much distance he needed to keep between the commercial truck he was driving and the vehicle in front of him in order to stop safely.
In that same deposition, Mr. R. claimed he was not responsible for the crash in any way. He said maybe he could have stayed longer eating breakfast to let the time pass so that it wouldn’t have happened, and that would have been the only way to avoid the collision.
The officer from the Texas Department of Public Safety who reported the crash disagreed. He concluded that Mr. R. was at fault for the crash and issued him a citation for failing to control his speed.
Mr. R. was also fired from his job because of this crash, and his termination letter indicated that he had been in other crashes, too.
Crosley Law Firm Pursues Every Lead
The driver’s contradictory statements and the more obvious facts of the crash would only take Barb’s case so far, though. So, the attorneys at Crosley Law Firm worked with independent consultants to analyze the details of the crash and provide an objective report of fault in the wreck.
The consulting firm came to the same conclusion that the officer at the scene did: Mr. R. was at fault for the completely preventable crash because he failed to maintain a safe distance, control his vehicle, observe the roadway conditions, and more.
In addition, the report indicated that the trucking company failed to implement and maintain the safety controls necessary to meet even the minimum safety requirements prescribed by law.
But Crosley Law Firm wasn’t done gathering evidence.
They also worked with accident reconstruction experts to recreate the physical details of the crash. These experts pulled data from an onboard computer, commonly known as an “event data recorder” or EDR. This data showed that Mr. R. was traveling at 64 or 65 miles per hour and did not brake until one second prior to the impact, which meant his massive truck was traveling at least 52 miles per hour when it crashed into Barb.
The accident reconstruction experts also concluded that Mr. R.’s carelessness directly caused the wreck.
Friends and Family
Remember Who Barb Was
In interviews with Barb’s friends and family during the investigation, they struggled to come to terms with the full extent of her impairments.
Barb’s friend Tiffany explained:
“It’s very hard for me to wrap my head around [Barb’s deficits] because of who I knew Barb as for so many years. Barb was a leader. She was motivated. She was solution-oriented. I think of her and her time with the military, and she was such a commanding leader… People were motivated to follow her based on her intellect, her drive, her planning ability.”
“That person doesn’t exist anymore… [she] is struggling just to exist.”
Crosley Law Firm Settles Barb’s Case for Nearly $4,900,000
There is no way to assign a dollar figure to the cost of an overwhelmed life, a diminished life, a life requiring constant help and never-ending medical treatment. By the time Crosley Law Firm began the case just a couple months after the crash, Barb’s medical expenses totaled more than $190,000. And she was still seeing doctors about her physical and mental impairments.
Barb had lost not only her livelihood in the crash, but the essence of who she was. Instead of inspiring students in the classroom, she now needs help with daily tasks. Instead of teaching others, she has had to re-learn how to get on with her life. She faces an ongoing struggle against the permanent and debilitating damage to her brain.
Armed with all the evidence they had meticulously gathered and assembled, attorney Tom Crosley of Crosley Law Firm were able to settle Barb’s claims against the trucking company and its insurer at a court-ordered mediation a few months before trial.
The total liability insurance available from the trucking company was $5,000,000, and the total amount of Barb’s settlement was $4,860,000. After attorney fees and reimbursement of litigation and medical expenses, Barb’s net recovery was $2,844,334. Much of this money has been invested on Barb’s behalf to provide for her financial security as she ages with her injury.
In the words of one of Barb’s doctors, “it is doubtful [Barb] will physically ever return to pre-trauma physical abilities.” And her brain injury is also permanent. With this settlement, Barb can focus on healing and navigating life with her disabilities instead of going further and further into debt just to get the professional help she desperately needs.
Interestingly, after the case was over, one of the trucking company’s lawyers revealed that he had attended Tom Crosley’s presentation on “Litigating Traumatic Brain Injury Cases” at a State Bar of Texas event. Based in part on that presentation, as well as the overwhelming evidence developed during the case, the lawyer recommended to the insurance companies involved that they settle Barb’s case.
Crosley Law Firm: Advocating for Texas Injury Victims
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash, please call Crosley Law Firm. We offer free consultations so we can listen to the details of your story and help you decide what your best course of action is moving forward.
If we are able to take your case, we do not charge you any legal fees unless we get you a settlement or win your case in court. With years of experience handling complex personal injury cases like Barb’s, we will fight to get you the justice and compensation you deserve.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.