Massachusetts Police Injury Attorneys
Case Report - Head Injury
OFFICER COLLECTS $500,000 FOR HEAD INJURY WITH NO FRACTURES EVENTUALLY RETURNING TO WORK
Many injured officers mistakenly believe they cannot make a valuable claim for an injury on duty unless they sustain a serious and obvious injury, like a fracture. Most of us are unaware how disabling an injury to the head can be, especially when it is a closed head injury with no fractures and the victim visibly appears fine. Such was the case for Officer Randy Boyle*, who suffered an injury to his head, which caused him to miss two and a half years from work before he was able to recover sufficiently from the effects of his injury to return to work. As a result of the immediate filing of a lawsuit on his behalf, and aggressive investigation and litigation of his case, we were able to successfully resolve his injury claim for $500,000.00, despite the fact that he suffered no fractures and eventually returned to his full work duties. (*In order to protect the privacy of the injured officer, all names and dates have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. Officer Boyle was glad to share his story with fellow officers in order to educate them about their rights when injured on duty.)
Officer Randy Boyle was standing to the side of a multi-lane highway assisting a disabled vehicle when a car, after being cut off by a truck merging into the car's lane, veered towards him. The veering car spun into the officer as he ran for cover, throwing him head first into a guardrail. When witnesses came upon the officer, he was dazed and confused. He was fortunate to have suffered no fractures and was released from the hospital after spending one night under observation. All x-rays and CT scans were negative for any fractures, including those performed on his head. Days later it would become apparent he was not alright.
Officer Boyle's case was complicated by the fact that initial blame for the accident was placed by another officer at the scene upon the car (which was minimally insured) which struck Officer Boyle. However, once I interviewed witnesses and reviewed the facts, it was clear there would have been no collision had the car not been negligently cut off by the driver of the truck. During the deposition of the Defendant truck driver, I was able to establish the truck driver could easily have seen the car in the lane next to him, had he only carefully looked for it in both of the side view mirrors on his driver's door before changing lanes. The truck driver testified that he looked for the car he passed and did not see it when making his move to the left. He also testified it his practice to only look in the small round side view mirror on the truck, which does not give him a good view of the lane to the left behind him. The small round mirror only gives him a close view of the flat bed truck and the roadway directly behind him. He stated he never uses the long skinny mirror. While under oath, I then had him shade in two drawings of the roadway and truck indicating which portions of the roadway were visible from each of the two mirrors. One drawing had only the round side view mirror of the truck attached to it. The other drawing had only the long skinny mirror attached to the truck.
By use of these two drawings which the driver shaded in, indicating what each mirror reflects, I was able to secure the driver's damaging admission: had he used the long skinny side view mirror it would have revealed the car in the lane next to him before he merged left and cut it off. With the driver's admission and the testimony of eyewitnesses whom I located and interviewed just days after the accident, I was able to prove that by failing to use the long skinny mirror, which would have given him a view of the left lane and the car, the truck driver's failure to use care in changing lanes was the primary cause of the accident. Further investigation also revealed the truck driver had temporarily lost his license due to a prior accident resulting in a conviction for driving to endanger (which left the woman he rear-ended in a coma for several weeks). Even though he had caused a serious accident and lost his license, his employer never provided the supervision or training necessary to make sure he could safely operate the truck before returning him to driving the employer's trucks when his license was reinstated. This evidence enabled us to hold the employer liable, not only as the employer of the negligent driver, but for the employer's own negligence in failing to properly supervise the driver after his prior serious accident.
It is not uncommon for the effects of closed head injuries to be overlooked by emergency room physicians and other doctors. Following his release from the overnight stay at the hospital, Officer Boyle experienced constant right-sided headaches, nausea when he turned his head, and fatigue requiring sixteen to eighteen hours of sleep per night. These symptoms were finally diagnosed by a neurologist as post-concussive syndrome resulting from his head hitting the guard rail. After a period of three months, Officer Boyle continued to have constant pressure on the right side of his head, intermittent headaches and sharp pain into his right eye preventing his return to work. His intermittent headaches were occurring every other day and lasting up to two hours. Quickly turning his head precipitated nausea. Since he was frustrated with his progress and didn't appear to be getting treatment which would improve his condition and would expedite his return to work, we arranged for him to see one of the few physicians in Massachusetts who specializes in closed head injuries.
In addition to post-concussive syndrome, this specialist also diagnosed an occipital nerve injury. He ordered a new regimen of medications, as well as nerve blocks to deaden the headache pain which resulted from the occipital nerve injury. He kept Officer Boyle out of work long enough for the nerve injury to heal to the point where he could attempt a return to work. With patience and adherence to this new treatment regimen, and several more nerve blocks, which involved the injection of medicine with a needle into the base of his skull, Officer Boyle finally showed enough improvement to attempt a return to his duties. Officer Boyle suffered several setbacks which took him out of work on two more occasions for months at a time, before he was finally able to return permanently to his full time duties.
Officer Boyle will be required to take medication for the rest of his life in order to control his headaches. The effects of the post-concussive syndrome, along with his headaches, initially resulted in impaired concentration, impaired memory, and slowed cognition which eventually improved over the next two years. It would be three and a half years before Officer Boyle permanently returned to work. During that three and a half years, he was out on Injured-On-Duty status for two and a half years, during which time his town paid him his base wages. However, he lost valuable overtime and detail pay which had averaged $25,000 per year prior to the accident. Further, after his initial return to work, Officer Boyle spent almost a year on what amounted to light duty, during which time he was unable to earn valuable overtime and detail pay.
An injured officer should always consider seeking a free consultation to determine his or her rights, benefits, and the probability of making a successful claim. I am always available by telephone, email or a personal meeting. Once I evaluate the case and the officer's chances of success, the decision whether to go forward rests with the officer. If the injured officer is out of work, the decision when to return to work rests, as it should, with the officer and his or her doctor. Unlike other attorneys, we do not believe in, nor do we have any interest in, keeping officers out injured any longer than necessary to heal from their injuries. As it is, many of our injured officers never miss a day of work and are still able to receive substantial compensation for their injuries which continue to nag at them during long hours spent behind the wheel of a cruiser and/or standing on a road job.
As with all claims involving an officer's injury on duty, there are no guarantees. Many police injury cases involve sophisticated legal issues, problems of proof, technical insurance policy coverage disputes, and issues that arise under Massachusetts General Laws c. 41, §100 and §111F, Chapter 152, State Police Article 8 and or other related laws. When we work on these cases, we work on a contingent fee basis. That means the injured officer pays nothing up front and while the case is pending. He or she only need pay for legal services and expenses at the end of the case, if we successfully collect money on the claim. We typically will receive one-third of the money collected. In the off-chance we are unable to collect money for the injured officer, the officer owes nothing for our legal services.