Insight

Crash Course

A bad car accident left me reeling, but my worst symptoms wouldn’t appear until two weeks after. If it weren’t for excellent legal representation, there’s no way I’d have made it through—or with anything close to the settlement I got.

Overlooked by EMTs After Car Crash
PC

Paige Cerulli

April 4, 2022 08:00 AM

AT FIVE O’CLOCK one morning during my junior year of college, I left my home on Cape Cod to drive to campus. It was commencement day, and as a member of the school’s wind symphony, I would be playing my flute during the ceremony. Twenty minutes into the drive, which I had done countless times, I’d cross the Bourne Bridge linking the Cape with mainland Massachusetts, get on the highway and head to school.

There was a steady rain that morning, so I left a little early, planning to pick up a friend in Bourne along the way. As I made my way up the bridge, though, I spotted a car in trouble in the oncoming lanes.

The Bourne Bridge consists of four lanes, two in each direction, with no dividing barrier. A car in the leftmost lane swerved at the bridge’s peak, skidded across all four lanes, hit the bridge side in my lane and swerved again, approaching me head-on. I was astounded at how fast the car was going and assumed the driver was having a heart attack. I slowed my truck and began to swerve, trying to avoid a collision.

It wasn’t possible. The car careened into my truck, whose right front corner took the brunt of the impact. The hit was so forceful that my truck turned 180 degrees and traveled across three lanes, coming to rest facing the direction I’d just come from. Thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic on the bridge at that hour, and the other drivers were able to avoid us.

I appeared to have come through the accident with minimal injuries. I was limping badly when I got out of the truck, and while my arms and legs were scraped and I later developed significant bruises and a black eye, nothing serious was immediately apparent. My truck’s floor had been torn open, the right front tire had come off, the bed had been shoved into the cab—and I was grateful I hadn’t yet picked up my friend, who would certainly have been injured or even killed.

Amazingly, the driver of the other car was a girl I’d known in high school. She and two friends were returning from a party in Rhode Island. One of her friends was seriously injured, going in and out of consciousness; paramedics summoned a medevac flight to take her to Boston.

Since all three women in the car had serious injuries, I was left to sit in a police vehicle while the scene was cleared and the bridge reopened. A paramedic handed me a form to sign, my father came to pick me up and I went back home.

Two weeks later, I went to the movies with a friend. The day after, I had no recollection of having done so. My friend’s mother, a nurse, insisted I go to the emergency room, where doctors discovered I had suffered a traumatic brain injury.

And so it began. I was soon experiencing debilitating fatigue, sound and light sensitivity, migraines, short-term memory loss and weakness. My vision didn’t align with my footfalls, leaving me feeling disjunct and unbalanced. I had difficulty recognizing people I didn’t already know well, and I was so, so tired.

My family realized I needed a lawyer. The other driver’s insurance company was already calling repeatedly, trying to settle, but we were only just beginning to understand the accident’s long-term implications. My mother found a personal injury lawyer willing to work on contingency, and he helped us navigate this chaotic period.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was getting a neurological assessment. Most providers were unwilling to see me after learning that the assessment was needed because of an accident, possibly because of insurance billing complications or fears of their required involvement if the case moved into a lawsuit. My lawyer offered additional guidance and helped my mother find a physician willing to assess me.

The results confirmed that I had significant memory challenges that would affect my return to college in the fall. What we didn’t realize then was that the fatigue, migraines and general sense of fuzziness, which doctors had assured me would go away, wouldn’t. The symptoms persisted, and nearly a decade later I’d be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a diagnosis that altered my career as well as my lifestyle. Although there is still plenty of uncertainty as to why people develop fibromyalgia, it often occurs after a serious trauma like my accident. There is no cure; the condition can only be managed (somewhat poorly in my case) through medication and lifestyle changes.

While in the early days we weren’t aware of this long-term complication, my lawyer worked to ensure that I received compensation for my injuries and the loss of my truck. We quickly received a payment for well over my truck’s value, meaning I could buy another vehicle. I even managed to work part-time that summer to save for my upcoming senior year.

Crucially, my lawyer fielded all calls and requests from the insurance company. My mother had been trying to handle them largely herself, so she appreciated having that burden lifted. We had the peace of mind that comes from knowing someone was working for our side and that we wouldn’t be taken advantage of because we were unfamiliar with personal injury law.

Ultimately, we reached a settlement with the driver’s insurance company. It paid for all my medical bills and a portion of my education. Had I not had a good lawyer, I’m sure I would have settled for much less. Based on the insurance company’s correspondence, I suspect I would have been left with unpaid medical bills or might not have been able to seek the treatments, such as speech therapy, that helped me partially recover. My lawyer was a constant reassurance, and the key to my success at navigating that challenging, confusing time. I’m so glad I had him on my side.

Paige Cerulli graduated from Westfield State University with degrees in music performance and English. She works as a full-time freelance writer and lives in Western Massachusetts, where she shares her life with several horses, cats and a flock of ducks. In her free time, Paige enjoys photography and playing her flute.

Headline Image: Bourne Bridge/Creative Commons

Related Articles

Think Inside the Box


by David M. Carter

Black box data retrieval after a serious accident—it’s not just for commercial airplanes anymore.

Car Black Box Data for Personal Injury

IN PARTNERSHIP

Injured in a Car Accident? 7 Steps You Need To Take Immediately


by Mark H. Perenich

Personal injury lawyer Mark Perenich offers advice on the seven most important steps to take immediately after you have been injured in a car accident.

Man and woman in car with airbags deployed and smoke coming from dash

IN PARTNERSHIP

Should I Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident in Brentwood, TN?


by Harlene Labrum

Learn whether you should hire a lawyer after a car accident lawyer in Brentwood, TN. Contact Labrum Law Firm Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.

Road caution sign in front of two wrecked cars

IN PARTNERSHIP

What Will a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer Actually Do for You?


by Adam Zayed

Personal injury lawyer Adam Zayed explains the important steps a Chicago car accident lawyer will take to ensure you receive the best legal representation.

Blurry image of fast moving traffic in big city

5 Things To Consider When Choosing a Car Accident Lawyer in Dallas, TX


by Jay Murray

Choosing the right car accident lawyer for your case in Dallas, Texas, is essential. Read this article to learn about 5 things to consider during the process.

Figure in suit checks off an animated list

IN PARTNERSHIP

What to Do if the Other Driver Doesn't Report the Accident


by Rick Lopez

Call 911 to report a car accident if the other driver refuses to report the car crash. Learn more about what to do after a car accident occurs in Texas here.

Unseen individual writing up report with cracked windshield in background

IN PARTNERSHIP

8 Situations That Require a Personal Injury Lawyer


by Sagi Shaked

An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you need after an accident. Learn about 8 situations that require an attorney here.

Man with cast on leg resting with crutches in background

How Being a Client Almost Made Me Quit Law School


by Paula Birch Billingsley

Suddenly becoming a personal injury client gave one law school student a new appreciation for clients’ needs and concerns. Here are some considerations even experienced lawyers ought to keep in mind.

Personal Injury Client Almost Quit Law School

Wax On, Wax Off


by Aria Gmitter

An unfortunate episode with a rogue body waxer left me itching like mad, in pain and wondering what sort of recourse I might have. A journey through the hairy underbelly of a sometimes dicey industry.

Legal Action After Waxing Salon Burns

Head Games


by Paul D. Friedman

How the science of traumatic brain injuries has improved in recent decades—and what those advances might mean for victims of these horrific ailments in the courtroom.

Traumatic Brain Injury From Motorcycle Wreck

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers: The Injury & Malpractice Issue


by Best Lawyers

Featuring the top legal talent from The Best Lawyers in America, Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America and “Lawyer of the Year” recipients for personal injury and medical malpractice as well as thought leadership from some of the nation’s top lawyers.

Best Lawyers Injury & Malpractice Publication

Things to Do Before a Car Accident Happens to You


by Ellie Shaffer

In a car accident, certain things are beyond the point of no return, while some are well within an individual's control. Here's how to stay legally prepared.

Car dashcam recording street ahead

The Role of Medical Experts in Catastrophic Injury Cases


by Timothy A. Loranger

When catastrophic injury is the result of an accident, medical experts can play a crucial role in the legal process, providing transparency for all involved.

Doctor and nurse discussing an X-ray scan

IN PARTNERSHIP

Common Personal Injury Claims and the Importance of Hiring a Lawyer


by Joshua Michael Palmintier

The Palmintier Law Group sheds light on why it's crucial for individuals to hire legal representation when facing one of many different personal injury claims.

Hard hat on the floor with person in the background

IN PARTNERSHIP

Should I Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident in Lawrenceville?


by Yari D. Lawson

If you or a loved one have suffered from a crash, here’s why hiring a car accident lawyer in Lawrenceville, GA, is a good idea to ensure you get compensation.

First responders assessing a car accident scene

IN PARTNERSHIP

Protecting Patients and the Public


by Justin Smulison

Lubin & Meyer completes its most successful year yet, charting new territory with a historic class action suit involving hundreds of patients in New England.

Group of lawyers seated and standing around a table

Trending Articles

Presenting The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2025


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is proud to present The Best Lawyers in Australia for 2025, marking the 17th consecutive year of Best Lawyers awards in Australia.

Australia flag over outline of country

Best Lawyers Expands 2024 Brazilian Awards


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is honored to announce the 14th edition of The Best Lawyers in Brazil™ and the first edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Brazil™.

Image of Brazil city and water from sky

The Best Lawyers in Mexico Celebrates a Milestone Year


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is excited to announce the 15th edition of The Best Lawyers in Mexico™ and the second edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Mexico™ for 2024.

Sky view of Mexico city scape

How To Find A Pro Bono Lawyer


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers dives into the vital role pro bono lawyers play in ensuring access to justice for all and the transformative impact they have on communities.

Hands joined around a table with phone, paper, pen and glasses

How Palworld Is Testing the Limits of Nintendo’s Legal Power


by Gregory Sirico

Many are calling the new game Palworld “Pokémon GO with guns,” noting the games striking similarities. Experts speculate how Nintendo could take legal action.

Animated figures with guns stand on top of creatures

Announcing The Best Lawyers in New Zealand™ 2025 Awards


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is announcing the 16th edition of The Best Lawyers in New Zealand for 2025, including individual Best Lawyers and "Lawyer of the Year" awards.

New Zealand flag over image of country outline

Presenting the 2024 Best Lawyers Family Law Legal Guide


by Best Lawyers

The 2024 Best Lawyers Family Law Legal Guide is now live and includes recognitions for all Best Lawyers family law awards. Read below and explore the legal guide.

Man entering home and hugging two children in doorway

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Japan™ 2025


by Best Lawyers

For a milestone 15th edition, Best Lawyers is proud to announce The Best Lawyers in Japan.

Japan flag over outline of country

The Best Lawyers in Singapore™ 2025 Edition


by Best Lawyers

For 2025, Best Lawyers presents the most esteemed awards for lawyers and law firms in Singapore.

Singapore flag over outline of country

Canada Makes First Foray Into AI Regulation


by Sara Collin

As Artificial Intelligence continues to rise in use and popularity, many countries are working to ensure proper regulation. Canada has just made its first foray into AI regulation.

People standing in front of large, green pixelated image of buildings

Commingling Assets


by Tamires M. Oliveira

Commingling alone does not automatically turn an otherwise immune asset into an asset subject to marital distribution as explained by one family law lawyer.

Toy house and figure of married couple standing on stacks of coins

How Much Is a Lawyer Consultation Fee?


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers breaks down the key differences between consultation and retainer fees when hiring an attorney, a crucial first step in the legal process.

Client consulting with lawyer wearing a suit

Presenting the 2024 Best Lawyers Employment and Workers’ Compensation Legal Guide


by Best Lawyers

The 2024 Best Lawyers Employment and Workers' Compensation Legal Guide provides exclusive access to all Best Lawyers awards in related practice areas. Read below and explore the legal guide.

Illustration of several men and women in shades of orange and teal

The Hague Convention and International Custody Battles


by Alexandra Goldstein

One family law lawyer explains how Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s celebrity divorce brings The Hague Convention treaty and international child custody battles into the spotlight.

Man and woman celebrities wearing black and standing for photo

Filing For Divorce in North Carolina


by Melody J. King

Family law lawyer Melody King answers some of the most important questions individuals may have about filing for divorce in North Carolina.

Illustration of man and woman on paper that has been torn apart

Who’s to Claim


by Julia A. Perkins and Shalini Nangia

Two lawyers discuss who claims children on tax returns when parents are divorced or legally separated in Michigan.

Image of man and woman tearing paper apart to reveal image of child