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If you drink and drive, I don't like you, period. I don't care if you are a hard worker or your friends and family think you hung the moon. The fact that you think it's okay to endanger the lives of innocent people on our roadways is horrendous to me. I'm Jeff Weinstein of Weinstein Law. We are injury lawyers. For the last 23 years we've helped accident victims with their injuries resulting from the senseless acts of drunk drivers. We handle cases nationwide involving claims against drunk drivers because we believe that we have the ability to really find that we can help more folks if we just practice in this one particular area. We are people who put the pieces back together after innocent lives are shattered by drunk drivers. For me, prosecuting drunk drivers is personal. If you've been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, I want to be your partner to help you and your family. I know what you are going through. I know your rights. I can help. We can help you. Remember, if you drink and drive, it's only a matter of time until you pay.
Excited today to have Tina Wycough, who we will be calling into the show, and Tina has been with our law firm now for going on four years. Tina Wycough is a special person in our organization because Tina handles all of our -- what we would call pre-litigation cases. I know Tina just jumped on so -- Tina, we're glad to have you! Hello!
So I was telling the folks a little bit about you and celebrating the fact that you have been with our firm now, this is your fourth anniversary, and that you handled the cases prior to the time that they get a litigation, filing a lawsuit. I don't know that many folks realize this, but most cases resolve short of actually ever filing a lawsuit. Of those cases that actually ever get filed, 95% of those settle without ever having a trial. So, your team is really down in the trenches, dealing with folks that have been affected by the senseless acts of drunk drivers and the drunk driving accidents that our firm handles. But you were sharing with me, and I think this is amazing information, that you have a personal experience with drunk driving. Would you mind sharing that with us?
Sure. I was 16 years old. I got hit head on by a city employee driving a big truck, a drunk driver, and it took me -- my leg was all mangled up, they had to remove my kneecap, my ankle broke. It took me almost two years to learn how to walk all over again.
Is that...? Okay, I don't want to. I'm not one to ask a lady her age on national radio, international radio [Chuckles]. But we are going back 20-ish years or so?
Okay. And so, at that time, there was a total different mindset about drinking and driving.
I mean, you have to admit, things have changed somewhat from that day and time till today.
But you're -- I mean, did that happened in Georgia?
Okay. So what time of day?
Oh, it was in the middle of the day.
So, an employee of the county is operating a county truck, drunk in the middle of the day.
Is that the story?
That's exactly the story.
And as I understand though, your relaying this story is that this drunk driver came over on to your side of the road and struck you head on?
Head on, yeah.
I was stuck in the vehicle, they couldn't get me out. They had to break the seat, break the dash, break everything, and that's how hard he hit me head on.
Geez. You're lucky to be here with us.
Yeah, I mean to this day, like you said, 27 years later I'm still having to get injections from time to time in the same leg.
Alright, let's talk more about the actual mechanics of the accident. I don't want to talk about your injury. So, you're literally driving down the road, minding your own business. How much time did you have to react? I mean was it immediate? What happened?
Yeah, immediate. We were coming around a curve and so as I came around the curve, I mean, it was just -- I mean I didn't even see him. He was all the way in.
Was there any, was there anything that, you know -- everybody that I have on the show that talks about how they've been affected by drunk driver accidents said they almost all feel a sense of guilt that there was maybe something they could have done. Do you kind of remember that as being something that for the longest time you tried to figure out maybe what you could have done?
No, because there was, I mean I had no vision, nothing. Because it is the way the curve was angled. I mean, he was -- as I went around and he was, he was there.
I mean there was no way [Crosstalk].
When you say, "We" was somebody with you?
Yeah, I had my niece with me, yeah. And it cut her up pretty bad. A piece of glass from the windshield almost hit her jugular vein, but for the most part, I mean he hit me so hard -- I was in old Dodge Ram Burn. You know, those are built like tanks.
He hit me so hard that it crumpled. The dash crumpled in on my leg, that's what happened to my leg. It wrapped the brake pedal around my ankle. I mean they had to break -- they had to literally break my ankle to get me out of the car.
Oh my God!
And his truck was literally on top of my hood. I could see him leaning out his windshield with his head slit open. So I mean, it was something you never forget. And nightmares? I mean, that's one thing I have to say for people that do get hit by a drunk driver. I mean, I had nightmares for years and years. It took me two years before I would even drive a car again.
Well you mentioned that it took two years literally to retrain yourself to walk, didn't you?
Tell us a little without -- if you don't want to, I can understand how going into that probably is painful but the type of injury that you had, what you had to do to recover from your injuries, what exactly was it?
Therapy for almost a year. I went to therapy two or three times a week for almost a year because the kneecap was so shattered, even at that young age, they couldn't put a new one back in. They decided to remove it all. So you then have no cushion there so literally I was in a hip cast due to all the bones down the side of the leg broken and the ankle for six months. So when you're in a hip cast for that long, when you take it off your leg no longer bends, it's straight. And so they had to literally, by hand, every time I would go to therapy, make it bend little by little, each and every time. So that was just to get it to bend. To learn how to walk all over again was a whole another -- that was a whole another experience. I mean, it was just something you never forget, I can tell you that much.
So, what grade in school were you in?
I think I was in the eleventh grade at that time.
What did it do to your whole school activities? What was going on? You know, high school is supposed to be the greatest time of your life. What did it do to your normal activities then?
No prom, no nothing. I mean, I didn't want to leave the house. I wouldn't get in a car. My mother had to literally place me in the back seat to take me to therapy. But no proms and I missed everything. So, and they had to come homeschool me because with the hip cast -- you know, my school was all upstairs. There was no way fro me to get to school.
How did you find out? Or how did your family find out that the county employee was driving his vehicle drunk?
Well, to be honest with you, I got lucky because I'm from a small town and they probably would have covered it up but right behind the gentleman that hit me head on happened to be a state trooper.
Oh my goodness!
Yup, and he -- there was beer all in the vehicle and everything. So I got lucky.
And the trooper, did the trooper -- I mean, I take it that you are probably not aware of anything that goes on. I mean, you had some horrific injuries. Did this person that hit you, did he ever stay in trial for drunk driving or assault with a deadly weapon or anything like that?
You know what? To be honest with you, Jeff, I did not have someone like you on my side. I never even got my car replaced.
I mean, nothing -- I mean, think about it. I didn't have anybody like you to guide me or to tell me what I was entitled to and what this man was responsible for so.
Well, but you know also, and I appreciate your saying that, but the time. You know, I mean it is amazing when you think about it. I don't know if you knew this about him but, you know, Matt is really only about 30 years old. And so, the idea that people should truly be responsible for their senseless acts when they drink and drive, and they're intoxicated and harm someone else. You know, it is a relatively new concept when you think about it. In relation to the time that we've had cars and how our society is and how our culture is, and so 20 years ago, that probably would have been the norm. You know, everybody just kind of go on about their own way but I was interested enough. Did you ever hear from this person? Did he ever come to your house or come to your family and say, "Hey, I just want to tell Tina that I am really sorry what happened."
His son did. His son came to my hospital room but at that point in time, when you are not sure if you are ever going to walk again, you are not very open to, "Hey, I'm sorry my dad is a drunk." But him himself? No.
Okay. So did you know this son?
Uh-hmm, no. He was from -- he probably went to school but was in a different grade then me, so no.
Do you remember anything about what he said?
Just telling me that -- I mean, he admitted that his dad is a drunk, you know. Sorry his dad is a drunk and sorry I'm having to go through this. At that point in time, you are not too forgiving at that point of time. It takes a long time.
I'll bet. I'll bet. So, this injury that you had as a 16-year-old teenager, has it stayed with you now? I mean, you mentioned that you still have to get injections. I mean, it sounds to me like we are 20 years beyond this drunk driving accident and you are still having problems.
Oh yeah. I have to get injections and ever so often because I cannot get up and down the stairs, because I had no knee cap. I mean, that many years ago, he said it was so crushed that cutting an artificial knee cap in just every 10 years, you would have to replace it so he thought it was best just not to put anything. So you know, even to this day, I cannot run, I cannot run on the treadmill -- you cannot run because you have lost your cushion. Your knee cap acts as your shock absorber. So...
So I take it, you could run if I said you have to run from here to there. It will be very painful.
Wow. So, let's face it. Who better than to help people with handling a case against a drunk driver then someone who has really been there? I mean, you've been there.
I have been there and to hear some of the things that -- first of all, here is the situation when you're dealing with adjusters. I am an adjuster so I know. Adjusters are not trained in legal matters. Okay? They're just trained to get a claim settled. They're not -- they don't have an attorney there training them in the legal aspects of a claim. So they don't know the difference between the value of permanent scarring, the value of DWI case, that it would be any different than an auto accident. I had an adjuster tell me that everybody drinks and drives.
Well, let's back up because there are a lot of folks that may not know our terminology. I mean, you and I, we know all the terminology. When you are talking about an adjuster, you are talking about somebody who has been involved in an accident collision with a drunk driver, and you are saying that a drunk drivers' insurance company assigns a claims handler to the file and we usually refer to that person as an insurance adjuster or on an adjuster.
You said though that you're an adjuster. So, do you carry a license as an insurance adjuster?
Yes. I am a licensed commercial and personal lines claims adjuster.
Alright, but you don't work for an insurance company. You work for the Weinstein Law Firm.
Okay. Alright. You think that helps you a little bit to understand more about the terminology than someone, let's say, who doesn't have that particular license?
When you mention just terms like exemplary damages, punitive damages -- they have no clue what that even means.
So, you got an insurance adjuster for an insurance company. We're not picking on them. I mean, they're just doing their job. Fair enough?
Okay. And so, what you're saying is, if I'm hearing you right, somebody is involved in an automobile collision. You and I think if they are involved in an automobile accident with a drunk driver that that is a totally separate type of case than if they were just involved in a simple rear-end collision because somebody was changing the radio station and just for the briefest moment of time failed to pay attention for a second and ultimately ran into the car in front of him.
You're saying that's a different kind of case?
Why? You know, Tina, without going into it too deeply, generally why do you think that's different?
Well, because -- I mean an accident is an accident. Everybody has accidents. They are always going to happen. But when you knowingly, knowingly are drunk and unable to even walk or drive and get behind the wheel, I mean, that to me is totally separate than, "I'm sorry I didn't hit my brakes fast enough and I bumped into the back of you." I mean, he knowingly got behind that wheel drunk.
Yeah. It's kind of the choice.
It seems to me generally we make choices. Sometimes we make good choices and sometimes we make poor choices. And there's -- I mean, I don't want to say there is like a degree of choices. Like, is turning the radio different than texting?
Is texting different than drunk driving? I mean, we're talking about the standard of who is responsible. Who failed to do what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances in this whole ordinary care, and we don't want to get into a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo. But insurance companies certainly place a greater appreciation of danger on the person who is for just the briefest moment perhaps paying attention to another passenger in the car, maybe a child, versus someone who makes the choice of drinking to a point in time when they are unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. And then because they're unable to safely operate a motor vehicle, they get in their car and they cause a collision. When you talk to insurance adjusters and you talk to insurance companies, and you tell them the first thing, because normally you're one of the first people to tell them that it involves a drunk driver, right?
I mean, their own insured, the drunk driver, very rarely tells his own insurance company, "Oh, by the way I was drunk."
So, when you tell them, the insurance company, that you know they're insured, the person that has an insurance policy with them that has a car with them had caused a wreck and they were drunk, what's the normal response? What's the response that you usually get from the insurance adjusters on the other side of the case?
Well, like I said that that one adjuster tells me everybody drinks and drives. But mostly I have to tell them they need to seek the advice of in-house counsel because this is obviously something they don't know the value of. And I also tell them pull all the jury verdicts on DWI cases on your own. Pull them and look what people are being awarded just for the fact that the gentleman was driving while intoxicated. Then --
You know, it seems from your experience that the value of a claim is greater if the person who caused the collision has been drinking than if they had not been drinking, their statement.
You and I handle a lot of cases together and just a recent case -- and I don't want to get into the facts because I don't think we should share that kind of information, it is obviously privileged -- but we had a case just recently where an insurance adjuster was literally offering to resolve the case for just a few dollars more than the medical expenses that our client had incurred and our client hadn't incurred that much in medical expense, thankfully.
But just the mere mention by you to this insurance company that their person that caused the collision, their insured, was drinking and driving changed the entire dynamics of the resolution of the case, didn't it?
I mean...[Cross talk]
[Laughs]. Unbelievably. And we don't want to make light of it, you and I, because unfortunately, you and I see a lot of cases where we're helping people that have been hit by drunk drivers. And quite honestly, we probably would both be happy to never see another one again, right?
I mean, wouldn't that be great if people just say, "Hey, we're going stop making poor choices and we're not going to drink and drive." But unfortunately enough this isn't as we see them. But do you ever think to yourself, because I do, how many people settle their case with the insurance company because the insurance company tells them nobody really -- everybody drinks and drives and so nobody really cares about drinking and driving. So, don't think that your case is more valuable just because our insured was drunk.
Oh yeah. I mean...
How often do you think that happens?
Oh, I would imagine on every case before they think twice about at least getting legal counsel or some legal advice.
So, you're thought is, somebody that's out there that decides to handle their own case that has been hit by a drunk driver has no idea that the value of their case is significantly more, because the insurance coverage is just going to flat out tell them. Really, it's going to be untruthful. And say, "Oh okay, you got a couple of thousands bucks in medical bills here. We will pay you a few hundred dollars more, maybe $500 or $1000 more because that's what we do for everybody else." Is that what you're saying?
Yes. I mean just the story we were just talking about and not to mention numbers, the insurance company offered just to pay his medical bills.
Yeah. And that was before you sent a pretty strong letter that every other paragraph explained the whole drinking and driving.
Yeah. Before he got counsel and before we explained to him the true value of his case. The insurance adjuster was ready just to pay his medical bill.
Now, it is one thing that you and I talk about, values of cases being significantly more. But I think that there is another reason why people that are hit by drunk drivers should put up a fight with the insurance company and the reason for that, in my belief, is the only way we are really going to make a dent --a further dent in stopping drunk driving is to truly hold people accountable. I mean, don't you agree that as many cases as we've seen of drunk drivers and drunk driving accidents, what is it? What is it going to take to get people to make better choices?
That's a good question because in a lot of these drunk driving cases I run the records and these are repeat offenders. We're not talking, "This is my first DWI." So I don't know what it is going to take because for some of these people it hasn't taken just one accident to almost kill anybody to get them to stop drinking and driving. So, that's a good question.
I know that there is a lot of discussion now of meeting with manufacturers to try to make cars smarter so that literally before you could start your car you would have to basically prove to the car that you're not intoxicated.
I think that's got to be what happens in the future to make this thing different than what it is today?
Yeah. You know if I asked you, what does it take to make people stop drinking and driving? Don't you think if you and I had that answer we would really be well sought after on the speaking circuit?
Oh yeah. [Laughs]
You know, I haven't found the answer. We discussed having a think tank of how we might get professionals from all different areas to discuss the matter, but we really just haven't come up with the answer yet. You've been handling insurance claims for how long now?
A sum of 20 years.
So, basically, not too long after this whole incident happened with your personal experience with the drunk driving accident, you got into the business of helping people who have been injured.
Have you seen a change? I mean, you personally, Tina, have you seen a change in our culture over the last 20 years? Have you seen a slow down in what you would consider to be drunk driving accident claims?
Yeah. You know, you and I did not prep as much before the show and so that was kind of my zinger question for you that I didn't even ask you in advance to be prepared for, and the sad reality is I kind of knew what your answer was going to be.
And the idea that as smart as we think we all are, lets face it, we represent a lot of smart, talented, gifted people and a lot of times the people that have hit them, these are good people. Why are good people being involved in their second and third accident that involves drunk driving? Is that the million dollar question?
Oh, that is the million dollar question. You know, there are cabs. There are all kinds of things out there. But people that just knowing they can hardly stand up and get behind a wheel and not only risk their lives but risk the lives of possibly an entire family. I mean, is that really worth it? Was that really worth a couple of drinks?
The people that we represent now that have been injured and their lives have been changed by drunk drivers, you mentioned that you can understand how and appreciate how they would have nightmares, trouble sleeping, etc. You know, share with us just a little more about how it affects people. I mean their ability to get back behind the wheel of a car, their ability to want to get back out in society and be productive members of society, and of course living with the pain. Share with us a little bit about that from your perspective.
Like I said, it took me almost two years because just the thought of it, you're just always thinking the next one that comes around the curve, it's going to happen again. And especially when you have nightmares over the same thing it's just -- and not only that, it doesn't just affect the person who got hit, Jeff. It affects the people around you. My mother had to give up her job and here's her 16-year-old daughter who can't walk and has to go back and forth to therapy three times a week. She had to give up her job and take care of me night and day. So, not only the person who is hit is affected by this, the whole family is.
How many times do you see the people that we call the bad actors, the person that has run into our clients, the person responsible for the collision, the drunk driver. How many times do you see that person say, "I would like to talk to your client and say I'm sorry."
What do you think that means? What does that say about us?
Ah, I've got insurance, they'll handle it. [Laughs] Yeah or I'm not sure, you know.
Yeah. It's kind of -- you'll just figure out how to take care of it.
Right? It's not my problem.
Exactly. It's not our problem anymore.
I'll just move on with my life.
Well, Tina I know you're going to find this hard to believe, there is literally 30 seconds left on the show. People all say, "Wow! How did it go by so quickly." I want to thank you for taking time out of a Sunday afternoon. I know you've got a lot of things you'd like to do on the weekend and don't like to work because I work you all week long. But I want to say thank you very much for taking time out and really more from my heart say, thank you for sharing your personal experience because that really means a lot to me and I know to the people that are listening out there. So, thank you very much.
I'm going to buzz you right back.
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