Car Accident Seat Belt Failure - Confidential Settlement with Nissan Motors
Keith Newman was at work when he got the call every parent dreads.
His son, Joshua, had been in a car accident. It was pretty bad, he was told.
"Please God, let him be alive," he remembers praying that instant.
Loss of limbs, he could deal with. But losing his 24-year-old son was simply an unbearable thought.
It was a cool California morning in December 2003. Joshua was driving his girlfriend Lisa to school in Lake Elsinore. She was about to take her final exam. But the couple never made it to their destination. Before Joshua knew it, an 86-year-old man made a left-hand turn at an intersection where Joshua had the right of way. The impact of the crash drove Joshua's car into a light pole. Lisa was ejected from the car and Joshua's body rammed onto the steering wheel after his seatbelt broke and gave way.
Both were rushed to a local hospital. Lisa's injuries were not life-threatening. She received a few sutures on her head and suffered a dislocated rotator cuff. But Joshua was not that lucky. He was airlifted to Riverside County Hospital after doctors realized that his injuries were far too serious. Joshua had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Doctors kept him in an induced coma for 10 days.
When he woke up, it was as if he were reborn.
"I had to learn everything," Joshua says. "I was like a little baby. I had to learn to bathe, get dressed, brush my teeth, eat - just everything like a child would learn."
His left side was paralyzed and in addition to his brain injury he had also suffered heart failure. An angiogram revealed that the heart problem was not because of a clogged artery, but because his seatbelt snapped during the crash and his chest slammed against the steering wheel causing blunt force trauma.
"My whole life was turned upside down in an instant," he said.
The young man, who had a girlfriend, worked as a sales assistant in a software development company and had completed three years of course work toward completing his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from UC Riverside, was now reduced to a vegetative state, unable to walk, talk or even care for himself.
"For a while I had absolutely no short-term memory," he said. "I would have someone visit me in the hospital room and I'd go to the bathroom and when I returned I'd hug them and greet them like I was seeing them for the first time."
As he was going through rehab, the bills started to pile up.
"The insurance I had through the university was not going to pay the bills unless they got the reassurance that they would get reimbursed," Joshua said.
It was then that Joshua's father was introduced to John Bisnar and Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys.
"John was in Mammoth at the time on a skiing trip," Joshua said. "At the time he listened to us, but said he couldn't promise us anything. He interrupted his ski vacation to help me."
A few days later, Brian Chase told the Newmans they had a good case against Nissan, the maker of Joshua's car, after he came down to Canyon Lake to inspect the vehicle, Joshua said.
"John, Brian and his entire staff were very honest and supportive through the entire process, which ended pretty quickly with a great, undisclosed settlement from Nissan and a seven figure recovery from the negligent driver," he said. "They kept us informed every step of the way so we were never left wondering what was going on."
The money was a big help to say the least, Joshua said.
"It helped pay off the bills, pay for school," he said. "More than anything else it gave me peace of mind."
Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys seemed like God's answer to his prayers, said Joshua's father, Keith.
"When Joshua was in the hospital, we were starting to get collection notices," he said. "But John and his staff, especially Shannon Barker, intervened and took care of everything for us."
Keith did not expect this kind of compassion and understanding from an attorney, he said.
"Before I met John, I had this impression of a personal injury attorney based on commercials I saw on television," he said. "I thought they were all ambulance chasers who only cared about money - not people. But John Bisnar and Brian Chase were the antithesis of all that."
Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys did a tremendous job, Keith said.
"They put us at ease when we were going through something horrible, a nightmare," he said. "The settlement gave me and my wife peace of mind because you want your children taken care of."
At the time, Keith did not know if Joshua would make it. Both he and his wife quit their jobs so Joshua wouldn't be sent away to a rehab facility. They kept him at home and took him to the out-patient care center at Loma Linda for rehab.
Gradually, Joshua got better. At 27, he is almost back to normal except for short-term memory loss and his heart condition, which will remain life-long. He and Lisa are engaged to be married next year in Fallbrook. Joshua is continuing school, but is now studying to become a teacher.
John also advised the family about how to invest the settlement money smartly, Joshua said.
"John is like a father-figure to me," Joshua says. "He's like a really good friend. He was genuinely concerned about me. Every time he met my father he would ask how I was doing and about my progress."
And after the settlement came through, John gave him the most amazing present, Joshua said.
"He gave me court side tickets to a Lakers' game," he said "We couldn't have gotten closer to the action. It was one of the best nights of my life."
If there was one positive thing that came out of the family's trials and tribulations, it was meeting a group of special people who became the family's support network, Keith said.
"Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys were part of that wonderful support group," he said. "They weren't just our personal injury attorneys."