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How Did You Recover From Your Car Accident?

Illustration for article titled How Did You Recover From Your Car Accident?em/em
Photo: Burhan Ozbilici (AP)
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

It’s one of the most frustrating and terrifying moments of owning a car. One minute, you’re driving along, minding your own business. The next, you’re in the middle of the road, pulled off to the curb, whatever—and your car is totaled.


Well, shit.

Some accidents are worse than others. What we here at Jalopnik want to know, though, is how you recovered. What happened with your vehicle? What steps did you personally need to take before you got behind the wheel again? What was the most mind-numbingly awful legal shenanigans you had to go through? We want to hear it all.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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Sideswiped by an oncoming 18 wheeler that crossed a centerline while riding my motorcycle on the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee (this was before they were nominally banned from that road). Separated from my bike immediately and cartwheeled through the air coming to rest in a ditch, surprisingly I didn’t black out but the flipping happened so quickly I couldn’t begin to understand what my eyes were seeing in flight. As luck would have it the guys I was riding with were firefighters so I was in pretty decent care roadside until I was fed in to the back of a helicopter and things went to shit. Paramedics failed to secure my badly broken leg on the backboard and it fell off the gurney in flight. This elicited a scream and rapid clawing-at-the-ceiling motion from me, which got me scolded and subsequently fully restrained by the paramedic who was with me.

Then I got to the hospital. I waited 9 hours strapped to a backboard in full gear with a helmet on before I got an MRI which showed I didn’t have any neck or back injuries and I could have my helmet removed. 9 hours strapped to a backboard. I broke my femur in three places, complete clean breaks meaning my femur was in four separate pieces and significant soft tissue damage from the bone chunks rattling around inside my skin and muscle bag. One titanium rod through the bone later and they tried to get me to walk with 18 hours of surgery. They also put me on a blood thinner to prevent a clot from forming, but due to the un-repaired soft tissue damage in my muscles this only caused my blood pressure to drop precipitously as I essentially was bleeding to death inside my leg. They graciously extended my hospital stay after nearly killing me, but after 7 days I was released.

Recovery from there started with me in a wheelchair for 3 months before physical therapy released me to a walker. Another two months of that to crutches and finally a cane like a pimp. I gradually weened myself from the cane for about 6 months, during which time my wife would laugh at me that I walked like George Jefferson when he strutted (arms swinging wide).

I cannot stress how significant the physical therapy process was to my recovery. In the end my orthopedic specialist assessed me as having approximately 95% of my pre-accident flexibility and strength. It helped that I was barely in my 30's, as he did stress that had this happened passed the age of 35 I would have likely only recovered 60-75%. Despite that I still come across people who have suffered serious injuries who swear PT is a waste of time. I can assure you and readers that it is not.

Well, as it so happened since I was hit by a professional truck driver his company had a lot of insurance. But personal injury lawsuits aren’t as straightforward as they seem. We ended up suing the trucking company, the driver, the states of both North Carolina AND Tennessee (since the road passes between both states) as well as Volvo, the manufacturer of the truck. Settling with each dragged this process on and on, but 15 months later we had it all settled, the hospital bills paid and a small settlement for future pain & suffering for me. Everyone kept saying I was “about to get PAID” like I would come out with a fortune. This is not true, we initiated our lawsuit(s) at a crazy amount of money, but by the time it was all negotiated the number was not even 1/2 the mortgage on my house. A nice chunk of change, but not life changing.

Worst and lasting difficulty is my leg will never be the same. I played soccer and raced bicycles most of my life well in to adulthood, and my legs were my best feature. Now one is a mutated mess of scars, weirdly shaped muscle and a permanently distended knee. Don’t get me wrong, I can still walk, run, cycle, and I was back on a motorcycle before I was even finished walking with the cane so all in all my recovery to this level of activity is dammed near a miracle considering I was hit by an 18 wheeler while on my motorcycle. But vanity is what it is and I do hate looking down and seeing my once beautiful and shapely leg now is so misshapen.