Insurance Company Fabricates Statement Against Truck Driver

DISCLAIMER: The results are specific to the facts and legal circumstances of each of the clients’ cases and should not be used to form an expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case.

Insurance Company Fabricates Statement Against Truck Driver

I handled a case in 2017 in which my client, a truck driver doing a city route delivery, fell in the back of his truck at a customer location and injured his knee. He had to have surgery to repair the knee injury, but the workers’ compensation insurance company denied his claim. He hired me to represent him and we were unable to settle the case before a hearing with the Industrial Commission, but we broke the case open at the hearing!

The case was denied because the insurance company claimed that an eyewitness said that my client did not fall in his truck. Now, a fall in the truck while unloading freight, causing an injury, is something that would be covered by North Carolina workers’ compensation as an “injury by accident.” However, it is up to the injured worker to prove that he fell and got hurt.

The Facts of the Case

The medical records in the case indicated that on the day of the injury, my client was taken to the doctor’s office by his boss. He had to be taken into the doctor’s office in a wheelchair because he was unable to walk due to the knee injury. my client reported to the doctor that he had fallen in his truck while putting freight on a hand truck. He testified in court that when he fell, he was beside a box in the back of the truck, and that he tried to get up by pushing on the box, which collapsed under that force, and he was unable to get up.

So, he called out for help because he knew that the lady who worked at the customer’s dock, who checked in trucks, was nearby, and he needed her to help him get up. She did come and help him up and got him out of the truck. He sat on the edge of the dock and used his cell phone to call his boss to come get him and take him to the doctor. The boss came and brought another driver to finish my client’s route and take over the truck for the day, while he took my client to the doctor. My client testified that when he got to the doctor, he was unable to stand up on his injured leg, and that his boss went inside the doctor’s office, borrowed a wheelchair, brought it out, helped him get into it, and wheeled him in to see the doctor. That is all consistent with the doctor’s notes.

Outrageous Claims at the Hearing

The insurance company claimed before the hearing that they had a witness who would say that my client did not fall in the truck. We got to the hearing and there was a lady there to testify for the employer and insurance company. She was the lady who checked in the trucks at the dock for the customer and was actually the same lady who helped my client after he fell. The defense lawyer put her on the witness stand and asked her questions. Their lawyer asked, “Now, you did not see Mr. X (my client) fall, did you?”

She answered, “No, I did not see him fall because my back was turned towards him when it happened. But I heard him fall, and then I heard him crying out for help. I could tell he was in a lot of pain. I went over to see what was going on, and he was sitting on the floor of the truck, pushing on a box and crushing it down, trying to get up, but he could not get up. So I helped him get up, and then he called his boss to come get him.”

Now, when this lady testified, the defense lawyer got pretty upset, because she had a written witness statement in her file that the insurance company’s investigator had supposedly taken from this lady. That statement, which I had not been allowed to see until that very minute in court, had this lady saying, “He did not fall.” The statement had her completely denying the entire set of facts to which she had just testified.

Our Objections Win the Day

The defense lawyer then tried to “impeach” her testimony with the prior statement that was allegedly her statement, but which was written by an insurance company investigator. I stood up and objected strenuously. I argued to the judge that the defense lawyer should not be allowed to impeach her own witness’s testimony using a statement written by some other person (“hearsay”) and not the actual witness herself. I also argued that because they had not given me the statement prior to arriving in court that day they were trying the case “by ambush,” and that is unfair and should not be allowed. The judge listened to my objections and ruled our way, and did not allow the insurance company’s lawyer to use that investigator’s statement to poke holes in the lady’s sworn testimony in court that morning.

That turned out to be their only defense, and that defense turned out to be what was obviously a statement fabricated, or made up, by an insurance investigator! Of course, the investigator was not there in court to explain. Heck, he may have been arrested for perjury if he had tried to explain that big lie!

The Importance of Going to Court

At the pre-hearing mediation, he tried to settle the case, but they were not willing to offer much money at all to settle, less than $10,000, because they thought they had a witness who would say that my client did not fall in the truck, and that they would win. After we got to court and the lady actually testified in a way that helped my client a great deal, and they were not allowed to impeach her with the fabricated statement, they changed their tune. We ended up settling the case a few months later for a substantial amount of money—well over $50,000.

The lesson of this story is this: If you hire a lawyer who is not willing to go to court with you and fight for what is right, then you’re going to get stuck settling the case for whatever offer the insurance company makes before the hearing. Pre-hearing settlement offers have not been tested by the evidence. If this gentleman had taken the pre-hearing settlement offer, he would have gotten approximately 1/10 of the amount we eventually got for him after going to court and objecting to the use of the fabricated insurance investigator statement! So you always want to have a lawyer who knows how to try a case in court on your side, in order to get the best possible outcome. It increased that client’s settlement by a factor of about 10! But, of course, everyone’s case is different, and the good outcome in this case does not mean that every case will turn out this way.

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