It’s August of 1997. Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” is on the floor of my car. My car is a 1986 Honda Accord hatchback Lx-i. Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” is on the radio. It’s about 5 o’clock.
Allison is sitting in the passenger’s seat. Her brother, Dan is sitting behind me. We’re heading westbound on Hazard Avenue in Enfield. We pass McDonalds. Then we pass Stop and Shop. We’re in the left of two lanes. I’m going to take a left turn onto Palomba Drive.
We approach the light. My left signal is on. There is traffic in the right hand lane.
Then time slows down. There’s a truck darting out of the Mobil gas station. It’s going to strike us. I slam on my brakes.
Then there’s the noise. The noise I’ll never forget. The impact. There is confusion. There is pain.
I ask Allison and Dan if they’re okay. They respond that they are. All of us are disoriented. We exit our mangled Accord. The driver who hit us, a guy named Willie, isn’t doing well at all.
Willie wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. His skin and hair is caught in his windshield. Police, fire, and ambulance arrive. Willie goes to the hospital.
My neck and back start tensing up. I decline an ambulance ride. My parents pick us up. Allison and Dan get dropped of at their house. My pain continues to get worse. I go to the emergency room. X-rays are done. Fortunately nothing was broken. The doctor gave me some muscle relaxers and sent me on my way.
The next day, Willie’s insurance company kept calling me. Adjusters wanted to speak to me. I was home. I was hurt. The situation was overwhelming. I ultimately retained a lawyer.
Over the months that followed, I did physical therapy. The pain would come and go. Though to this day, I’ve never felt the same. Fortunately, things did get better. My claim was paid without having to initiate suit.
What caused the accident? Look at the map above. The green arrow represents my car. The red arrow is Willie’s car. The orange arrow represents where Willie is trying to turn.
Willie was trying to make a left hand turn out of the Mobil station on to Hazard Avenue (westbound). Doing so required him to cross 3 lanes of traffic in order to make his turn. Someone stopped in one of the eastbound lanes had waived Willie on.
The Mobil Station just recently went out of business. But given its prime location, some other business that benefits from high motor vehicle traffic will come in.
In the 18 years that have passed since the day of the wreck, I can’t drive through the intersection without getting mad. Mad at the Town of Enfield. Mad at Mobil.
While Willie was responsible for the wreck, he was but the last domino to fall. My accident was caused by a systems failure.
In the months after the accident, I met with the Town Manager. I voiced my concerns about the intersection in writing to the town. My argument was that vehicles should not be able to make left hand turns onto Hazard Avenue from that parking lot. The Town Manager tells me “it’s a very dangerous intersection…we see this kind of accident a lot there….I’ll see what we can do.”
Nothing ever got done.
What I wanted more than just compensation for my harms and losses was for this never to happen again. Willie’s car stuck the front of my car near the front tire on the passenger’s side. The impact bent the frame of my car – totaling it. My dashboard was cracked in half. Had the accident happened a split second later – he would have struck the passenger’s door where Allison was sitting.
Over the past year or so, I have invested heavily in my training as an injury lawyer. It has changed my life and the lives of my clients.
My case was more than Willie striking my car. My case was a systems failure case. A failure on the part of the Town of Enfield to properly zone the Mobil station and institute proper traffic controls for the safety of us all. It is a failure on behalf of Mobil for designing and profiting from this kind of vehicular access to Hazard Avenue. No mistake about it – Mobil profited from cars like Willie’s being able to cut across three lanes of traffic to make a left hand turn.
My commitment as a lawyer is to identifying these systems failures where possible and holding those who benefit responsible for the consequences of their actions.
My other commitment is to transformative justice. So many of my clients don’t want whatever terrible thing happened to them to happen to anyone else. If there’s something we can do in addition to compensating you for your harms and losses we’re going to work to try to do it.
McKeen Law Firm, LLC will work with you to make positive change in the community.
If you have been injured, contact us for a free consultation.
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