People sure do some amazingly stupid things in cars. Or near cars. Or in the way of cars. Even more amazing is how many things end up in a lawyer's office.
Stories have been edited for clarity.
"I used to work as a paralegal. A guy wrecked his car and wrapped it around a pole. The guy claimed he swerved to avoid a cyclist and that the stop sign he should have avoided wasn't noticeable. Neither really acquit him of his behavior, but whatever, you paid to render services and assistance, not necessarily get 100 percent of what's asked.
After lengthy discovery and document dumps that filled a spare office, a few days before trial, we came across something that had us tell the client we were dropping them.
A report by the EMT on the scene that related the following scene: the client, injured, in the driver's seat with his pants down and adult movies streaming on his phone. To his credit, he was cavalier about his position; that the document was forged."
"My dad is a public defender and he had to defend this guy that stole a cop car from the jail parking lot. He claimed that it was a gift from God and was intended for him.
Of course, a police chase ensued and it went into the nearby highway. When he was finally pulled over about five minutes and seven miles later, the guy got out of the car completely naked except for a pair of leather cowboy boots."
"I never did much criminal defense, but a man, who we'll call Dennis, came into my office with a Driving While Intoxicated charge and an Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle charge - both misdemeanors. Dennis swore up, down, and sideways that 1) he does not drink and was not intoxicated, 2) he never drove the vehicle, and 3) that he has a valid driver's license.
I give Dennis the names of some local criminal defense and DWI attorneys and suggest he try them out. Dennis refuses, saying I'm the lawyer he wants (in hindsight, I should have realized that he probably had already gone to these other attorneys and only came to me after they refused to take his case).
I charge the guy $200 for an intake and record review fee and contact the local court, police station, and district attorney's office for information and paperwork. I find out that not only did this guy blow a .18 on the breathalyzer, but the cops did a blood test on him after he kept insisting he wasn't drunk. The blood test came back with a .22 BAC. As for driving, separate squad cars witnessed Dennis's vehicle run over a mailbox and drive off; he was followed and pulled over on the block. Per the police report, Dennis was the only person in the car and was in the driver's seat with a seatbelt on. Oh, and I tracked down his license through the DMV and it had expired three years ago and was suspended for two years prior to that.
I called Dennis back into my office and told him he did not have a case that should be taken to trial. Dennis admitted that he probably had been drunk, but he wasn't aware he had been drinking. His son must have put Fireball in his green tea and he didn't realize there was whiskey in his green tea because he was eating red hot cinnamon candies and had a cold/stuffy nose. Anyways, Dennis retains me, but only after I put a clause in his engagement agreement stating I explained his low chance at trial and he understood there was no guarantee of a win.
I take the case to trial and, of course, we lose. I was hoping to convince Dennis to take one of the plea offers given to us in advance, but absolutely not. Dennis was sure the judge would understand (Dennis wanted a bench trial, not a jury trial - I made him sign another document later on that said he understood the difference between a bench and jury trial and he was opting for the bench trial) and he would be found not guilty and everyone would move on. He was sorely disappointed but only got probation after the trial - I think the judge was taking pity on me more than Dennis.
Dennis later sued me for his retainer because I didn't adequately defend him. As proof of my inadequate representation, he offered the judge's verdict rendering him guilty. The case was quickly thrown out."
"This is a tale from many years ago when I was interning at a personal injury firm as an undergrad.
My job primarily entailed file management, particularly since one of three attorneys had recently left, leaving his cases behind. I would frequently review case files and help the attorneys keep the facts and discovery records straight. This is perhaps the most unusual case I saw.
Our client had been hit by a vehicle and severely injured. Nothing special in Personal Injury land, right? However, almost all of his injuries occurred as the vehicle traveled another block after the collision. Because he was hit by a street sweeper, and dragged under the brushes for a while before the driver stopped. Yes, the street sweeper was in cleaning mode, not just driving along. Yes, that means it was moving slowly.
Now, you may be thinking how on earth does one get hit by an active street sweeper? The answer is you pass out on the road after a night of drinking. Talk about a bad way to wake up. The problem for our client, aside from serious abrasions, was that the opposing insurance had a reasonable legal argument. In that jurisdiction, the typical rule was pure comparative negligence. However, if one party was both under the influence of alcohol and 50 percent or more responsible, then that party bears the entirety of the damages. For a plaintiff, that means no recovery. So, the argument was that our client's drinking was the essential cause of the accident and he was thus more than 50 percent responsible. We were concerned about going to trial; it would be risky. Yet all the offers so far were paltry.
That was until I read an important document that had just been produced. It turns out street sweepers have an employee handbook with procedures, both required and recommended. One requirement was to exit the sweeper and remove any object that is raised more than six inches off the ground. Given the client's physique, this was certainly the case. Once this was pointed out to the insurance, they suddenly lost their taste for trial, and client settled for his medical bills and then some."
"I do mostly investigative work but take on the occasional DUI just because I have a background in legal defense, and it's up my alley, plus it keeps me in court.
The other day a client walks into my office and asks me to save his license. He comes in saying 'PLEAZZE SAVE MY LICENSE.' Evidently, he is a commercial truck driver and if he gets this DUI (his second) he loses his license. I asked him what happened and he tells me he was asleep in his car when a cop came and arrested him. His criminal case was rejected by the main defense attorney at my firm, but he went to the DMV hearing. He lost and he wants to appeal.
Most of the time, DMV appeals are a just a waste of time. I told the client, look, I'll file the appeal. Chances are, we will lose and then we have to file a writ. He says ok. I ask him, is there anything I should know that was unusual about the arrest. He says no.
I get the police report and well let's say him and I have a different definition of 'unusual.' He has parked in a red, keys in the ignition, the car is 'on' but the engine is not on. Radio and AC are on and he is snoring, loudly. The cop walks up taps on his door and the following conversation ensues:
COP: Sir, are you ok?
Client: What!? I didn't do anything, what do you want?!
Cop: Have you been drinking sir?
Client: SCREW YOU! I'm not answering.
Cop: Sir, step out of the car.
Client: What the heck? SCREW YOU!
Cop: When did you last drink?
Client: SCREW YOU! You're harassing me. I'm not answering ANYTHING.
Cop: Would you like to perform field sobriety tests.
Client: SCREW YOU LADY (yes it was a lady cop)! I'm not doing NOTHING. I'm HAMMERED. Take me to JAIL! GO SCREW YOURSELF!
Cop: Sir, you are under arrest.
I read this police report and I'm dying laughing. I call my client and say hey, I'm reading the police report and it says you were belligerent and told the cop to screw off and called her a witch and told her to go screw herself? is this true?
Client: Yea. Well, I was drunk.
We won the appeal and it got set for a re-hearing, which is later this week. Yea he was hammered, but he wasn't driving!"
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"Although the offense itself wasn't particularly repugnant, I once had to defend someone who had been charged for driving with a suspended license because he was (quite honestly, in his and my opinion) on his way to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to prevent himself from drinking. He was a serious alcoholic who had been convicted of impaired driving several times, and he had found that the only way he could stay sober was by attending AA meetings regularly. On this particular day, his license was suspended because of a prior conviction, he lived quite a distance outside of town, and his friend who typically drove him into town canceled at the last minute. In a panic, worried that without attending the meeting he would relapse, and inevitably end up hurting someone else, he drove his own vehicle, stone cold sober, into town. On the way, he was stopped by the police and charged with driving with a suspended license. In court, I wasn't sure whether to tell the judge that despite the delay on the roadside and the laying of a serious additional criminal charge to this poor guy's history, he managed to call his AA sponsor who picked him up on the side of the highway and drove him to the meeting just in time to arrive only a few minutes late, and stay sober for an additional 24 hours. Albeit with a reduced likelihood of the same positive outcome the following day."
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"Sometimes, you have no choice but to take it.
I represented a guy who sold and leased cars.
A woman worked for a company that let her drive a company van to work as part of a carpool effort. She'd keep the van at home and pick up fellow workers to go to work, then bring them back to their homes. One day going to work, she was stopped at a stop light. Some guy didn't stop in time and bumped into the van. She got out to look, she and the other guy agreed no damage, so each went on his/her way.
Later, a woman who as a passenger decided/discovered she was injured. Went to a lawyer. The lawyer sued the company, the driver, and every passenger in the van. The lawyer deposed each passenger, got the name of their auto insurance company, and sent a demand letter for coverage. One of the passengers said, 'I don't have a car. But my sister does.' So they sued the sister. She said, 'I don't have insurance because I lease the car, and they provide insurance.' So the lawyer sued my client and sent a demand letter for insurance coverage."
"My dad was a defense attorney. He was consulted by a guy who had a DUI+accident charge one time. The guy claimed that the accident was actually caused by weather conditions and that his BAC was not evidence of impairment because he was an alcoholic, and could function just fine at .11 (or whatever it was) because he drank all day, every day, and had built a functional tolerance."
"A few years ago, I had a client who sold his car (actually two cars at different times) and in both cases agreed with the buyer that the buyer would be in charge of changing the owner information on the car license. He found out that the buyers never did the changes when his bank account was seized for unpaid car taxes. No written contract, the car and all its documents in possession of the buyers. In the end, he had to pay the taxes but at least was able to deregister the cars so they wouldn't generate new taxes.
After a long time without hearing anything from this client, he called me earlier this year. Apparently, he sold his car without a written contract and the buyer promised to change the owner's information on the car license, so he gave him all the car documents, but now he received a notice from the tax agency because of unpaid car taxes."
"My boss had the dumbest defense I've ever seen for getting a ticket.
She got gas before coming into work one night (we worked at night). She must have turned her lights off while getting gas and she pulled back onto the road, drove a few blocks, and got pulled over for not having her lights on.
Her defense was 'it was only a few minutes.' She was going to bring the gas receipt with the time/date on it and compare it to the ticket she got to show that it was only a few minutes. I hated my boss, so I just laughed and went back to work. I can't believe she went to court and actually used the defense of 'I broke the law, but it wasn't for long'"
"I sat on a jury where we acquitted a defendant of DWI because when she was arrested, she was standing outside of the car and didn't have the car keys on her. The arresting officer admitted that she never saw the defendant in the car or even operating the vehicle."
"The Case of the Poor Pregnant Woman Hit By On-Duty Cop.
I worked at an auto-insurance defense firm in, you guessed it, Florida, about a decade ago. Representing a despicable insurance company against despicable chiropractors in PIP cases. Personal Injury Protection: the most basic insurance you need to legally get your car tags renewed in the state. It's a mess. $10,000 max coverage. Ambulance chasers get folks to go to the chiro they recommend. Chiro runs up $9,999 of treatment, says 'Congrats, you're cured!' Clients enjoy free massages, can't fault them for that.
But this is between the chiros and the insurance company. Chiro submits bills. Insurance company balks. Chiro sues. There are thousands of these cases out there at any given time.
By statute, if they recovered any money, the chiros get attorney's fees. So plaintiffs attorneys love this. Insurance company calls in the records, does a medical check, brings in dueling expert witnesses, etc. Drops bills by a couple grand. At the cost of a couple grand. Chiros get paid and free attorney payments. And the whole time they wait through this, they get 11 percent interest on the bill. That's right, these things are like 11 percent interest bonds. Chiros make money. Plaintiff and Defense attorneys make money. Medical 'experts' make tons of money doing basically nothing. The insurance company just passes the cost on to you. The whole thing is stupid.
Anyhow, sometimes the insurance company would want to go to trial to try and prove a point or create a precedent in their favor, or just hassle opposing counsel. Blow $40,000 fighting a bill that should be settled to a fraction of that. One such case was the straw that broke the camel's back for me.
Insured was a poor young woman of color. Driving in a slummier suburb, she pulled up to a four-way stop. At the stop, she was rear-ended in a low-speed collision.
By an on-duty police officer in his patrol car.
Insured is nine months pregnant.
Cop rightly checks on her and calls an ambulance. She hit the steering column, so they go to the hospital to make sure she and the baby are ok, and they are, fortunately. Gives birth later on no problem; kid and mom are fine.
But she goes to a chiro after the accident and runs up the usual $10,000 in bills. The company wants us to go to trial on this one, under the argument of 'she wasn't hurt in the accident, she just wanted post-childbirth massages.'
We are flabbergasted. 'So you want us, A) to subpoena this poor single mother. Put her on the stand. And somehow get her to say that she wasn't hurt, she just had 'woman pains'? and B) subpoena the police officer, who hit her, and get him to say that taking her to the hospital to check up on her, being nine months pregnant, was an unnecessary overreaction due to the low speed of the accident? A cop? Covering his behind? Do you have any idea what we'll look like to the jury?'
After a week of this, they finally agreed to settle. I quit shortly thereafter."
"I'm not a lawyer but I did work injury auto claims for a big insurance company.
The craziest claim I could remember was an insured of ours hit a pedestrian crossing the street causing the insured's windshield to crack.
After a thorough investigation, time of day, jaywalking law and the other individual being arrested for a DUI and never actually coming after the insurance company for being hit by a car. I rule our insured not at fault so his rates won't go up, and if for some reason he gets sued, we would defend him. This never happens, like ever. The dude hit a person and isn't getting in trouble in any form, please take the win.
'Well no, I want to sue the homeless pedestrian for damage to my car!'
It took me a good hour to explain to him why doing anything more with this case, would be bad, because you know, he hit someone with his car!"
"Not a lawyer, but my brother-in-law's roommate drove his U-Haul into their apartment building's garage door which has signs saying not to do as much and has CCTV footage of him. Naturally, my brother-in-law took the cost from the roommate's deposit. Not only did the roommate deny doing it, but he is filing suit against my brother-in-law, who is, wait for it... a notable federal public defender. Basically, the guy is so stupid, he's reporting himself to the courts and instead of just paying for a garage door, he'll most likely have to pay my brother-in-law's insane private rate plus anything that city/property owners want."
"I dealt with a guy once who wanted me to take on his road traffic accident personal injury claim. He had written a poem, in Yoruba, about the accident. He refused to tell me anything about his case until he's read the whole thing, in Yoruba.
Among other problems, I can't speak any Yoruba. As in, not one word. As in, that day was the first time I had ever heard of the Yoruba language. I'm not even from a part of the world where I might readily be mistaken for someone who speaks Yoruba. It's a West African language, and I am really, really obviously not from a West African background.
I try to explain this to the guy who becomes very agitated and insists that he must read out his poem in Yoruba. I give up and tell him to get on with it so we can talk about his claim. He does. It takes him nearly 20 minutes to finish.
Anyway, after he's done, he finishes and sits back with a big smile and says that he's certain I'll take his case on now. I begin to ask him some questions about his case, but he refuses to answer. He says that this poem (in Yoruba) is everything I need to know about his case.
Basically, I tell him to screw off and stop wasting my time. He does, but not before standing around outside my office for an hour or so, reading out his poem, to no-one in particular, over and over again.