Margarete Chenoweth, a long-time resident of Mercer Island, recently accepted an out-of-court settlement for $7.5 million from the city for a spinal cord injury she sustained in an accident near her home on Forest Avenue Southeast.
The accident occurred on April 15, 2013 when Mrs. Chenoweth was riding her bicycle down the street in her neighborhood. When she moved out of the way of a car that was passing by, she rode over a hard-to-see berm that had been placed in the street by the city to divert rainwater from flooding the sidewalk.
Chenoweth flew over the handlebars of her bike and hit a 4×4 mailbox post as she fell to the ground. She suffered crippling spinal cord injuries from the accident, and can no longer use her arms or her legs.
Through the assistance of a personal injury attorney, she and her family filed a lawsuit against the small city in Washington state, citing the fact that the berm was not properly marked, nor were there any warning signs letting people know it was there.
This is not the first time Mercer has found itself in hot water, however. A lawsuit settled late last year stemmed from a bicycle accident that occurred in 2005, which also resulted in serious injuries to the bicyclist, who is now paralyzed.
Spinal cord injuries like the one Chenoweth suffered are sadly all too common. A report published by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham found that there are more than 12,500 spinal cord injuries in the United States every year. Vehicular accidents account for 38% of all spinal cord injuries. Falls result in roughly 30% of spinal cord injuries, violence – particularly gunshot wounds – account for 14%, and sports and recreational activities lead to 9% of reported spinal cord injuries.
Sadly, the cost of therapy and care is alarmingly expensive. People who suffer from these injuries spend an average of fifteen days in a hospital, and as many as forty-four days in rehabilitation facilities. The costs for each of these services are high, averaging more than $100,000. While health insurance covers most of these expenses, it does not cover all of them. The remaining balance can be, and often is, more than the average family can afford to pay.
For Mrs. Chenoweth and her family, consulting with a personal injury lawyer was one of the best decisions they could make, since it resulted in compensation that now defrays the costs of her medical care, as well as the debilitating pain and suffering she will have to endure for the rest of her life. Most spinal cord injury victims cannot put a price tag on never being able to walk again, but personal injury attorneys can assist them so that they are assured of the proper care they need.
As for the city of Mercer, there are still 66 berms scattered around the island, and officials have no intent of painting or marking them anytime soon.