A 24-year-old man was visiting family members from out of town who had rented several rooms at a local hotel. He arrived at the hotel after a full day’s work, then sat by the pool with his family for a few hours. They were enjoying catching up with each other and, after a few drinks, the young man decided to take off his work clothes to go for a quick swim.
He walked over to the deepest portion of the pool, where the markings on the edge indicated the water was 5-foot deep. When he jumped in, his life changed forever as he floated helplessly to the surface.
The young man was rushed by LifeFlight to Omaha, where he was diagnosed with a C1 fracture of the neck. He had some feeling in his chest and some control of his right arm and hand, but was devasted to learn that he would now be confined to a wheelchair.
Navigating an Impossible Situation
The young man was a blue-collar worker with children who relied on his wages to provide for their needs. In addition to being unable to return to work, he was now facing a lifetime of extensive medical needs. He knew he’d need a skilled attorney to help him obtain the compensation he needed to move forward with his life.
The young man first contacted a large, prestigious Nebraska firm. They were uninterested in his case, but he wasn’t going to give up. He kept contacting attorneys until he found someone willing to listen. However, this attorney knew the case was beyond his level of expertise. He recommended the young man speak to attorney Matthew Lathrop.
As an experienced trial lawyer with a passion for helping others, Matthew immediately saw the opportunity to make a difference. The case could easily be described as representing David against Goliath, but he wasn’t one to back away from a challenge.
Matthew’s first task was proving liability for the young man’s injuries. The hotel refused to accept responsibility for the accident, claiming his injuries were caused by his drinking and carelessness. They portrayed the young man and his family as being disruptive, reckless, and irresponsible.
Closed-circuit surveillance video of the pool area should have shown the entire incident, but there was nothing but static in the section of footage where the accident occurred. The hotel’s attorneys claimed the videotape had been accidentally damaged due to repetitive rewinding, but Matthew knew this was highly unlikely. He retained an expert in forensic video analysis who established the video had been professionally cut and spliced to remove evidence of the young man’s accident. Later, one of the employees on duty that night stated his manager claimed there’d be no case if there was no video.
Additionally, it was determined that the pool was only 3-foot-9-inches deep at the time of the accident. The pool had been leaking, and the owners had called in a concrete company. The company poured over a foot of concrete throughout the pool to stop the leaking, but none of the exterior markings were ever changed to reflect the pool’s new depth.
When confronted with this evidence, the hotel argued that it still would have been unsafe to jump in water that was 5-foot deep. Matthew retained an expert in pools and diving to counter this claim and establish that his client’s injuries wouldn’t have occurred if the pool’s markings were correct.
Fighting for Justice
As the case progressed, Matthew became more confident he’d be able to help his client. While no settlement would be able to restore his ability to walk, Matthew wanted to ensure the young man and his family wouldn’t suffer financially because of the hotel’s negligence.
When the case went to mediation, Matthew and his client received an offer that was insulting given the young man’s medical needs and the way this injury would affect the rest of his life. “It was seven figures, but it wasn’t enough,” Matthew said. “They said it was their final offer, but I told them we weren’t going to take it. The mediator said a jury would never grant a settlement like that due to my client’s drinking, but I knew we could do better.”
Three weeks after the initial mediation, Matthew and his client were invited back for a second session. After eight hours of intense negotiation, Matthew was able to procure a settlement that fully protected his client’s future financial security.
Providing for Future Needs
As an attorney, Matthew always puts his clients first. This means that reaching a fair settlement wasn’t the end of the story.
For individuals with serious disabilities, access to Medicaid or Medicare benefits is vital. To prevent this young man from losing the medical benefits that were essential for his long-term care needs, the firm hired experts in financial planning to assist him in setting up a special needs trust. The trust paid back Medicaid and Medicare for previous care at a negotiated reduced rate, then preserved the remainder of the settlement for the young man’s future needs.
As a result, the young man was able to afford handicapped accessible housing and transportation to enhance his quality of life. The special needs trust also allowed him to develop a stronger relationship with his young children, since he was now able to hire a nurse to provide for his care needs when he wanted to take his children on vacations or outings within the community.
“This all started as a case nobody wanted because there was no hope he’d win,” Matthew said.
What Can We Do for You?
Have you suffered serious injuries in an accident caused by another party’s negligence? Do you have questions about your rights or how an attorney can help you? Contact the Law Office of Matthew A. Lathrop today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.