When I was in law school, I remember being in torts class and learning about “the eggshell plaintiff.” A plaintiff is a person who sues another person in court for injuries. The Eggshell plaintiff is the person who is injured by something you did, but their injuries are far worse than they would be in a normal person, because they are already fragile for some reason. The question was whether the person who caused the injury was responsible for the extent of their injuries when a normal, non-fragile person wouldn’t be so injured.
I did not enjoy tort class. I am not a personal injury lawyer for a reason. However, I had a fresh look at that case this morning on my drive into work.
I was driving down a narrow, one-way, two-lane street leading into the downtown area. There really is no curb on the left side of this road, just a high dirt and weed shoulder that comes up to about the window on my truck, which then turns into a stone retaining wall that nearly juts out to meet the cars. I was in the left lane surrounded by a pod of moving cars (they are huge and whale like, ergo the “pod” reference). Sophia Tempee was in the back seat, in the middle, in her booster seat, buckled up and chomping on a hot doughnut (don’t judge me… she needs to gain weight). Her booster seat has little arms that come up to just above her hip bones, right next to her enlarged spleen and liver.
When I’m driving, I always look for an escape route. Meaning, I try to not get boxed in, so if I need to swerve or otherwise get out of the way of something big, I can. BUT that stone wall and dirt shoulder right next to the left side of the road leaves the person in the left lane… me… no where to go if something happened.
Well, something happened. The person in the right lane, who I will affectionately refer to as “Not Paying Attention to S**t Dude,” was just a smidge in front of me. His rear door was aligned with my front right tire. Not Paying Attention to S**t Dude started to come into the left lane. MY… Left lane. I drive a BIG… BLACK… TRUCK. It’s big. It’s pitch black. It’s got azombie hunter stick figure family, a huge girl on a tightrope sticker, and a custom zombie hunting license on the front of it. HOW did he not see me? WHERE was I supposed to go? I’m this huge, black block in the middle of a pod of cars, surrounded, with a wall of DIRT and scrub weeds to my left.
I sucked in all the oxygen in the front of the car, SLAMMED the brakes on and pulled as far left as I could without driving into the dirt wall, waiting for him to slam me the rest of the way into the dirt. Lucky for me, the guy behind me must have been watching Not Paying Attention to S**t Dude, cause he didn’t hit me. I felt my tires hit the edge of the curb. I heard the scrape of the weeds against the driver side door of my truck.
And Not Paying Attention to S**t Dude just kept coming into the left hand lane… right into the space I just occupied, as if nothing was happening. Just “doo-dee-dooo-deee-dooo”, singing his happy, not-paying-attention-to-s**t song as he merged right into where I had JUST been. I have NO idea how he didn’t hit me. I KNOW the four corners of my truck. I can park that baby in a compact spot and still have room to climb out (granted through the window over the truck-bed, but hey… out is out).
I can even parallel park my baby. So when I tell you I expected to hear metal scraping metal, I EXPECTED to be shoved into the dirt, to have the front of my truck catch on the dirt and stones, and to start to spin into the cars around me, I’m not kidding. I have NO idea how it didn’t happen, other than God was watching out for us. Yet another thing to thank Him for tonight.
Okay, so I started with something, right? That egg-shell plaintiff thing? Well, I calmly recovered, pulled back fully into my lane, now behind the Not Paying Attention to S**t Due, and slammed the palm of my hand on the horn. I DID NOT CUSS!!! I know, points for me, right? I was probably too shaken up to enunciate all the horrible things burning through my mind properly.
I dropped Sophie off at school a few blocks away, drove the last few blocks to work, and made it out of my truck before it hit me.
I had Sophie in the car and we almost got into an accident.
Holy @*$!%&$^*@#&% I had SOPHIE IN THE CAR!
I could barely function the lock to my office, I was shaking so badly by the time I got inside. Full on, hiding in the bathroom, reapplying make-up afterwards, panic attack.
For those that don’t understand why this got to me, Sophie was on steroids for more than two years, chemo for 23 months. Her bones are FRAGILE! She’s already broken a leg by slipping on a crayon. A… CRAYON. Crayola took her out! Imagine what a car accident could do to her!
AND her liver and spleen are enlarged. Those are the two largest, most blood filled organs in your body. You WILL NOT survive a lacerated liver or spleen without IMMEDIATE and INSTANT medical help in the form of surgery. IMMEDIATE. Not 10 minutes later when the ambulance shows up and hauls you through early morning traffic across town. IMMEDIATE.
And she was in the car with me. Her booster seat’s arms would have hit her spleen or her liver, depending upon how we spun She could have been severely hurt. She could have been killed. In an under 25 mph car accident. Because of some dude that couldn’t pull his head out of his @$$ long enough to look before he merged.
I have no solution to this. I can’t prevent it. There is NOTHING I can do! I did everything right! I was following traffic laws. I was driving the speed limit, I left plenty of space in front of me. I had my daughter buckled into her booster seat in the middle of the back seat. There is no such thing as a booster seat without arms. We’ve looked. I couldn’t have made it safer for her if I wanted to. And yet…
I immediately called Dan and he said he’d look again for something with better arm placement for a booster seat, but I know there’s nothing else I can do. I can’t keep her home. I can’t hide her away. And Childrens’ Services tends to frown upon parents that wrap their kids up in pillows and duct tape. Not to mention what that would do to her social life.
So I sit here with a new perspective on the eggshell plaintiff. My baby is one. And there’s nothing I can do about it. This is what is on the streets around you. Children with fragile bones and enlarged spleens. Children that can’t take a hit.
Please pay attention when you are driving. My baby or one like her might be in the car next to you.