As a car accident lawyer, it seems like I see the worst things that can
happen in a car wreck. In particular I hate to see the
hit-and-run accidents, because they are so devastating to the victims. The victims are left
with personal injuries, but also with the emotional scars of knowing someone
abandoned them when they were hurt. So this week, it was really heartening
to read in the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution about a Good Samaritan who did not run away, but instead stopped and saved
a man’s life.
There is nothing good about the facts of the accident. A number of people
were injured in a 7 a.m. car accident involving five different vehicles.
The car crash sequence began when a driver in a Nissan Altima was traveling
east on Clifton Road, a heavily-traveled road that we here in Atlanta
know has unusually narrow lanes. According to bystanders, the man in the
Nissan Altima attempted to pass someone, and veered a bit too far into
the oncoming lane of traffic. The Nissan Altima crossed the center line
and crashed head-on into a Dodge Caravan taxi. The Nissan Altima flipped
repeatedly. Three more vehicles either plowed into the first two or were
struck by them.
Things only got worse. The Nissan Altima burst into flames, while the driver
was still trapped inside.
All of that was bad – really bad. But then there was the miracle.
Shawn Grady, a former Holly Springs volunteer firefighter just happened
to be driving right in front of the head-on wreck when it happened. He
said he heard a noise, and looking in his rear-view mirror, saw the mayhem
going on behind him.
Now I bet Mr. Grady had plenty to do that morning. He installs playgrounds
for a living now, and I imagine he was driving at 7 a.m. because he was
on his way to a job. He didn’t have to stop, and he probably had
several dozen reasons why he shouldn’t.
But he did. According to Mr. Grady, “I looked in the rear-view mirror
and I just threw it in reverse.” And fortunately, for everyone involved,
Mr. Grady was trained in handling exactly what was happening.
Flames were coming from the Nissan Altima, and Mr. Grady ran to help the
driver. When he first got to the Nissan Altima, he thought the driver
was dead. The man’s head was pinned between the A-pillar (the metal
post that runs between the front windshield the driver’s side window)
and the headrest of his seat. But then the man moaned.
In freezing cold weather, Mr. Grady stripped his shirt off and used it
to beat the flames. He said he wanted to keep the man from burning. Other
bystanders joined him and used their own clothing and then water to put
out the flames. Once the
car fire was out, Mr. Grady and others stayed with the driver and tried to keep
him awake while they waited for the paramedics to arrive. Mr. Grady said
he texted his wife, asking her to, “just pray.”
Fire rescue units extricated the driver from the car. We will not pretend
that everything was hunky-dory. The driver had severe head injuries and
internal injuries. But if it had not been for Mr. Grady and his courage
and his fast thinking, it seems very unlikely that the driver would have
been alive at all.
In handling car accident lawsuits, all too often I see the
hit-and-run car wrecks, and the accidents where no one stopped to help. It was truly great to
see someone do just the opposite – stand near a burning car, putting
themselves at risk, to beat out the flames and save a complete stranger.
And Mr. Grady was not just somebody who cared – he was the right
man at the right time. He just happened to be a trained firefighter who
just happened to be in front of a collision that just happened to involve
a fire and serious injuries. If you believe in “just happenings”, that is.