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Webster cop collects nearly half million from drunk driver

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Driving drunk is bad. Hitting a police care while driving drunk is really bad. But hitting a police car in injuring the officer who is driving the police car, who also happens to be a lawyer, is the worst case scenario.
At shift change, Officer George Schilter, who is also an attorney, was ending his shift and turning into the police parking lot from State Highway 2 in Webster, Texas, when he says, "Suddenly the police car lurched forward and things began to come apart. I was absolutely surprised. When the police dispatcher broadcast a horrendous crash at the rear of the station, I instinctively reached for the mike to take the call. There was no mike. It wasn't where it was supposed to be. Later I determined the mike had become a flying missile and parted my hair. I was wearing a vest and seat belt and still had a major bruise across my chest. My Ford Expedition was demolished. I suppose I was fortunate the vehicle absorbed a great deal of the energy of the crash."
After forcing the door open, Schilter was able to step out of his mangled Expedition and see the vehicle that had just hit him. The driver was still sitting behind the wheel and the engine compartment was literally gone. The vehicle was filled with air bag smoke. Schilter went to the driver who was fixated and looking straight ahead with his hands still on the steering wheel. Schilter could see through the smoke that there was a person in the passenger seat and the dashboard was in the seat with him. The officer, making his way to the passenger door, went behind the vehicle and saw the rear of it completely missing. Later it was determined the impact had caused the rear of it to raise up and land in the opposite lane of traffic where it was smashed into by a passing truck and torn from the vehicle.
This was the third time the officer/lawyer had been hit by a drunk driver while on duty and the fifth collision he had been in during his long driving career. All had been in police cars and all, but one, had been the other drivers fault. The last he had been involved in was while he was in pursuit of a drunk driver who was driving without headlights and on a flat tire. In that crash, Schilter made a sudden stop and backed into a vehicle behind him.
In considering his options in this case, Schilter engaged the services of long time friend and personal injury attorney, Steve Waldman.
"I told Steve I was tired of getting hit by drunks and I wanted to make an example of this one. I wanted to sue for punitive and exemplary damages." Steve agreed and a suit was filed in the State District Court in Houston, Harris County. Schilter explained, "The success in winning a punitive, exemplary damage case is the preparation and the building of the facts. Just like the criminal case in which the elements of a crime have to be proven, the facts in this civil case must rise to the same level of civil proof."
Initial settlement offers by the defendant were woefully inadequate, even for the injuries suffered. The City of Webster was reimbursed for the total loss of the police care and the injuries were covered by Workman’s Compensation Insurance.
"Developing the facts became a very important part of this case," Schilter explained. "We were able, through the defendant's deposition, to have him admit he was driving his wife's company car, with her permission, and both of them had been consuming alcohol over several hours. Thus he had committed all the elements of a felony assault. Although he was not charged with a criminal offense, he nonetheless admitted the elements and raised the settlement stakes."
Additional considerations were developed. During the rehabilitation phase of his treatment it was discovered Schilter had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both hands. Initially his treating workers comp physician did not relate that malady to the collision. However, after consultations with Dr. James Stafford of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and the fact that he had no previous symptoms of the syndrome, the problem was determined to be related to the trauma of the collision.
The lawsuit was amended twice. Each time additional information was discovered it increased the potential liability of the defendant. He decided to settle for $475,000.00.

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