A woman who was rear-ended by a Texas Forest Service employee has had to sue her own insurance company to recover compensation for serious whiplash injuries.
In April 2011, Brenda Nolen (51) from Texoma in Young County, Texas, was driving her Dodge pick-up when it was rear-ended by a Texas Forest Service employee who had fallen asleep at the wheel. The force of the impact pushed Brenda´s vehicle into a petrol pump on a garage forecourt, which exploded as she hit it and burst into flames.
With help from passers-by, Brenda escaped from the burning wreckage of her vehicle, but had suffered multiple burns, a broken arm and serious whiplash injuries. Brenda had to undergo multiple surgeries to repair the damage to her neck from the initial rear-ending and was unable to work or drive for almost two years.
Brenda made a claim for compensation for serious whiplash injuries against the State of Texas – who are responsible for the Texas Forest Service – to cover her medical costs and loss of property. However, insurers for the State of Texas denied their liability for her injuries; claiming that the Homeland Security Act made employees of the State Forest Service immune from liability for any injuries or accidents caused while on their way to an emergency.
Brenda then approached her own insurance company – State Farm – who used the same anti-terrorist legislation to decline her claim for serious whiplash injuries, despite having a statement from the Texas Forest Service employee that he had fallen asleep at the wheel of his vehicle and was not en route to an emergency.
With mounting medical costs – and an unsympathetic insurance company – Brenda was forced to take legal action against her own insurers. With the help of a solicitor, Brenda pursued her entitlement to compensation for serious whiplash injuries and, after a two-year legal battle, an undisclosed settlement was negotiated which enables Brenda to get a new car and cover most of her medical costs.