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Posted in Newsletter on September 6, 2022   |  by Gary Burger

Making Accident Victims Truly Whole

With the 21st anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks around the corner, I invited one of our attorneys, Grant Doty, to write of his experiences, and how that affects him in his practice today. Here's what he had to say:

September 11 is an important national day of remembrance. It is also very personal to me. Twenty-one years ago, moments after catching some television coverage of the burning twin towers with my friend Nate, Flight 77 slammed into my building, the Pentagon – going under my office.

I was not a lawyer for the 20 years I spent in uniform. I was a combat engineer and later a strategist – which is why I was stationed at the Pentagon in 2001. But the trauma of 9-11 informs me every time I work with a client at Burger Law.

Most people hire us because they’ve been injured in a car accident, a slip and fall, medical malpractice, or some other incident. They want to be fairly compensated by the wrongdoer. And they know that we will aggressively fight for them to win that compensation.

But often, those harmed by others think only of physical injuries. And although physical damages are easy to identify and connect with an accident, it is critical to think broadly about your well-being. We are not merely bones, skin, and other body parts. Our mental and emotional well-being is just as critical (and maybe more so) to living the best rest of our lives after our trauma.

WebMD notes that one study “suggests that at least one-third of all people involved in nonfatal accidents have posttraumatic stress disorder, persistent anxiety, depression, and phobias one year after the incident.”

In fact, that study noted that there may be "rather large psychological complications even when the motor vehicle accidents have medically not been in the least bit serious.”

It is critical that our clients not only get the treatment to fix their broken bones, treat their back injuries, and address other physical ailments, but also think broadly about what harm the accident caused – including to their mental health.

My experience at the Pentagon on 9-11 and afterwards echoes what the WebMD article states: “trauma [including] car accidents can cause long-term stress that affects your work and relationships and can eventually lead to depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.” I think there is strength and character in admitting this and seeking help.

And while help may include counselling and medications, it can come in many forms. For example, as a vet, I am aware of and have used sports and exercise (see – Team Red, White and Blue), music (see – Guitars for Vets), and community service organizations (see – VFW and American Legion).

Mental healthcare is not one-size-fits-all. My 9-11 experience impacted me differently than my clients’ accidents. But when I talk with them, I try to get them to think broadly what full recovery would be for them. Yes, there is a physical component, but what impact did their accident have on their mental well-being?

And what can they do about it to be truly whole? By doing so, we can work together as attorney and client to ensure they are fairly compensated, address those issues, and live life as they should.

Above: Grant's ID badge and dog tags, worn during the attack on the Pentagon

Below: Numbered limestone fragment from the face of face of the Pentagon, damaged on 9/11, with accompanying letter.

All of these artifacts were donated to the collection of the Soldier's Memorial Military Museum.