Monday, May 25, 2009
My trip to DC
While I was on this trip I became far more aware of how this issue will affect others. Before the trip I was only thinking about how this affected people like me who have current liability lawsuits against Chrysler. I hadn't fully grasped the potential this issue has to affect everyone. The current plan will free Chrysler from liability on any vehicle sold before the bankruptcy. That means that, going forward, Chrysler will not be liable for any injury caused by a defective Chrysler vehicle that is on the road today. If GM follows suit, which they will, then no one will be liable for any injuries caused by the majority of American made vehicles on the road today. What kind of car do you drive? If it's a GM or Chrysler product you may as well slap a label on it that says "drive at own risk"!
Please understand, our money is being used to absolve Chrysler of any present or future injury caused by it's vehicles that are on the road today, and unless the Administration changes the plan before this Wednesday, we will pay for GM's absolution as well! This use of our taxes will cause direct harm to approximately 300 people who have current Tort (injury) claims against Chrysler, but it has the potential to harm every American citizen. Even if you decided never to ride in a GM or Chrysler vehicle again you could still get injured by a vehicle that hits you due to a defective part! Our government has a responsibility to use our taxes in a manner that does not cause harm to the American people. Financing a plan with our tax dollars that relieves Chrysler, or any other manufacturer, of liability is irresponsible, unethical, and immoral! I'm not saying that we shouldn't finance these bankruptcies, I'm just saying that if our money is being used then the plan should reflect our best interests and protect us in the process!
When I learned that I would be testifying I hoped that I would be able to deliver this message. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the hotel the situation had changed. I was no longer going to be allowed to testify. For whatever reason (political pressure) the focus of the committee hearing had changed from the impact of the bankruptcy on victims of design defects in Chrysler vehicles to the impact on the dealerships, more specifically the minority owned dealerships. Consumer Advocates Ralph Nader, Clarence Ditlow, and Joan Claybrook would be speaking about the liability issue. (I got to meet them and they were all very nice!) Instead of testifying I would have the opportunity to speak at a press conference before the hearing. We thought this actually might be a better situation because it would get the issue on to national television which would have a stronger chance of getting the Administration's attention.
Unfortunately, the press didn't show up for the press conference. I did have the opportunity to have my statement recorded on video, but I'm not sure what will happen with that video. I believe the hope was to send it to the national media, but I'm just not sure where it will go. I did attend the hearing and was introduced to the committee, but I was only allowed to stand up and thank them for holding the hearing. My testimony was never heard. Later, after the hearing was over I was told that my presence in the room was extremely important and that it had an impact on the congressmen on the committee. The committee decided that it would send a bi-partisan group to the White House the next day to raise the issues with them.
I didn't get home until about 1am on Friday morning. After I woke up (around 10:00am Friday morning) I called the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee's office to ensure that they were still going to the White House and to ask that they please include the liability issues when they spoke to the administration. Unfortunately the plan had changed again and they were not taking a bi-partisan group to the White House after all. However, I was assured that they were still bringing these issues to the Administration's attention and that (even though it did not get attention during the hearing) the liability/tort claim issues were extremely important and would not be forgotten.
The political high point of the trip for me was visiting Senator Lugar's office to thank him for expressing concern about this issue and forwarding my story on to the President's Automotive Task Force. He was in a meeting when I visited, but I did get to meet the staff person who has been communicating with me. Hopefully someday I will find myself in a position where I can thank the Senator personally.
I have made several attempts to contact CNN and the national offices of ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX News. As of yet the only responses that I have received are automated. I want to thank all of you who have reached out to your Legislator's, I truly appreciate your assistance. With any luck we will manage to get this on the national media before Wednesday. If not, I can only hope that we have done all we can and that the message has gotten through!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
For about three years there has been a big issue in my life that I haven't been able to write about. It's been difficult, because I've wanted to share this with you, but for various reasons I've had to keep my mouth firmly shut. However, recent developments in the world have wiped those reasons away. Unfortunately these events may also wipe away any security that I had hoped to have in my future.
The issue is that I have had a pending personal injury/product liability lawsuit against Chrysler. One of the big questions after the accident was, "What caused the fire?" Qualified individuals have examined the wreckage and determined that there was a design flaw in my vehicle that caused the fire. If the fire hadn't happened I would still have my legs. I would probably walk with a limp, but I wouldn't need prosthetics, crutches, a wheelchair, or modifications to my home or car.
I'm not going to discuss the details of the case, but I will say that we were supposed to be in Mediation (opportunity to reach settlement outside of court) two days after Chrysler declared bankruptcy. Their bankruptcy would be the "recent developments in the world" that has prompted me to finally tell you about this issue. The bankruptcy has put a hold on all legal proceedings and, most likely, will wipe my lawsuit against them off of their books permanently.
Even though my case has not been adjudicated and no monetary responsibility has been assigned to Chrysler I am considered an "unsecured creditor" in the bankruptcy. I don't want to get into the whys, how's, and what ifs here. My attorney's have looked at this from every angle and there's no way around it. If the bankruptcy court decides that unsecured creditors with liability claims like mine get nothing (and they probably will) then the lawsuit against Chrysler is over. The party responsible for the loss of my legs walks away from that responsibility.
I would understand if Chrysler was going out of business, but they aren't. They are using our bankruptcy laws to restructure and, hopefully, will come out stronger than ever before. In the process they also get to shirk their responsibilities to people like me who have been injured by their products. It's not moral, and it's certainly not ethical, but in this situation it is legal. Chrysler can effectively sweep the people who have been injured by their products under the rug, ignore their responsibility to people like me, and walk away as if it never happened.
Our government is financing the whole deal with our tax dollars. The US has guaranteed some of the suppliers. The government will give the unions an ownership in the new company. The government has negotiated deals with the banks that hold Chrysler's debt. Unfortunately they have taken no action to protect individuals, like myself, who have been injured by Chrysler. (I don't believe this is intentional, I just don't think the administration realizes this particular consequence of Chrysler's bankruptcy.)
There is a great opportunity for this injustice not to occur! Since the United States government is controlling the purse strings and financing the sale of Chrysler, it could also make sure that people like me have an opportunity to hold Chrysler accountable for the injuries that their products have caused! I am part of the majority that voted for change, and I support the decisions that the Obama administration has made to lead us out of this economic crisis. The Obama administration now has the perfect opportunity to show that their promise of change is not an empty promise by protecting people who have been injured by Chrysler from being swept under the rug during this bankruptcy!
I have written to both of the Indiana US Senators, my Congressman, and President Obama about this issue. As of yet there has been no response from any of them, even though they know immediate action must be taken! The government has used our tax money to save Chrysler, the banks, and the unions. Now it is time for them to show that they can also protect those of us who have been caught up in the wake! Our representatives in the government and our President are the ones who need to make this happen!
I, and others like me desperately need your help! I am asking for everyone who reads this to contact their US Senators, Congressmen, and the President THIS WEEK to make them aware of this issue. Tell them to put pressure on the administration to ensure that cases like mine are not ignored! Demand that, when the Treasury Department handles this bankruptcy, they include case appropriate settlements for liability claims like mine, or allow them to be settled through court with the new Chrysler corporation! The bottom line is that they cannot allow people who have been injured by Chrysler to be swept under the rug!
The best way to find out how to contact your Senators and Congressmen is to go to your state's website. (The one for Indiana is www.indiana.gov) From there you should be able to find your Legislator's and their contact info including phone/fax numbers and email addresses. In many cases you can email them directly from the state website. You can email President Obama from the www.whitehouse.gov website.
For those of you contacting your Senators, Congressmen/women, and President Obama's administration (I cannot stress how important it is that you all contact them!) please mention the following. If Chrysler is allowed to use this bankruptcy to dodge their product liabilities it will set a precedent for how future bankruptcies are handled! If GM, or any other manufacturer, files for bankruptcy they will be allowed to do the same thing! Our government must protect the people who have been injured and guarantee our right to have our cases heard in court!
This is extremely urgent! The bankruptcy proceedings and sale of Chrysler is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27th! Due to Memorial Day, this week and next are both short weeks. There are only a few days left! Please raise your voices and join me in taking a stand to ensure that people with legitimate injuries are protected! Thank you.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I made one conscious decision and one subconscious decision to make certain that my ability to walk would not slide backwards. The conscious decision was to get a treadmill. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but Mom and Dad had a treadmill that they weren't using, so they brought it to my house. I'm only able to walk on it for about 5 minutes at a time (I have done up to 8 minutes, but that's exhausting!), at a speed of 1.9 mph, which burns about 16 calories. However, since it takes 400% more energy for me to walk than it does a person with their natural legs, I probably burn about 64 calories in that five minute time. At least that's what I like to think.
The treadmill has helped with my balance and overall comfort while walking. My original plan was to walk on it everyday, but that only lasted for about 3 weeks. Now I walk on the treadmill when I have a day or two where I don't leave the house. That leads me to the subconscious decision, which was to stay busy.
Getting involved with the mayor's Advisory Council on Disability has certainly helped with that. I'm also getting involved with a program called S.O.A.R, which stands for Survivor's Offering Assistance in Recovery. Essentially I'll be a volunteer employee of the Wishard Burn Unit to speak with patients and families of burn survivors. Yes, I've already been doing this on occasion, but this will be more formalized, and I'll receive some training as well.
Aside from the volunteer activities, I'm still speaking to different groups about disability awareness. Last week I spoke to pre-school through second grade students at a local Co-op school. This Friday I'm helping the Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living with a work-shop for the employee's of the Work-One center's (unemployment office's). We're also conducting the same workshop next Thursday as well. The workshop is focused on a concept called "Universal Design", which points out that modifications for people with disabilities can be a benefit everyone.
Here are a few examples: Curb cuts are used by parent's with stroller's, people on bicycles, etc., far more often than they are actually used by people in wheelchairs. Automatic door openers are used by people who have their arms full of luggage, groceries, or other supplies far more often than they are actually used by a person with a disability. In a business environment, asking every client if they need accommodations regardless of whether they appear to have a disability or not will prompt everyone to let you know their needs. Universal design suggests that making permanent accommodations for people with disabilities, both physically and procedurally, will create a far more comfortable and accessible environment for everyone.
I spent more time on that than I intended to. The point that I was trying to make is that I've been busy. I've realized that when I don't keep myself busy my health slips backwards. Since I no longer get even the little bit of exercises that you get while walking around the house, I have to stay active. Of course, the beauty of being unemployed is that I get to choose when I want to be active!