At Appel Law Firm LLP, we award a $1,000 scholarship each year to a college, university, graduate, or law student who was injured in a car or truck accident or was affected by someone else’s accident. We are very pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2015 Auto Accident Law Firm Survivor Scholarship is Denise Pichardo, a brilliant student who suffered devastating injuries, through no fault of her own, in a head-on car collision. Denise’s accident motivated her to pursue a career in law, and she is entering St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens, Florida.
We were greatly inspired by Denise’s story. Two years ago, Denise was driving her one-year-old niece home from daycare when another driver, who was cited for being at fault in the accident and was later criminally prosecuted, wrongfully entered Denise’s lane while trying to pass another car. The driver hit Denise’s car head on. The niece, luckily, survived, though with a broken arm, three skull fractures, and internal bleeding. For weeks, the one year old suffered from nightmares. Denise’s injuries were devastating, including a collapsed lung, an aneurysm in her neck, broken femurs, kneecap, and ribs, torn ligaments, liver laceration, spleen injury, and a severe concussion that wiped out all memories of the accident and of the week she was in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. She could not walk. She spent a month and a half in the hospital, and her medical bills came to more than half a million dollars.
Before the accident, Denise was studying to become a teacher and had almost completed her training program. After the accident, not knowing how much longer she would have to stay in the hospital or when she might be able to walk again, she left the teacher training program and concentrated on her rehabilitation. She had to learn how to transfer her body to a wheelchair and to relearn how to walk again. After being released from the hospital, she continued physical therapy sessions, which were sometimes so painful they brought her to tears. Despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder, she has made a lot of progress, though she still has to deal with her fears and with physical limitations.
What is most inspiring is the way Denise used these difficulties as a catalyst to fulfill a dream she had since high school of fighting for others who cannot fight for themselves. She is pursuing a law degree to become a criminal prosecutor in order to help other victims. She writes, “For a while, while I was injured, I did not have a voice. I could not speak for myself. I want to help be a voice for those who cannot speak.”
We are honored to be able to help Denise reach her goals. She is a role model for anyone who has ever experienced a devastating setback in life. She did not give up, but instead drew inspiration from her hardships and her pain, finding an inner strength and a new purpose in life.
Before her accident, Denise received many honors for her brilliance and dedication. She was valedictorian at her high school graduation, made the Dean’s List throughout her college years, graduated from St. Thomas University summa cum laude, received multiple fellowships, and was named tutor of the year. Now, with her accident giving her an even stronger motivation to help others, Denise will be unstoppable.
The annual Auto Accident Law Firm Survivor Scholarship is paid directly to the winner’s school and is used only for the student’s tuition and related expenses. We hope that this award will not only help the individual winners rebuild their lives and go on to make a difference in their communities, but will also help remind the public that tragedy can morph into something positive as long as people are open to the possibility. Denise’s devastating accident increased her capacity for compassion to others who are also in difficult circumstances. Reaching back into her past to retrieve a long-held dream, she is well on her way to using her talents and caring to give voice to those who are as voiceless as she once was.