The 2023 Dirk Derrick Car & Truck Accident Injury Scholarship received over 1,000 essays from students whose lives have been impacted by an auto accident. Essays came from across the country with students sharing how they have been personally and significantly affected by an accident and how they have overcome the struggles associated with the accident. 

Because of the number of inspiring essays we received, Derrick Law Firm Injury Lawyers has selected two winners for the 2023 scholarship. The winner below gave Derrick Law Firm Injury Lawyers permission to share her story. 

Read our 2023 Dirk Derrick Car & Truck Accident Injury Scholarship Winner, Avery Handlin's story below: 

"One of the worst days of my life can be characterized by a single question: “Am I going to die?”

I asked this question while in the back of an ambulance after getting hit by a truck. As my paramedic examined my check-marked shaped leg, concave chest,Avery Handlin 2023 Dirk Derrick Car Truck Accident Scholarship Winner and deformed pelvis, he, of course, lied and answered that I would not die. Later, however, I learned that he was not confident in that answer. After waking up from surgery, I realized the extent of my injuries: 13 fractures, the loss of a third of my blood, a concussion, a brain bleed, and nerve damage that would never fully heal. My doctors, knowing that I was a competitive dancer and martial artist, told me that I would likely never compete again.

Surprisingly, this didn’t even alarm me because I simply did not accept this “fact.” I remember telling my physical therapist, “All due respect, but I enjoy proving people wrong.” So, I did. I worked for hours a day stretching and desensitizing my limbs despite the agonizing sensations it procured. I fought through pain every day with grit and determination, clinging to the hope that I would become my old self again. I felt like an imposter trying to live in someone else’s life, trying to reclaim some old identity, but nevertheless, I continued onward. I was out of school for 2 months, and I had to work so hard to catch up while in extreme pain and on many medicines. Surgery after surgery, I continued to fight, reminding myself that I was blessed to have lived and that there are some people who are not as fortunate. 

Within a year, I was back to dancing and training, defying the odds stacked against me. My accident was 5 years ago, and I had my last surgery several months ago. After having been through it all, I won't lie and say I’m grateful to have experienced it and that it made me a better person. However, I believe that we can choose what to make of certain situations, and this situation definitely forced me to be stronger and more durable than I ever thought I was capable of. The best part is that I can use it to help others. I was told that, in the hospital, I said, “If I can get just one person to start wearing their helmet, I’ll be happy.” Since then, I have given several presentations to students and parents in my community about the importance of wearing a helmet while bike-riding as that is the only reason why I lived. Additionally, I can use my experience as a patient to help other patients someday. 

I am currently on track to be a pre-medical student, and I know that I will share a connection with patients unlike many others. I will be able to have more compassion on my patients because I understand the physical and mental suffering of being trapped in your body. In retrospect, I realize that I am extremely blessed to have survived my accident, and I have promised myself that I will honor that gift of life. I am working hard now as a student to ensure that I can someday walk into a hospital as the doctor, not the patient. I wear the scars from my accident and bear the memories that have haunted me for years, but I can take the wisdom gained from those experiences and use it to be a physician driven by a passion for service, mentorship, and impact."

For more information about the Dirk Derrick Car & Truck Accident Injury Scholarship, please see www.derricklawfirm.com/scholarship.