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Greg Abbott has received $6 million from suit over accident that disabled him
AUSTIN — Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since a 1984 accident, has released for the first time the terms of the lawsuit settlement that has paid him $6 million so far.
Abbott, 55, started his quest to become governor last month and decided to voluntarily release copies of the September 1986 agreement to the media Friday.
He was 27 at the time of the incident when he went for an afternoon jog on a windy day through River Oaks in Houston. A limb snapped off a large oak tree as he was passing under it, crushing his spine and damaging his kidneys.
Abbott sued the homeowner and tree care company and won a settlement, which shows tax-free annuities in graduated payments. The payments began with a $300,000 check in 1986. They include both monthly payments and lump sums that are deposited every three years.
This year, Abbott will receive about $570,000 from the settlement, with $400,000 coming from a lump-sum payment.
In 2016, during a first term he would receive a payment of $450,000 in 2016. In a second term, two payments would arrive — $500,000 in 2019 and $740,020 in 2022.
The monthly payments, which began at $5,000 in November 1986, increase at 4 percent per year, compounded annually. They are currently about $14,000 a month.
All told, the agreement could be worth about $9 million. As attorney general, Abbott is paid $150,000 a year.
Abbott has disputed criticism that such a settlement could not be achieved today because of legislation he helped champion 10 years ago that imposed limits on lawsuit awards.
He argues that anyone in similar circumstances could reach the same type of settlement today.
Under the recent law, punitive damages — meant to punish gross negligence or bad faith — have been capped at $750,000. The law still allows payments for medical costs, potential lost wages, economic damages and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
Matt Hirsch, a spokesman for the Abbott campaign, said the attorney general did not seek punitive damages in his lawsuit.
“Noneconomic damages that General Abbott sought include injuries resulting in physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment, and reduced capacity to work and earn money,” Hirsch said, adding that Abbott also sought damages for doctor, hospital, therapy and pharmaceutical bills.
The campaign has not released copies of the actual lawsuit, which would include pleadings and requests for damages.
Hirsch said Abbott has worked to ensure that the injury does not hold him back. It has given him a greater appreciation for his family, faith and for time, he said.
“He genuinely believes his life has been fuller and better after the accident,” Hirsch said. “He follows an oversimplified motto: ‘You never know when a tree is going to fall on you.’”