I am pleased to announce the results of a recent jury trial that finished in October of 2016 in Butte County. The trial took approximately 3 weeks.
My client was a 16-year old girl who was seated in the back seat of her friend’s truck. She was hunting for the seatbelt when her friend took off, lost control, and hit a telephone pole. My client was flung forward, hitting her head on the windshield.
She had some confusion at the scene, and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The ambulance personnel failed to note a head injury. The hospital performed a CT Scan (which was negative), noted there was an abrasion on her knee, and released her with crutches.
About 4 days later she saw her family doctor, who diagnosed a concussion. As time went on, my client started to developed memory loss, balance problems, inability to remember pages of a book that she had just read, and disabling headaches.
She was taken out of school and put on brain rest. She ended up dropping out of school, but this was not clear-cut as she had had some problems in school before the collision, and was behind on credits.
A few months after the collision, my clients’ neurologist noted she was doing better, released her from treatment, and directed her to seek treatment at the Headache Clinic at Stanford Medical Center. My client’s mother instead (Her mother was a very loving parent who had her daughter’s best interest in mind, and was worried about life-long medication use causing side effects) had her try chiropractic care, and after that there was approximately a 2-year gap in treatment.
My client did eventually return to treatment, and was diagnosed with a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), with on-going post-concussive headaches.
The at-fault driver was insured by a major insurance carrier, and carried a $100,000 insurance policy limit. The carrier refused to release the policy limits information pre-lawsuit, so we filed suit. At that time, we learned that the policy limits were $100,000, and demanded $100,000 to settle pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 998. The insurance company refused to pay the $100,000 policy limits. When this occurred, we created a paper-trail showing that the insurance limits were now open, the lid was off the policy, and if there were a judgment at trial in excess of $100,000, then the carrier would have to pay the full judgment.
We then attended a Mandatory Settlement Conference with the Court, and the insurance company refused to make an offer. They then offered $25,000 11 days before trial. Then, on the Friday evening before trial, they offered to pay the $100,000 policy limits. At that point, we responded with “Sorry, but that ship has sailed”, and proceeded to take the case to trial.
I had the pleasure of trying the case with a colleague, and together we obtained a verdict of $525,000. We also recovered post-trial costs and interest, and the total recovery was $680,000 (almost 7 times the policy limits).
KEYS TO VICTORY:
As with most trials, there were lots of twists and turns. As is a must with a brain injury case, explaining the brain anatomy to the jury, how easy the brain is to injure, and why the brain was injured in this case, were very important. In opening statement I used a series of power-point type visuals to guide the jury through the medicine and the case.
Explaining the invisible injury. To meet my client, she looks normal, seems to speak normally, and it is hard to tell that she has a permanent injury. This is always a challenge in an MTBI case. One way we did this was with the testimony of friends, family, teachers, etc.
Using new technology was also very important. We had a leading expert in the field of neuro-radiology explain the results of the Diffuse Tensor Imaging (DTI) testing done in this case. DTI is an exciting new technology being used by Walter Reed Medical Center (among others) to help diagnose brain injury in soldiers coming home from combat. This cutting edge technology was a key to communicating the injury to the jury.
Another key to victory was thorough knowledge of the Evidence Code and objections using the Hearsay Rule, to keep out potentially damaging written passages in medical records and other written materials. The defense also had about 600 social media entries made by my client that contained potentially damaging information. We were able to keep all of those social media entries out of evidence.
My client will be using her monetary proceeds to purchase a modest home that she can hopefully live in for a long-time, as there are questions about whether she can hold a full time job, etc. It is extremely gratifying to be able to provide that type of help to somebody who was given nothing but the “run around” by the insurance company before my office got involved.
I was given a file as a new lawyer (25 years ago) wherein our client had an MTBI. I found the medicine to be fascinating, and the effects of the injury on the injured person to be devastating. I have had a passion ever since to work on these cases, and other serious injuries. I have taken other brain injury cases to trial, and it was an honor to represent this nice young lady.
If you or a loved one has been injured through no fault of your own, and suffered a brain injury, concussion, post concussion syndrome, or any serious injury, please contact the Law Office of Adam Sorrells for a free consultation, or see us at www.chicopersonalinjury.com.