Our Virginia truck accident injury law firm settled multiple cases stemming from a horrifc collision between our client's car and a commercial tractor-trailer for $5.5 million, along with a structured annuity which is projected to pay out $21 million to our clients over a number of years. This wreck caused serious personal injuries a family, including two young daughters. In fact, the two children suffered brain trauma.
Our clients were stopped in their small car at a light just a couple blocks from their house. The father was driving, the mother was in the front passenger seat, and the daughters were in child seats in the back seat.
The truck driver was on a run to several local Virginia Beach eating establishments. He testified that he remembered turning on the road that was the scene of the wreck about half a mile prior to the stoplight and moving into the left lane in anticipation of stopping at a business.
The driver’s next memory was getting out of the truck after he had essentially run over the car occupied by our clients. Other drivers stopped at the light testified at deposition how the truck approached our clients from the rear, never decreased speed, struck them at approximately 40 mph causing very significant damage to their car.
Sudden Medical Emergency Defense Debunked
The truck driver claimed he fainted before he hit our clients and the case was defended using a sudden medical emergency defense. The police officers who investigated the wreck told me during an interview they believed the big rig driver had simply fallen asleep. The truck driver had a brief work up following the wreck at a local emergency medical clinic and a more extensive work up in the weeks following the wreck. However, no doctor found anything wrong with the driver. One of our attorneys also took the depositions of two management employees of the driver’s company who came to the scene. Both testified that, other than being shook up about the truck wreck, the tractor-trailer driver had no other indications of any medical condition or sudden medical emergency.
Ramifications of the Horrific Collision
The impact from the truck-car accident collision was so severe the front seats of our clients’ car collapsed backwards. The trunk of the small car was smashed into the passenger compartment of the car driving the little girls into the head rests on the top of the front seats, causing traumatic brain injuries to each girl. The closed head injuries left one of the children unresponsive.
The girl behind the car driver apparently received less of a blow than her sister. She was responsive at the scene, and although she demonstrated some seizure-like activity, after the wreck her condition quickly stabilized. She spent a night at the local hospital and was discharged with a diagnosis of a concussion.
The more severely injured girl was seated on the passenger side of the back seat. The investigating police department assigned the wreck to its fatality team because they feared the little girl would not survive her injuries. Fortunately, she received prompt, very good care at the local children’s hospital.
Initial CT scans taken on the day of the wreck showed severe injuries to the frontal lobes on both sides of her brain, multiple skull fractures, and bleeding in the brain. She remained unresponsive in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for almost a week. Studies that were done of her head and brain over the subsequent days showed the areas of swelling, bruising and bleeding in the brain began to stabilize.
Ten days after the wreck, the little girl was transferred to the rehab section of the hospital because while the physical aspects of the injury had stabilized, she did not have use of her left arm or leg and responded to her surroundings inconsistently. Through diligent work of the hospital staff and the parents, the little girl regained use of her left arm and leg and began responding to outside stimuli. She was discharged from the rehab floor a week later and participated in speech, occupational and physical therapies which led to a good physical recovery over the subsequent months, but the evidence later confirmed she suffered significant brain damage.
While our client made a good physical recovery, the CT scans and MRIs done at the hospital showed the areas of her brain injured in the wreck had begun to develop encephalomalacia, also known as cell death. To assess the extent of her brain injuries and help plan her recovery and treatment, we referred the girl to a neuropsychiatrist for an evaluation. Following the evaluation, the neuropsychiatrist warned that as a result of the injuries, our client may develop problems with disinhibition, impulse and aggression control as she matures. The frontal lobes of the brain control what is known as “executive function.” He recommended we plan to provide educational assistance, tutors, counseling and other external structure as our client ages to help her if these problems arising from brain injury develop in the future.
To fully assess the potential future needs of our client, we retained a life care planner who reviewed all of our client’s medical records, spoke with her doctors and developed a life care plan incorporating our brain injured client’s “required” future needs and a second plan outlining recommended or potential needs. This life care planner also priced out these services so we would have a basis to evaluate our client’s current financial needs and to provide proper legal evidence of the nature and cost of future needs to present to a Virginia jury.
The neuropsychiatrist also recommended an evaluation by an expert in the education needs of children who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. The educational expert not only had training in the educational needs of brain injured children, but was also very active in national brain injury organizations and had written several peer-reviewed articles and textbook chapters on the issue. The educational expert met with our client and her family and prepared a report summarizing his recommendations for future educational assistance and monitoring of our client’s performance, to hopefully deal with any future issues early, before they became overwhelming to the client and her family. The educational expert also prepared questionnaires for our client’s teachers to complete on a periodic basis to unify his efforts with those of the parents and teachers to assist and monitor our client.
The assessment of the extent of a brain injury varies with the age of the victim, and this client was a young girl just entering elementary school so, we also retained a pediatric neuropsychologist who performed standardized tests on our client in order to develop a picture of her performance and any deficits related to the areas of the brain injured in the wreck. The neuropsychologist also developed questionnaires for our client’s teachers for input on the child’s academic and social activities within the classroom.
Developing Evidence To Illustrate the Harms and Losses
Once we felt our client’s brain injury medical needs had been addressed and had a prognosis for her recovery, we turned to the issues of preparing evidence for presentation to a jury. The initial issue was developing evidence that allowed one to feel and appreciate the magnitude of the wreck and subsequent injuries suffered by all our clients, including the most seriously injured “daughter.” Although interviews of the eyewitnesses and investigating officers developed clear responsibility of the truck driver as the cause of the wreck, they didn’t convey the urgency present at the crash scene or the devastating effect of the injuries apparent at the scene. We subpoenaed the 911 calls made from the wreck scene and were provided with the digital audio recordings of the emotional call from the mother of our client and that of an off duty EMT passing the scene which were all incorporated into the powerpoint presentation we created over weeks and weeks for our mediation.
Another issue we confronted was how to convey the extent of our clients' brain injuries to a jury since her physical recovery was good and her appearance was essentially normal. We sent the CT scans and brain MRI done on our client to a medical illustrator and graphics illustration company that prepared exhibits and three dimensional imaging consisting initially of a child’s face and head which was broken down into slides descending from the top of the skull to just above the eyes with specially colored areas depicting the areas of brain injury. The CT scan reproductions were also set up in chronological order so that as one progressed through the brain views you would see how the different areas of the brain were seriously compromised by injuries over time. The neuropsychiatrist reviewed all the brain MRI and CT scan studies and identified the specific images which most accurately and graphically demonstrated the extent of the permanent damage to our client’s brain. We included the most important 3-D and 2-D brain images in our final multimedia powerpoint presentation, along with video of our client and the accident scene.
After the development of each of the four cases, we engaged in voluntary mediation sessions with the defendants (truck driver and his employing company). We successfully mediated the cases involving the parents and the less severely injured child in our first daylong mediation session. We engaged in a second mediation session for the more severely brain injured child about thirty days later. We had a structured settlement annuity consultant attend that mediation to assist in determining the amount of money needed to cover the potential future needs of our brain injured client.
$5.5 Million Dollar Settlement, and Long-Term Structured Settlement Funds to Help with Medical Expenses
Our team of truck accident attorneys were able to resolve the case of the second child at mediation. We agreed to a $5.5 million dollar settlement including a structured annuity which is projected to pay out approximately $21 million over a number of years. This was essential for our client to ensure sufficient funds for her short-term medical and educational needs along with money for long-term expenses.
Our Virginia truck accident injury law firm was proud to represent this wonderful family and assist in assuring that the young daughter with the serious brain injury will be able to cover her lifetime medical expenses.