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Shapiro & Appleton

Virginia Beach Head-On Car Crash Injury Leads to $25,000 Jury Award

Case Description: A wrong-way driver hit our client's vehicle head-on, causing head and neck injuries that progressed to a degenerative spinal condition.

Court/Date: Virginia Beach, VA Circuit Court/November 2008


What Happened: Our client was a 32-year-old optician going to pick up her daughter at the time of the accident. It had been raining, and the defendant driver of the other vehicle was a woman from North Carolina (NC) who was lost and driving on the wrong side of the road in our client’s lane. A head-on collision occurred. Our client struck her head on the windshield with enough force to shatter the glass. She also jammed her foot hard into the brake as she was bracing for the impact.

Our client was taken by ambulance to the Sentara Virginia Beach General emergency room, where she was diagnosed with closed head injury and neck spasm. She received follow-up treatment from a family doctor who ultimately referred her to a physical therapist for rehabilitative back and neck therapy and to a neurologist for an assessment of memory loss and headaches caused by the wreck.

Our client eventually received an MRI of her neck, and that showed mostly degenerative changes such as disc bulges in her spine. She underwent chiropractic treatment, which gave her some relief.

Key Legal Stategy: Our client and our law firm showed State Farm, the defendant's insurance company, that if we were not treated fairly, we were ready, willing and able to take the case to court. In response, State Farm, withdrew all offers prior to trial.

Virginia Beach is known for its conservative jurors who are not often generous toward people without catastrophic horrible injuries. This stood as a sgnificant obstacle because the insurer had signaled its belief that our client was not injured by making a zero settlement offer and because the defendant brought in a hired-gun orthopedic doctor to testify to the jury that our client was not hurt badly and that her kind of soft tissue injuries should have healed within six to nine weeks of the wreck.

Prior to the trial, the attorney representing the client met with each of the plaintiff's health care providers -- the family doctor, the neurologist and the chiropractor -- and confirmed what their opinions were about the case. Each of the doctors stated that they did not think that the plaintiff was faking or exaggerating her injury. The attorney also shared each of the doctors' medical records related to the case with the other health care providers so they would know exactly what neck and back complaints the plaintiff had before and after the head-on collision. The depositions of the treating doctors went reasonably well.

Still, the defense lawyer and the hired-gun doctor tried to categorize this as a minor injury based on numerous entries in the family doctor's and physical therapist's charts, saying that there were little or no pain complaints in the days and weeks following the accident.

Outcome: The jury returned a verdict of $25,000 for our client after deliberating for approximately an hour at the very end of the second day of the civil trial.

$25,000

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