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Virginia Man Suffering Chronic Pain After Getting Hit by a Truck Settles Lawsuit for $5.1M

Two years after being hit by a truck in Rockingham, Virginia (VA), in 2009, 71-year-old Zackie Mitchell still suffers unrelenting pain from injuries he sustained in the crash. It took until April 2011 to get the trucking company, Bush Hog LLC, to admit that the driver it employed was at fault for the head-on collision with Mitchell's SUV. It was another three months before the defendant agreed to settle with Mitchell to cover his more than $1 million in medical treatment costs and ongoing pain and suffering. The total amount of the settlement was $5.1 million.

According to an August 11, 2011, report in Virginia Lawyers Weekly, Bush Hog settled shortly before having to go court. This is not uncommon in truck accident injury cases, as insurance companies for commercial truck drivers try to delay paying legitimate claims for as long as possible.

I congratulate my fellow Virginia personal injury attorney John Shea of Richmond, VA, for his success in holding the trucking company and its insurer accountable for the harm done to Zackie Mitchell. I also find it interesting that, as the news magazine notes, Shea had intended to introduce so-called "pain equivalency" evidence at the averted trial.

This fairly unique strategy involves drawing comparisons between painful circumstances and a patient's need for painkillers. For instance, a pretrial statement of evidence filed by Shea contained expert testimony from a pharmacologist  that Mitchell's pain was severe enough to require medication doses high enough to relieve the pain of "501 heart attacks ... [or] 1,002 to 2,004 hours of obstetrical labor."

Despite disputing the validity of pain equivalence, the defendant did settle with the plaintiff, paying the injured man monetary damages that should be sufficient to cover his ongoing therapy. That's the most important thing.

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