$340,000 Arbitration Award for Man Who Suffered Traumatic Brain Injury From Crash Caused by Distracted Driver | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia brain injury and car accident law firm client was driving to his job as a gas station cashier when a privately owned medical van T-boned him at the intersection of Burke Lake Rd. and Coffer Woods Rd. in Fairfax County, VA. The damage to our client’s car was so extensive that emergency personnel had to cut him free from the wreckage.

The impact knocked our client unconscious, and he remained disoriented for days after being revived. He could not even recognize his wife for weeks, and he never could recall significant details about the collision.

Scans done at the hospital revealed bleeding from a subdural hematoma in our client’s brain, and doctors made an initial diagnosis of traumatic brain injury. He underwent extensive rehabilitation while in the hospital and continued on home health care for months.

Prior to the accident, our client worked at the gas station while saving money to attend law school in Virginia. He served as a human rights advocate and attorney in his native Nepal and believed that earning a law degree from a U.S. university would allow him to do even more good.

Sadly, the TBI rendered him unable to perform the mental processes and form the memories necessary to succeed in law school. Additional tests and assessments by a neuropsychologist and a vocational counselor resulted in a finding that our client had become permanently disabled and unemployable. When he did attempt to complete a trial shift at the gas station, his issues with executive functioning (e.g., paying attention, planning, prioritizing, completing tasks) turned the attempt into a disaster.


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Key Legal Strategy

Our Virginia brain injury and car accident client racked up $36,548.42 before filing insurance claims against the medical van driver. We asked for much more than this because our client lost so much, would need lifelong medical care and personal assistance, and could never work again.

We established that the medical van driver was at fault for causing the crash by finding evidence that he ran a red light while he was distracted by a cell phone or other electronic device. Importantly, the medical van driver was not on an emergency call and did not have his siren and flashers engaged.

Less helpfully, we also learned that the at-fault driver carried only $350,000 in bodily injury coverage. The insurance company refused to provide the maximum settlement, but we did manage to get the company into binding arbitration. In this form of alternative dispute resolution that avoids a trial, both parties agree to abide by the decision of an arbitrator who holds a one-day hearing during which both sides present their strongest evidence.

A retired circuit court heard the evidence. The insurance company argued that our client did not, in fact, suffer any reductions in mental and cognitive function. We countered this, in part, by showing the results from a brain MRI performed more than two years after the crash. Those recent images revealed extensive structural damage to our client’s brain and largely matched what the scans performed at hospital just hours after the accident.

Acknowledging such incontrovertible evidence, the arbitrator awarded our client $340,000.

TBIs can be difficult to prove, no matter how devastating their impact on crash victims and their families. We are able to bring decades of experience in representing brain injury victims to bear when we take Virginia car accident cases.


Date: Fairfax County Circuit Court, June 2011


Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, attorney