Case Description: A driver rear-ended when slowing significantly to avoid hitting a deer darting across the road suffered serious injuries that lead to persistent back pain and chronic, traumatic headaches.
Court/Date: Chesapeake, VA Circuit Court/2008
What Happened: Our client was driving on Millville Road near his home in Chesapeake, Virginia (VA), when he saw deer near the side of the road. He slowed almost to a stop to avoid the animals as they crossed right in front of his vehicle. The front end of his car clipped one deer, who, though dazed, ran off. A car following our client ran into the back of our client’s vehicle because the driver was distracted, looking at the deer and did not even see our client’s vehicle slowing. The at-fault driver was following too closely and failed to keep her car under control.
Our client hit his face on the steering wheel and exerienced eye pain and headaches after the car wreck. He also suffered problems with in his spine, especially his neck and lower back. He went to the emergency room at Chesapeake General Hospital with blurred vision and a facail ontussion and was also diagnosed as having a concussion. The headaches and eye problems were bad enough to affect the our clients ability to do his job as a longshoreman, which involved working high above the ground on cranes and similar equipment.
Key Legal Strategy: Proving that the driver who rear-ended our client was at fault was relatively easy. Questions about whether the defendant at-fault driver would try to get out of responsibility by saying that the deer jumping out was a sudden emergency and, therefore, no one was to blame for causing the accident were raised. Once we took the deposition of the woman who was driving the car who hit our client from behind, however, we were able to show that she was clearly not paying enough attention to the road and did not see what she should have seen had she been keeping a proper lookout. This made the liability part of the case clear. The next questions to adress, then, were what injuries our client suffered in the wreck and how serious those injuries were.
The principal medical issue in the lawsuit was that the plaintiff we represented had been in a workplace accident more than a year before the car wreck. The man required surgery to fix a lumbar spine problem cause by the workplace accdent, and he suffered some migraine headaches after the surgery during his recovery. That incident also led to a workers’ compensation claim, and the Norfolk, VA, lawyer who handled that claim sent the man's car accident case to our law firm to handle because our firm focuses much of its practice on automobile crash injury cases.
To figure out what the case was worth and how much of the defendant driver's $100,000 USAA insurance policy liability limit we could expect to get our client in compensation, we called the neurologist who had treated our client's headaches both before and after the car wreck. This allowed us to confirm that the neurologist, one of the best in Hampton Roads, Virginia, would testify for the plaintiff that the blows to our client's face and head during the car wreck caused an aggravation of his medical condition and made his headaches worse. The neurologist also noted that the headaches after the car accident were focused in a different part of the skull and were of a different type than the prior migraines.
Outcome: The case was settled for approximately $73,500 shortly after the defense lawyer representing USAA took our client’s deposition. That settlement was more than twice what the insurance company had been willing to pay before we went forward with our lawsuit. The final settlement amount was also enough to ensure our client could pay his doctor bills, reimburse his own health insurer for the money it had already paid out, and replace a large portion of the wages he lost while recovering from the car accident. All and all, it was a fair compromise in a difficult case.