Our Virginia car accident injury client appeared to suffer only minor injuries when another driver crossed the center line of U.S. 460 in Grundy, VA, and collided with her car nearly head-on. Her headache and neck, back, left shoulder and left elbow pain only grew worse over the next few days, and she began experiencing pain and swelling in her right calf and foot.
Doctors were initially unable to explain the young woman’s symptoms because CT scans performed in the hours after the wreck revealed no brain damage or broken bones. Partial immobilization with a neck brace and arm sling accompanied by trials of several prescription pain medications failed to offer relief, so our client’s family physician referred her to an orthopedic surgeon.
When the specialist noticed discoloration and coolness along our client’s right calf, he diagnosed the woman with an untreated ankle sprain that triggered a condition called complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. The syndrome has no surgical cure and causes ongoing, intermittent pain for the remainder of a person’s lifetime.
Months of treatment by numerous doctors in Southwest Virginia and, later, South Carolina could not end our client’s chronic pain. Her symptoms were particularly severe during work, where her job as a customer service representative required her to sit for long periods without being able to elevate her right foot and leg.
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Key Legal Strategy
The driver who hit and injured our Virginia car accident client was charged with reckless driving. His car insurance company did not contest liability, but the at-fault driver carried only the minimum coverage for compensating injured victims.
To ensure that the woman we represented had funds to pay for her ongoing chronic pain treatment, we filed underinsured motorist claims with her own car insurance company. Claims adjustors for her own insurance company questioned the diagnosis of CRPS, but our Virginia car accident injury attorney was eventually able to negotiate a combined settlement of $40,000 from both sources of coverage.
The maximum available without going to trial would have been $50,000, and it was unclear whether our client’s current family physician would testify that she continued meeting all the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of CRPS. In light of these limitations, we and our client considered the outcome of this case a successful one.
Court: Buchanan Circuit Court, Grundy, VA, 2015
Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, staff attorney