Law Firm Staff:
Richard N. Shapiro, Attorney
Kevin M. Duffan, Attorney
R. Hughes, Paralegal
M. Cudden, Legal Assistant
Donald Case, Investigator
On November 11, 2008, our client was operating his Volvo in Fairfax County, Virginia (VA) after having dropped his wife off at her job at the local Walmart. He was traveling to his gas station cashier job, through the intersection of Burke Lake Road and Coffer Woods Road on a green light. Suddenly, he was hit broadside by a private ambulance service van, which was not on an emergency call, and whose operator was distracted.
Evidence was developed that the ambulance driver was either using a cell phone or looking at an electronic device and did not notice the red light. Our client's Volvo was smashed and totaled. The Fairfax rescue squad, fire and police officers needed to use the "jaws of life" to free him from the Volvo where he was unconscious for some period of time. He was revived at the scene, but was disoriented, and could remember nothing of the accident. He was taken by rescue helicopter to a local hospital where CT scans of the brain indicated internal bleeding, revealing subdural hematoma inside the brain. He was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and underwent considerable rehabilitation at the hospital and then underwent home health care for many weeks after the accident.
It was not until many weeks after, that he actually understood who his wife was. He suffered traumatic brain injury amnesia and could remember nothing about the day of the accident, and slowly, but surely was able to regain partial memory with rehabilitation.
Our client immigrated to the United States from Nepal where he had been practicing as an advocate/attorney. His dream was to save enough money, establish Virginia residency and to try to be admitted to a Virginia law school.
After batteries of neuro-psychological testing, psychiatric treatment, and other neurological care, testing showed that he suffered from cognitive/brain issues that interfered with his mental processing, memory and other executive level functioning. A vocational counselor tested our client and gave the opinion that he was not employable, any that he could not handle the cognitive tasks associated with going back to law school. Client had attempted to return to work one day, but became disoriented and it was a disaster.
His medical expenses totaled approximately $36,548.42 and after filing suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court, we learned that the ambulance company only had $350,000 of insurance, reduced to $345,000 by the property damage payment. Ambulances have no legal requirements to carry more than the Virginia minimum insurance requirements which, means $25,000 in bodily injury coverage.
Due to limited insurance, we entered into an agreement with the insurer to submit the case to arbitration before a retired circuit court judge. Defendant's expert witnesses developed an opinion that our client had no reduction in his cognitive abilities as a result of the accident, and that he should have no problem returning to work during May, 2011.
Key Legal Strategy:
Based on the limited insurance, one of the key legal strategies was convincing the insurance company to agree to binding arbitration to obtain a quick result for our client. Further, we decided to obtain a brain MRI several months before the arbitration. Even though it was over two years post-accident, the MRI of the brain showed and confirmed areas of the brain that had suffered traumatic brain injury, which correlated well with CT scans of the brain that had been done the first few days after the accident in 2008. This created objective undeniable evidence of brain injury when coupled with the vocational testing, as well as the neuro-psychological testing.
In a decision during June, 2011, the arbitrator awarded our client $340,000 worth of damages, which was within the confidential high-low agreement the parties entered ($345,000 high).
We were pleased to achieve a fairly rapid resolution of the claim by virtue of the arbitration process so our client could take care of his medical bills and other expenses.