Virginia Beach Woman Suffered Neck Injuries in Head-On Collision Caused by Wrong-Way Driver | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia personal injury law firm client developed a degenerative spinal condition after suffering head and neck injuries in a head-on collision caused by a wrong-way driver. The two vehicles crashed with such force that our client’s head shattered her own vehicle’s windshield.

Emergency room doctors treated the injured woman for neck spasms and a closed head injury. Our client then sought follow-up treatment from her family physician, who referred her to a physical therapist and a neurologist.

The specialist ordered an MRI to discover whether a physical problem might be triggering persistent headaches and problems with short-term memory. The medical images revealed bulging and deteriorating cervical discs. Ultimately, chiropractic treatments provided some relief by taking pressure off her spinal cord.


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Key Legal Strategy

The car accident happened during a heavy rainstorm, and the at-fault driver was visiting Virginia Beach from North Carolina. Police investigators clearly determined that poor weather conditions and unfamiliarity with local roads led the at-fault driver to travel the wrong way into oncoming traffic.

Despite this indisputable evidence, the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company refused to settle our Virginia personal injury client’s claims. The insurer forced the case to a jury trial in Virginia Beach, which is a city known across the state for its tough jurors. The people deciding the case would not be rooting for the insurance company, but they could be counted on to be skeptical of the existence and extent of our client’s injuries.

Securing a jury award for the injured woman was important for her and a matter of justice for us. The insurance company actually submitted a written settlement offer of “zero (0) dollars” for injuries and lingering health problems it argued did not exist. Our client needed to, at a minimum, recover her crash-related medical expenses because she was raising young children and had missed significant time from her job as an optician while recovering from the wreck.

Prior to the trial, our firm’s personal injury attorney met with his client’s family physician, neurologist and chiropractor. Each of the health care providers reviewed the woman’s medical history before the head-on collision and provided sworn statements regarding their therapeutic interventions.

All the medical professionals were in agreement that our client suffered significant neck injuries from hitting her head on the windshield and that the damage to her cervical vertebrae were compounded by her bracing for impact by pressing her foot hard against her car’s brake pedal. A stiffened spine can be more prone to major injury. No one on the woman’s medical team concluded that she was “faking or exaggerating” her symptoms, as the insurance company contended.

For its part, the insurance company brought in an orthopedist who never treated or examined our client to tell jurors that the woman “should have” recovered from any crash-related injuries — if she had been injured at all.

The jurors did not believe the hired-gun orthopedist and decided the case in favor of our client. After a two-day trial and a brief deliberation, the members of the jury awarded the injured woman $25,000.

This case illustrates how insurance companies use civil jury trials as a kind of threat against accident victims. Insurers want the people who file claims to feel intimidated by the court and legal procedure. The companies also rely on jurors’ suspicions that people who seek monetary damages in personal injury cases are just trying to cash in on slight misfortunes that inflicted no real and lasting harms.

Insurers want plaintiffs to quit rather than go through a trial. When that does not happen, insurance companies will attempt to win jurors over with testimony from people who have no firsthand knowledge of the case.

As Virginia Beach-based personal injury attorneys, we fight for our clients. We are never scared away by delay and obfuscation.

Court & Date: Virginia Beach Circuit Court, Virginia Beach, VA, 2008

Staff: Staff attorney