Jury Awards $75,000 to Passenger Who Suffered Lower Back Injuries in a Rear-End Collision | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia personal injury client was 28 years old and on active duty with the U.S. Navy when he suffered lower back injuries in a rear-end collision caused by another driver. The crash happened in Virginia Beach during June 2004, and the force of the impact was enough to cause our client’s head to snap back and break out the rear window of the pickup truck in which he was riding as a passenger.

The injured Navy man received conservative treatment for lower back pain through naval hospitals and clinics. He took medications and performed physical therapy for more than two years but remained in the military and accumulated medical bills of only around $5,000.


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Key Legal Strategy

Four months after suffering lower back injuries and before the insurance company for the at-fault driver settled our Virginia personal injury client’s claims, the Navy man crashed his own vehicle while driving. He was the only person involved in this second wreck, and he reported no additional injuries.

The single-vehicle accident did, however, give the insurance company grounds for arguing that our client’s need for ongoing medical treatment arose from the crash he himself caused. The insurer took that argument all the way to a civil jury trial in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

When the trial started, the insurance company could not present any evidence that our client had sought medical care for injuries from his own accident. For that reason, the judge granted our attorney’s motion to bar all mention of the second wreck during proceedings before the jury.

Jurors who learned only the facts of the rear-end collision in June 2004 decided in favor of client. Even though he requested just $15,000 for pain, suffering and past and future medical expenses, the jury awarded him $75,000. In the end, the insurance company paid out $50,000, which was the maximum liability coverage for its policyholder, and filed a petition to be released from future financial obligations.

Insurance companies look for any excuse to deny legitimate injury claims. While we work hard to overcome delays, obstructions and, sometimes, outright misrepresentations, going to trial to hold insurers up to their contractual obligations is necessary more often than it should be. We never shrink back from a legal fight we know we can win.

Court: Virginia Beach Circuit Court, Virginia Beach, VA

Staff: Staff attorney