Our Virginia car accident client suffered neck injuries when a distracted driver rear-ended his car in Virginia Beach, The collision happened shortly after a light rain started falling, and the at-fault driver admitted to police that he took his eyes off the road when water came in through his vehicle’s sunroof.
When our client continued experiencing neck pain and tingling along his left arm following the crash, his family physician referred him to a neurosurgeon. The specialist ordered MRIs. The first set of images proved inconclusive, but the neurosurgeon prescribed a course of physical therapy and a series of epidural steroid injections to reduce inflammation.
Despite these treatments, the rear-end collision victim continued experiencing intermittent pain. Additional MRIs did reveal structural damage to a disc in our client’s neck, and the neurosurgeon advised him that a surgical repair would one day become necessary.
Key Legal Strategy
The distracted driver who ran into our Virginia car accident client’s car from behind was charged. He signed and paid the ticket that police issued, which is legally the same as pleading guilty. The man’s car insurance company did not contest the fact that our client was entitled to compensation and damages for his crash-related injuries, but the company offered only a low-dollar settlement that would barely pay off our client’s accumulated medical debt.
Our goal for our client was to ensure that he received a settlement which covered the cost of his future neck surgery and recovery. We calculated that amount by hiring a nurse consultant to estimate costs for the cervical disc repair procedure, pre-op and post-op care, and rehab. The costs added up to $80,000.
Recognizing that the at-fault driver’s personal liability coverage limit of $25,000 would be insufficient to make our client whole, we filed a claim with the insurer for at-driver’s father. The father owned the vehicle his son was driving and could be held liable because he entrusted the vehicle to a negligent driver.
We also filed a claim with our client’s own car insurance company. Since the injured man carried underinsured motorist coverage, he could access his own policy to make up the difference between what his injuries merited and what he could secure in settlements from the other available insurance policies.
Adding the three sources of coverage, our client could obtain a total settlement of $100,000 without going to court. All three insurers continued refusing to make maximal settlements, so we submitted papers to initiate a civil lawsuit.
During pretrial discovery, it came out that our client had undergone neck surgery more than a decade before the rear-end collision. He affirmed, however, that he had not been suffering problems until the other driver crashed into his car. We also took sworn testimony from our client’s neurosurgeon, who clearly concluded that his patient’s neck injury, pain and other symptoms resulted from the rear-end collision.
The neurosurgeon took the time to explain the exact nature of our client’s cervical disc problem and confirmed the nurse consultant’s estimate of surgical repair and recovery costs. Within weeks of viewing this videotaped deposition, all three insurance companies agreed to negotiate fair settlement that would cover future medical expenses.
Without actually having to go into court, our Virginia car accident injury client received combined settlements of $85,000. The amount broke down as $25,000 each from the at-fault driver and the at-fault driver’s father plus $35,000 from our client’s own policy. At the time of the negotiated settlements, or client had spent less than $15,000 on crash-related medical care.
The positive outcome of the Virginia Beach personal injury case illustrates the importance of carrying adequate underinsured motorist coverage. It also shows that since insurance company will fight hard to deny car crash victims fair settlements, partnering with a dedicated plaintiff’s attorney is worthwhile.
Court and Date: Virginia Beach Circuit Court, Virginia Beach, VA, 2017
Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, staff attorney