$150,000 Jury Verdict Following Hit-and-Run Rear-Ender in Norfolk, VA | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia car accident injury client experienced a debilitating exacerbation of a preexisting nerve condition when a hit-and-run driver rear-ended his jeep on the interstate in Norfolk, VA. The rear-end collision occurred with such force that our client’s vehicle spun several times and traveled from the center lane to the shoulder of the highway, where it struck a guardrail. Both vehicles were declared total losses.

The at-fault driver got into another car and fled before police responded to the crash scene. Officials later tracked that man down and identified his car insurance company.

Our client went to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he was assessed for lower back and leg pain and discharged. A few days after the crash, our client visited a chiropractor for treatment of persistent neck, back, shoulder and knee pain. The crash victim had also developed numbness and tingling along both arms and legs.

Months of chiropractic adjustments failed to provide relief, so our client consulted with an orthopedic surgeon. The specialist initially diagnosed sprains, pinched lumbar nerves and shoulder bursitis. The orthopedist recorded his belief that the injuries were related to the rear-end collision in our client’s medical record and also ordered a series of MRI and electromyography (EMG) tests.

Imaging the nerves that control the muscles of the lower back and legs revealed a preexisting degenerative condition, while the imaging of the arms uncovered trauma to right median nerve, which runs from the shoulder to the wrist. The orthopedic specialist ruled out surgery but advised our client that he could expect to experience intermittent pain, numbness and tingling in his legs throughout his life.

In all, the rear-end hit-and-run collision victim underwent 11 months of chiropractic and orthopedic care before being fully cleared to return to work. During that time, he accumulated approximately $49,000 in unpaid medical bills.


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Key Legal Strategy

Seizing on the orthopedic surgeon’s determination that the rear-end collision exacerbated our Virginia car accident injury client’s preexisting condition, the at-fault driver’s insurance company offered a very low settlement. The insurer also obtained evidence that our client had sought chiropractic adjustments prior to the crash, with the most recent being made two months before the rear-end collision.

Our client insisted he was doing well with minor problems before the collision and that the crash caused far more severe problems, as well as new medical issues. When our client reject the settlement offer as insulting, the case went to a jury trial.

Our Virginia personal injury attorney called his client’s primary chiropractor and orthopedist to testify on behalf of their patient. The orthopedic surgeon was particularly convincing, sharing images on his iPad to illustrate for jurors the crash-related injuries and exacerbations our client suffered.

The defendant insurance company concentrated only on the chiropractic care our client received in the month following the rear-end collision its policyholder caused. The insurer also presented testimony from an orthopedist who did not examine or treat our client but merely read through medical files.

We discovered that this “expert” witness for the defense often worked for insurance companies. After pointing this out to jurors, our personal injury lawyer questioned the insurance company’s witness on the stand regarding two earlier court orders that cast doubt on his impartiality.

Tasked with evaluating the damages our client suffered in the wreck and deciding what constituted reasonable compensation, the jurors awarded the victim $150,000 plus interest.

Court: Norfolk Circuit Court, Norfolk, VA

Staff: Randall E. Appleton, staff attorney