Our Virginia personal injury client was driving eastbound on U.S. Route 58 in Suffolk, VA, when a tractor-trailer driver struck their vehicle. Our client and the truck driver encountered a traffic backup on the highway. The person behind the wheel of the large commercial truck attempted to make progress by changing lanes, but they failed to properly check their blind spots before moving over.
The 18-wheeler clipped the rear of our client’s vehicle, sending it into a concrete barrier in the median. That secondary collision caused our client to lose control of their vehicle, and they wound up in a water-filled ditch along the side of U.S. 58.
Witnesses immediately jumped into the water and freed our client from their partially submerged vehicle. Dazed and distraught, our client was taken by emergency medical personnel to a local hospital for the treatment of their physical injuries.
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Our client left the hospital on the same day the crash occurred, but they required months of follow-up care and physical therapy for soft-tissue injuries before being medically cleared to resume all work duties as a dental hygienist. Importantly, our client’s primary care physician determined that “maximum medical improvement” had been achieved. This means only that further intensive treatments would not reduce pain or improve physical function.
Key Legal Strategy
Before the victim of the commercial truck operator’s negligent lane change hired our Virginia personal injury law firm, the at-fault driver’s insurance company attempted to convince them to accept a settlement payment of $20,000 in return for dropping all claims. Our client wisely rejected that lowball offer, refusing to fall common insurance company tricks such as being told their case was weak and that declining the initial offer could mean receiving nothing later.
The tractor-trailer’s insurance company intended to contest liability, arguing that its policyholder was not negligent and did not cause the crash. The Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn team took on that contention directly.
First, we identified and contacted eyewitnesses. We also filed numerous FOIA requests to obtain nonpublic records of first responders who were at the crash scene. These requests produced body camera footage recorded as the lead investing police officer assessed the aftermath of the collision. Many of the details on the body cam recording were omitted from the public crash investigation report. This is often the case, as cameras catch much more than people remember or consider important.
The footage also provided a firsthand view of our client’s trauma and untreated physical injuries. Even the up-close images of the extensive damage done to our client’s vehicle helped us draw clear connections between the tractor-trailer operator’s negligent action and our client’s injuries.
Confronted with such evidence, the insurance company entered into good-faith and productive negotiations over a fair settlement payment for our client’s claims. An agreement was reached on a six-figure settlement, and our client had their medical bills paid and lost wages replaced without going to trial.
The terms of the settlement require us to keep many of the details about the identities of the truck driver, the insurance company and the amount of the final settlement confidential. Still, the positive outcome for our client demonstrates the importance of working aggressively to hold commercial truck operators accountable for causing crashes and inflicting serious injuries.
Court: Norfolk, VA Circuit Court
Staff: Eric K. Washburn, attorney, and H. Gomez, paralegal