Our client was employed as a technician with a cable company and was driving his personal vehicle off duty in moderate rain in Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA), when he was suddenly rear-ended by a vehicle. The impact shattered the rear window of our client's SUV sending glass flying to the driver's seat. The other driver admitted to the police officer that water was entering through his sunroof and he was distracted by it when the rear-end collision occurred.
Key Legal Strategy
The at-fault driver mailed his ticket in and paid the fine. This is important because, in Virginia, this act is the equivalent of pleading guilty to a traffic offense. Therefore, liability was effectively established. As a result, the primary issue concerning our client's personal injury claim was obtaining a fair and just settlement from the auto insurance company.
Our team of attorneys learned that the young driver who rear-ended our client was in his father's vehicle at the time and his own car insurance and his father’s car insurance each provided $25,000.00 for a total of $50,000.00 of available insurance coverage. Also we learned that our client had additional access to underinsured motorist coverage of $50,000, over the negligent driver’s available auto insurance coverage limits. This meant that a total of $100,000 in coverage applied to our client's personal injury case. Some people who try to resolve a claim on their own overlook their own underinsured motorist coverage. This is why it is so important to sit down and talk to an experienced car accident lawyer in Virginia Beach about your legal options.
Medically, our client was suffering tingling through his left arm and neck pain. When he hired our firm, he disclosed to us that more than 10 years before this wreck, he underwent neck surgery, but was doing very well this long after his prior surgery, and that the pain he was suffering was completely new. However, our client’s family doctor referred him to a local neurosurgeon to evaluate his neck further. A first MRI was done about a month after this wreck and the neurosurgeon suggested epidural injections and treatment with a physical rehabilitation specialist. For many months, our client worked with some intermittent pain and was treated by the physical rehab doctor as well as the neurosurgeon. However, due to increasing pain about a year after the incident, his neurosurgeon ordered a follow-up or repeat neck/cervical MRI. The neurosurgeon reviewed both of the MRIs with our client and advised him he still would require neck surgery.
Rehabilitating from this type of injury involves a lot of pain and discomfort and our client wanted to resist having the neck surgery or hold off as long as he could despite his neurosurgeon's recommendations.
In Virginia, when we negotiate with insurance companies, they will not pay money for a future surgery unless a doctor signs a written report or perhaps testifies that the surgery is reasonably necessary and will be required. In fact, in this case, the insurance company was offering little more than the existing medical bills, but obviously the cost of a future surgery would far outstrip the past medical expenses our client already incurred.
Accordingly, we suggested that a nurse consultant be retained and that the nurse could consult with the neurosurgeon and determine all the costs associated with neck surgery including rehabilitation, physical therapy, and whatever testing would be necessary.
Once we obtained that nurse’s report, it showed $80,000 in costs associated with the surgery and the rehabilitation. Despite this report, the insurance adjuster still offered little more than our client's past medical expenses and clearly did not honor or respect the fact that he would need the future surgery. We advised the client to file suit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court and press on with this case.
After filing suit, depositions were conducted, including our client, the person that rear-ended his vehicle, and then, closer to the trial date, we conducted the deposition of the neurosurgeon because it is very difficult to have doctors come to trials. Instead, we take videotape depositions of the doctors for use in the courtroom at trial.
We prepared specific captures from MRIs showing the disc injuries in our client’s neck and asked the neurosurgeon to explain the basis for our client's need for future surgery. The surgeon also testified in support of the $80,000.00 in future medical bills.
Within weeks following the neurosurgeon’s deposition, we were able to first obtain the full amount of the $50,000.00 available to the defendant driver then settled with the attorney handling the underinsured motorist coverage. We obtained a total settlement of $85,000. As of the date of the settlement, our client's medical expenses were under $15,000.00.
$85,000.00 settlement for neck injuries, including likely future neck surgery.
Court Where Suit was Filed
Virginia Beach, Virginia Circuit Court – 2017
Richard N. Shapiro, Attorney
Roz H., Paralegal
Paula M., Paralegal