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Physician Injured in Auto Accident

$3,100,000 – Personal Injury

Facts

A neurologist’s vehicle was rear-ended on the I-15, resulting in cervical injuries impacting her medical practice.

On the evening of October 16th, Plaintiff Jane Doe, M.D., and defendant Ms. M were traveling northbound on Interstate 15. Dr. Doe was driving her automobile, and Ms. M was driving her company’s pickup truck. Traffic was very heavy. According to Defendant Ms. C, she had been driving along the I-15 when Ms. M cut in front of her. Ms. M had enough time to straighten out and had enough space in front of her to see Dr. Doe’s entire vehicle as well. At approximately 6:30 p.m., Dr. Doe stopped her vehicle for traffic. She suddenly felt Ms. M’s truck smash into the back of her car, pushing her car forward at least 5 to 6 feet. The evidence indicates that Ms. M was so close to Dr. Doe’s vehicle, that she did not even have time to initiate a skid before she hit Dr. Doe’s car. The first significant impact was immediately followed by a second minor impact to her rear when Ms. C’s SUV hit Ms. M’s truck on the rear, pushing Dr. Doe’s sedan forward again. According to both Ms. M and Dr. Doe, the first impact was greater than the second impact. All cars then pulled over to the side of the road to await police assistance.

Allegations/Contentions

Plaintiff alleged that Ms. M failed to travel at a reasonable speed to maintain the distance necessary to stop her vehicle in traffic conditions, and failed to maintain a safe distance in which to stop her vehicle without striking Dr. Doe’s car the first time and injuring her. As a result of the impact between Ms. C and Ms. M’s truck, Ms. M then struck Dr. Doe’s sedan a second time. Plaintiff alleged that Ms. C also failed to travel at a reasonable speed to maintain a safe distance. The police report cited both defendants as being liable for the incident. In addition, Ms. M’s own accident reconstruction expert testified that had Ms. M’s vehicle not struck Dr. Doe’s vehicle, Ms. C would have had enough time to avoid striking Ms. M’s vehicle and avoid the resultant second impact with Dr. Doe’s vehicle.

Defendants alleged that Dr. Doe was contributorily negligent in stopping her vehicle suddenly and unexpectedly, causing the collisions. Defendants’ biomechanical experts testified in deposition that the impact was low speed and not significant enough to cause a permanent injury. Defendants asserted that plaintiff had been taking narcotic pain medication on a daily basis for two years before this accident. Defendants’ expert also testified that plaintiff was capable of working full-time for the remainder of her work-life expectancy. This was supported by plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon, who testified in his deposition that she should be able to return to work.

Injuries

At the time of this accident, Dr. Doe had a busy neurology practice and specialized in pain management. Prior to this accident, despite having degenerative changes in her neck and low back, Dr. Doe never required surgery, physical therapy, injections or treatment of any kind, other than some pain medication. Dr. Doe was taken by ambulance from the scene of the accident to the hospital for treatment of her neck and back pain. She returned to urgent care two days later for more pain medication due to her neck and back pain. Within a few days, Dr. Doe sought treatment with a neurosurgeon, who diagnosed her with symptomatic myelopathy and radiculopathy which ultimately required surgery. She underwent an anterior cervical decompression and fusion of the C5-6 level. Dr. Doe still suffers from debilitating radiating lower back pain and neck pain and now undergoes physical therapy and pain management treatments several times a week.

Dr. Doe’s neurologist and pain management specialist indicated that the automobile accident significantly exacerbated the preexisting degenerative changes in her cervical and lumbar spine, causing new and exacerbated symptoms, including radiculopathy and myelopathy, significantly increasing her need for pain medication. In addition, Dr. Doe has been advised that she needs to undergo a posterior lumbar interbody fusion with instrumentation at L5-S1.

Damages

Dr. Doe was unable to attend to her medical practice as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident, and the subsequent surgery, for a total of almost two months. She has also had to reduce her patient population and reduce the number of hours she treats patients each day, requiring breaks between patients.

Past medical and related expenses were calculated at $112,038.33; future medical care costs have a present value of $772,779.00, according to plaintiff’s life care planner and economist. In addition, it is the opinion of vocational rehabilitation expert that she will more than likely never return to the level of work she was able to perform prior to the incident.

Conservatively, plaintiff’s economist calculated past lost income at approximately $158,126 and future income loss numbers between $4,312,818 and $9,232,662 (present value).

Special Notes

A mediation was held before the Hon. Leo S. Papas (Retired). Defendants’ settlement offers at that time totaled $1,089,514.85, comprised of $100,000.00 already recovered from defendant Ms. C and an additional $989,514.85 offered by Ms. M and her company’s primary insurance carrier. Plaintiff made a counter-offer of $6,500,000.00 in new money, for a total demand of $7,489.514.85.

Defendant Ms. C settled for her policy limits in the amount of $100,000.00. At trial call, Defendants Ms. M and her Company settled for the policy limits of their primary insurance policy, $989,513.85, with an additional payment by the excess carrier in the amount of $2,010,486.15, bringing the total settlement amount to $3.1 million.


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