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Driver suffers shoulder, back injuries in intersection crash – $115,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 13, 2010

Driver suffers shoulder, back injuries in intersection crash – $115,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 13, 2010

This case arose out of a motor vehicle collision that occurred at the intersection of Rollingwood Road and Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania County on April 27, 2008. Prior to impact, the plaintiff driver had been stopped at a red light on Rollingwood Road, behind the pastor of the church that he and his wife had just attended for Sunday services. The light turned green, and the pastor’s car and the plaintiff’s van proceeded into the intersection.

The defendant, now age 20, was driving a commercial box truck on Courthouse Road. He ran the red light and ran into the driver’s side of plaintiff’s mini-van. The defendant admitted that he never saw the pastor’s car proceed into the intersection ahead of the plaintiff.

The defendant was driving an uninsured box truck that was used in his father’s produce business. Since the defendant was uninsured, the plaintiff made an uninsured motorist claim against his own insurance company, Allstate. Despite being uninsured, the defendant retained his own private counsel who participated in the defense of the case until shortly before trial, when he withdrew from representing the defendant. Allstate’s UM counsel defended the case at trial.

Approximately two months before trial, at a court-ordered mediation, Allstate only offered the plaintiff $35,000 to settle the case despite the plaintiff having incurred approximately $32,000 in special damages. No further settlement discussions occurred after the unsuccessful mediation.

Approximately a week before trial, the defendant and Allstate finally admitted liability and the case proceeded to trial solely on damages. At trial, the plaintiff presented two independent witnesses who observed the collision. Both witnesses testified that immediately after the impact, the plaintiff appeared injured and was “moaning” in the mini-van. The plaintiff’s daughter, who was driving a vehicle several cars behind the plaintiff at the time of the collision and witnessed portions of the impact, also testified at trial concerning the adverse effects the injuries had on her father.

The plaintiff, a retired Army master sergeant who drove a tractor-trailer for CVS Pharmacy, missed approximately 14 weeks of work due to his injuries.

In addition to testimony from the plaintiff’s primary care doctor, the plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Sameer H. Nagda, who specializes in treating shoulder injuries, also testified by way of deposition. Nagda has extensive experience treating shoulder injuries including treating professional athletes, as he was an assistant team physician during his training in Los Angeles.

The plaintiff did not claim any future medical expenses. However, the plaintiff testified that the continued to experience intermittent pain in the left shoulder that he managed with over-the-counter medication and rest. The ongoing shoulder discomfort did not adversely affect his activities of daily living or alter his ability to perform his job.

During the closing argument, plaintiff’s counsel requested that the jury return a verdict in the amount of $125,000, the ad damnum in the case. After deliberating for approximately 45 minutes, the jury returned a verdict of $115,000. Unfortunately, Allstate’s UM coverage was only $100,000.

[10-T-131]

Type of action:
Negligence – motor vehicle collision
Injuries alleged: Severe contusions of left shoulder resulting in extensive bruising of the left shoulder, left arm and upper chest; sprains and strains of the neck and upper back
Name of case: Harold Hill v. Jorge Barajas-Barajas
Court: Spotsylvania County Circuit Court
Case no.: CL09-177
Tried before: Jury
Name of judge: Joseph J. Ellis
Special damages: $32,076.94 (past medicals $18,569.94; past lost wages $13,507)
Verdict or Settlement: Verdict
Amount: $115,000
Date: July 26, 2010
Insurance carrier: Allstate (UM coverage of $100,000)
Plaintiff’s attorney: Thomas J. McNally, Richmond

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