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Woman suffered lost earning potential after accident — $225,000 settlement

Type of action: Auto accident, negligence

Injuries alleged: Left shoulder injuries, lacerations to left hand, back and neck injuries and a closed head concussion injury.

Date resolved: 4/14/2022

Special damages: Medical expenses totaling $35,000; $40,000 per year in earning capacity losses

Demand: $600,000

Verdict or settlement: Settlement

Amount: $225,000

Attorney for plaintiff (and city): Richard N. Shapiro, Virginia Beach

Description of case: The 34-year-old plaintiff was hired into a Virginia shipyard welding apprentice program and, less than a year later, was injured on an interstate highway when the defendant tractor-trailer driver swerved to the right to avoid rear ending other vehicles. He collided twice with the plaintiff’s car before his unit jack-knifed over a jersey wall, and her car spun towards the shoulder, before coming to rest facing back towards oncoming traffic.

The plaintiff was removed from her totaled car with the jaws of life by the rescue and fire personnel. She suffered left shoulder injuries, lacerations to her left hand and a closed head concussion injury. The plaintiff was ultimately diagnosed with post-concussion headaches and post-traumatic stress disorder. She was further treated by an orthopedic surgeon for low back and neck pain and provided a 10-pound lifting restriction, but the restrictions prevented her from advancing in her apprenticeship with the shipyard. Instead, she was provided a desk job and returned to work full-time, but with reduced potential earnings.

Her medical expenses totaled $35,000. The plaintiff’s retained vocational counselor provided a report indicating that her earnings plateaued around $60,000 a year in the light-duty position, where others in her apprentice program were advancing to earning up to $109,000 per year. The vocational expert calculated her earning capacity losses at $40,000 per year, exclusive of lost potential overtime.

Given that the plaintiff was 34 when injured, the major issues were the scope of her future lost wage-earning capacity losses, and whether she had preexisting low back pain prior to the accident.

The parties voluntarily mediated the case with a retired circuit judge from the McCammon Group and arrived at a settlement of $225,000.

Richard Shapiro, plaintiff’s counsel, provided case information.