Florida Auto Accident Case Value
As an Orlando car accident lawyer, the biggest questions we tackle in every case, from start to finish, are what is the case worth, and how can we best maximize the value?
This article will give some example cases, taken from actual jury verdict & reported settlement research, which we perform in every case (huge warning: most Orlando personal injury lawyers, in our experience, do NOT perform this research, preferring instead the much easier & faster process of roughly guesstimating).
(If you just want to know how to get the most money from YOUR car accident case, please give us a call, or send a text, right away. (407) 803-2139. We answer calls 24/7/365 (texts only during business hours). If we handle your type of accident case, we will provide fast & free phone consultations with an experienced Florida auto accident lawyer.)
Florida Car Accident Case Value: Research Summary
We subscribe to several proprietary databases that give us reported car accident cases in Florida. Whenever we are preparing a case, we perform searches to try to find cases that have similar facts, to learn what other Orlando car accident lawyers have received from insurance companies or juries. We then use this information during settlement discussions, to boost the value of our client’s cases. Many lawyers skip this step. But it is truly essential to ensuring that you receive a fair outcome.This is a screen shot of the outcomes from one database, over a particular time period in Florida:
The numbers in the chart above are actual case outcomes (involving car accidents), from a particular time span, throughout Florida. We have published information about all of those cases. Studying those outcomes regularly is one key to the success we have delivered for our clients.
You should note that there are a high number of zero verdicts. This is one of those pesky details that you never see on lawyer billboards. The highest value cases are reserved for the BEST facts, and most serious injuries.
We are thankful to have no zero verdicts under our belt.
But we always remain mindful that juries don’t always agree with plaintiffs (and the defense is well aware that juries might love any particular plaintiff — to the tune of millions of dollars in some cases). This is why 99% of cases settle without trial. Plaintiffs, wisely, usually don’t want to risk getting zero. And defense attorneys don’t want to risk the much higher potential amounts.
The above chart will also give you a good idea of what percentage of cases generally fall within the listed value ranges.
You should know that there is actually NO published chart, in any Florida law, for any type of auto accident case. Florida car accident case value is unique to the seriousness of the accident & injuries, the value of the insurance policy, other random facts, and the arguments made (or not made) by your lawyer. So we make arguments based on how your case is similar to previous published results.
We can’t change the facts of your case (this means a back strain, followed by a couple of months of physical therapy, will never lead to the same value as numerous back herniations with spinal fusion surgery). But we always do everything possible to collect the evidence, do the work, and make the best possible arguments needed to get you the most money possible, for your car accident case.
Detailed Car Accident Case Examples
If you are curious about what types of cases might lead to a zero verdict, versus the higher amounts, we have summarized 15 of the cases below. After each case, we share “attorney thoughts,” which will tell you why we think the outcome was high or low.
When reading these summaries, remember that many car accident settlements are never reported. Also, this article does not summarize ALL reported car accident case values. That would be far too long of an article! This will just give you some idea of the facts that might be relevant in your car accident case. Many factors might raise or lower the case value. So it is extremely important to hire the best Orlando auto accident lawyer, who you believe will listen to you, do the best work, then make arguments that your case is more similar to the higher value cases (if the facts support a higher value).
If you would like detailed analysis of your case, and to learn how to increase your case value, please call or text anytime, to speak with one of our experienced & award-winning Orlando car accident lawyers. (407) 803-2139.
Reported Case Examples From Florida Car Accidents
Below you will find a few case summaries & examples, taking from jury verdict research. (Note these were NOT our cases, just random cases from jury verdict & case settlement research throughout Florida.) These few examples are just a drop in the bucket — there are literally thousands of sample cases throughout Florida.
We would be glad to give you our analysis of the factors that will affect your case value, during a totally free consultation (IF you have the type of case we normally handle), if you give us a call, or send us a text (attorney hotline: 407-803-2139). We answer calls 24/7/365. If we can speak with you immediately, we try to return calls as quickly as possible, usually within a few minutes or hours. And we have only experienced lawyers providing consultations, not paralegals, junior lawyers, assistants, or “investigators,” none of whom can really evaluate your case, and tell you exactly what is needed to maximize your recovery.
(1) SESSLER vs. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY
Basic Facts: Underinsured motorist claim – Rear end collision – Cervical and lumbar disc herniations claimed – Surgeries performed – Damages/causation only – No permanent injury found.
Result: $10,877 GROSS VERDICT
Car Accident Details:
The at-fault driver involved in this rear end collision motor vehicle negligence action tendered his $50,000 underlying liability policy limit. That wasn’t enough to cover the injured person’s damages, so the lawyer filed a lawsuit against the injured person’s own insurance company, trying to recover something called the uninsured motorist portion of the policy. The insurance company agreed that the driver wasn’t at fault. But the insurance company argued that the injured person didn’t sustain a permanent injury, which is a legal requirement to recover money for an auto accident case in Florida.
The injured person, called the plaintiff, was a man in his late 40s at the time of the accident in 2013. The plaintiff’s lawyers showed that the collision was severe. The plaintiff’s doctor diagnosed him with cervical and lumbar disc herniations, and they said those were caused by the accident. The plaintiff had surgery to both his cervical and lumbar spine and had about $250,000 in past medical expenses.
The defense lawyers argued that what the plaintiff told his treating doctors was not consistent with his prior medical records. His prior medical records proved a significant history of low back and neck pain symptoms. Those prior medical records showed consistent monthly visits with his primary care doctor for pain medication. At that point, while testifying, the plaintiff admitted that his low back surgery wasn’t related to the accident, but said that his neck injury was. That was also inconsistent with his prior medical records, because those showed that he had pain radiating from his neck, down his arms, prior to the date of the accident.
The defendant’s medical experts testified that the collision caused only temporary sprain and strain injuries, which were resolved in a few months. That expert also said that the plaintiff had long-standing pre-existing conditions, which weren’t caused by the accident.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: The injured victim always has the burden of proving the extent of his injuries, and that the accident caused those injuries. This is why we always ask about pre-existing medical conditions, and study prior records before filing a lawsuit. That prior medical condition is the reason the verdict was so low, despite very high medical damages. If there had been no pre-existing conditions, this case probably would have settled for 400-500K, to reflect both the medical bills, and estimated pain and suffering.
That being said, pre-existing injuries do not always lower case values to this extent. This was unusual because the prior medical records showed extensive treatment for the exact area that was hurting. Many people still have good recoveries when they have pre-existing injuries. Whether that is possible depends on the extent of those prior injuries, and treatment. Either way, it is always very important to be honest with us about prior medical treatment, because we can’t plan for an argument that we don’t know we are going to need. This plaintiff was also blindsided by being asked about prior medical during cross-examination, at trial, rather than much earlier in the case. There is a possibility that the plaintiff’s lawyer could have improved the value if she had known about the prior medical records before the trial. Unfortunately, some injured people either forget, or intentionally do not share, prior bad medical records. This only hurts them in the end.
(2) SAROZA v. GEICO INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY
Type of Case: Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Policy
Outcome: Plaintiff Verdict
Result: Total: $169,020
Judge Reduced Award To: $100,000
PRIMARY INJURY: Bulging Disc
Organization Type: Geico Indemnity Insurance Company
Compensatory Pain & Suffering: $81,468
Compensatory Past Medical: $7,552
Compensatory Future Medical: $80,000
Total Compensatory Award: $169,020
Comparative Negligence Percentage: 0
Car Accident Details:
Nestor Saroza, an adult male, claimed that he suffered injuries including lumbar disc bulges, resulting in permanent impairment, when he was involved in a car accident with another driver. The injured victim had Geico insurance, which included something called uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. UM coverage is required to pay any claim, when the at-fault driver doesn’t have any, or doesn’t have enough, insurance coverage. In this case, Mr. Saroza filed a claim with Geico, but Geico refused to pay benefits, even though Geico agreed that the other driver was at-fault, and Mr. Saroza wasn’t. Experts from both sides disputed the extent of Mr. Saroza’s arguments. Geico argued that his injuries weren’t serious enough to justify the amount of money he wanted to recover. The jury decided that Geico was wrong, and awarded $169,020, in total recovery. The judge reduced the jury verdict to 100K, after the trial, because that was the amount of the available UM insurance policy.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This case is a very good example of why injured people should never talk to their insurance company, without calling us first. We need to communicate with your insurance company, on your behalf. The reason is that IF you have UM coverage, and the at-fault party doesn’t have enough insurance coverage, your own company WILL try to fight the case. They use many tricks to ask questions that you might not realize could hurt your case. But their goal is to get information that will allow them to pay you less, any time they talk to you.
That being said, you often have a duty under your insurance policy to report the accident, within just a few days, to your insurance carrier (the exact deadline varies from policy to policy). So if you were seriously injured, this is one of many reasons that you need to hire us ASAP.
Another notable thing about this case is that the amount of medical bills is similar to the amount the jury awarded for pain and suffering. That’s about normal, although the bad news is that the medical bills were 80K, and there was only 100K in available insurance. Since we must pay medical bills before the plaintiff gets any money, we try very hard to fight to reduce medical bills. Usually we are successful in reducing the medical bills, but we can only do so much. High medical bills and relatively low insurance aren’t a good combination. Yet, you need to get the most amount of treatment to get the highest recovery (and follow all of your doctor’s instructions). For this reason, we very carefully guide our clients, once we know the recommended treatment, and the insurance coverage amount.
The good news is that fighting insurance companies in court CAN have a good outcome, as this jury verdict proves. That’s why it’s very important that you hire a law firm that WILL file a lawsuit in a serious injury case. If the medical bills are high enough to justify a lawsuit, and there aren’t any glaring problems in the case, we always file suit. Many firms do not — preferring instead to operate by always settling pre-suit, which can have a disastrous effect on the amount of money you can recover. Not all cases need lawsuits. But, when they do, you need a law firm that will file suit.
(3) Linda Hazel Colvin v. Matthew Robert Fraser and Gulfstream Auto Group of Lake Worth L.L.C. a/k/a Midas, and Oshane Shevan King
Basic Facts: Car accident where witnesses disagreed
Result: Jury Verdict: $0
Car Accident Details:
Linda Colvin was a passenger in a vehicle at Lake Worth Road and the Florida Turnpike in Lake Worth, Fla. Matthew Fraser, a Midas employee, allegedly drove a vehicle owned by customer Oshane King and collided with the car in which Colvin was traveling. Colvin reportedly suffered unspecified personal injuries.
Colvin brought a lawsuit against Midas and King (the vehicle owner). She alleged Fraser drove negligently. She claimed Midas was liable, since they were Fraser’s employer, and King was liable as the vehicle owner.
The plaintiff sought damages for past and future pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, medical expenses and aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
The defendants, according to the jury instructions, denied the allegations and claimed the driver of the plaintiff’s vehicle was negligent. According to court documents, the plaintiff’s driver turned left on a flashing red signal in front of Fraser, who was allegedly going straight on a flashing yellow signal.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This is a classic example of “he said, she said,” killing a case. The defense simply argued that they were driving negligently. This is a common argument in intersection collision cases. Witness statements, and vehicle damage photos, along with skid marks and other details about the accident scene, can help disprove an at-fault driver’s account of the accident. In serious accident cases, we dig deep to make sure we have all available evidence to prove that our client was not at-fault. This can have a huge positive impact when trying to settle the case.
(4) EDWIN WELLS vs. JORDAN QUINN AND PETER D. QUINN
Basic Facts: Motor vehicle negligence – Multiple vehicle collision – Restaurant owner sues after three-car collision in Palm Beach – Herniated/bulging discs in neck and back.
Result: $500,000 VERDICT
COUNTY: Palm Beach
Car Accident Details:
This case involved a Florida man who suffered injuries to his neck and back following a multiple vehicle rear-end collision. The matter was resolved with a jury verdict.
On May 14, 2015, the plaintiff, Edwin W., age 62, was in his Ford Explorer when the defendant rear-ended a Jaguar Sedan while operating a large Chevy truck. The defendant’s Chevy pushed the Jaguar into plaintiff’s vehicle, which had a trailer hitch at the time, which absorbed much of the impact. There was no visible damage to plaintiff’s vehicle, and it was repaired for $653. The defendant’s vehicle sustained damage under $900 and the damage to the Jaguar was approximately $1,200.
The plaintiff claimed neck and back injuries and treated with a chiropractor for approximately 55 visits. The day after the collision, plaintiff presented to a chiropractor who referred him to an Urgent Care Center. There, the plaintiff saw an orthopedic physician on three occasions who recommended epidural steroid injections into his neck which he declined and opted for additional conservative treatment and physical therapy. The plaintiff was ultimately diagnosed with three herniated discs in his neck along with an aggravation of several bulging discs in his lower back. Surgery was never recommended by his treating physicians.
The plaintiff filed suit, seeking past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering on a motor vehicle negligence cause of action. The defendants’ insurer offered $10,000 to settle pre-trial.
At trial, the defense’s orthopedic surgery expert testified that defendant’s injuries were pre-existing and caused by prior injuries and his physical duties as a restaurant owner. The plaintiff testified that he injured his lower back in a car accident about 30 years before this accident, but was doing fine physically for many years.
The jury returned a verdict of $498,691 after a three-day trial. The award included $20,000 for past medical expenses; $26,000 for future medical care; $2,000 for lost wages and $450,000 for past and future pain and suffering.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This is an extremely unusual case, in that the vehicle damage was low, yet the jury verdict was very high. Part of that relates to the liberal jury pool down in Palm Beach county, where this accident happened.
One very notable aspect of this case is that the insurance company offered only 10K pre-trial. That proves that filing suit can make a big difference in the case outcome. However, it is very unusual for a lawyer to file suit when the medical bills are so low, and there was no surgery. So this pain and suffering award is very unusually high. We can’t know is how the plaintiff presented, how he sounded, how believable he was, when he told the story about the accident, and his subsequent pain. We also don’t know how the defendant sounded. But, obviously, the jury loved this plaintiff, and rewarded him accordingly. So we always consider our client’s version of events, and whatever the defendant says during his or her deposition testimony, before advising what we think a case might be worth, good and bad things about the case, etc.
(5) BRUCE CUTLER and KIMBERLY DALTON vs. RICHARD FRIED, JOHN D. BOLLINO, and JOANNE KAPLAN
Negligence/Motor Vehicles/Separate Collisions Causing Injuries.
VERDICT: $10,863 for Plaintiff (past medical expenses only).
COUNTY: Palm Beach
Car Accident Details:
On Oct. 24, 2013, defendant Richard Fried was operating a motor vehicle at the intersection of St. Andrews Blvd. and Glades Road in Boca Raton, FL, when he rear-ended a vehicle occupied by plaintiffs Bruce Cutler and Kimberly Dalton. On March 26, 2014, Kimberly Dalton was involved in a second motor vehicle collision with defendant John Bollino when the latter allegedly ran a stop sign and struck the side of Dalton’s vehicle.
Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Fried on Dec. 18, 2014, claiming that they both sustained injuries and loss of consortium as a result of Fried’s negligence in causing the collision. Plaintiffs later amended the complaint to add claims against Bollino and defendant Joanne Kaplan, owner of the vehicle being operated by Bollino at the time of the second collision.
Dalton’s claims against Bollino and Kaplan proceeded to a jury trial.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This was a very unfortunate case, where there were two accidents, neither of which were the plaintiff’s fault. In these situations, it can be very difficult to get either of the defendants (or their insurance company representatives) to accept fault. And it sounds like the jury was confused, too. Having a second collision after the first is never a good thing, unless one was very clearly much worse than the other, or caused totally different injuries. This plaintiff was stuck having to sue and fight two different defendants at the same time. That’s never a good scenario. So the low verdict is not surprising.
(6) CATLETT vs. CARDONA ET AL
MOTOR VEHICLE NEGLIGENCE – NEGLIGENT LEFT TURN – VEHICLE SPINS OUT OF CONTROL AND STRIKES BARBER SHOP – TIBIAL PLATEAU AND PATELLA FRACTURES REQUIRING SURGERY.
Result: $1,431,471 VERDICT
Car Accident Details:
The plaintiff was sitting in a barber shop, waiting for a haircut, when the defendant’s 2007 Lincoln Town Car crashed through the wall and struck him. The Town Car flew into the building after an impact with a vehicle driven by the co-defendant, who made a left turn in front of the limo from the opposite direction. The plaintiff claimed that the first defendant made a negligent left turn and that the second defendant drove his limousine way too fast through a busy intersection. Each defendant asserted that the other was responsible for the collision.
The limousine jumped a curb, traveled over a curb, through a parking lot, over parking bumpers and into the barbershop where the plaintiff was seated.
The limousine driver defendants argued that the limousine was proceeding with the right-of-way when the co-defendant other vehicle made a negligent left turn in front of the limo, causing the limousine to strike the barber shop. The co-defendant argued that she should have had plenty of time to complete the left turn, but the limousine was driving 69 mph in a 35 mph zone, which is why they collided.
Because of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a tibial plateau fracture and nondisplaced patella fracture requiring surgery. He underwent a left knee open reduction and internal fixation with insertion of a metal plate and screws into his leg. He was employed as an assistant manager and returned to that employment. The plaintiff testified that he earns a higher salary now than he earned at the time of the collision, but he is fearful that he could lose his job due to his accident-related injuries, if there is a change of management. The plaintiff complained of ongoing knee pain, limited mobility and excessive weight gain resulting from the injury.
The jury found the limo driver defendants 85% negligent and the other car defendants 15% negligent. The jury awarded the plaintiff Richard Catlett $1,431,471 in damages. The award included $11,471 in past medical expenses; $100,000 in future medical expenses; $120,000 for loss of future earning capacity; $400,000 in past pain and suffering and $800,000 for future pain and suffering.
Injury Attorney Thoughts: This case was a “perfect storm” of facts, in terms of a high jury verdict, beneficial to the plaintiff. The facts that contributed to this high award were that there was a totally innocent plaintiff, who hadn’t even been driving, who experienced severe injuries, had significant & invasive treatment in the form of surgery, and bones protruding through the skin (which probably meant there were gruesome photos to show the jury), and two defendants with a lot of money. This was a very serious surgery, with plates and screws inserted. In our opinion, the biggest reason for this high of an award was the total innocence of the plaintiff and the outrageousness of the accident. This was an extremely high award given very low medical expenses, which is unusual. Then again, these were extremely unusual facts, where the jury surely felt extreme sympathy for the totally innocent plaintiff, who had just been sitting in a barber’s chair before he was violently impacted, through absolutely no fault of his own.
Along those lines, although these unique facts usually aren’t present, we always look for arguments that make our client look better, or the defendant look worse. And cases involving corporate defendants are always preferred, because they have money to pay these awards, whereas most individuals do not.
(7) BRIGHT vs. 21ST CENTURY CENTENNIAL INSURANCE COMPANY AND NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INSURANCE COMPANY
Insurance Obligation – Underinsured motorist claim – Two separate rear end collisions – Cervical and lumbar disc herniations claimed – Lumbar surgery performed – Damages/causation only.
Result: DEFENDANTS’ VERDICT – $0
COUNTY: Palm Beach
Car Accident Details:
These underinsured motorist (“UM”) claims were brought against two separate automobile insurance carriers involving two separate rear end collisions which occurred approximately two years apart. The only issue was the amount of damages (liability, or fault, was previously determined).
The plaintiff, a 56-year-old female at time of trial, was diagnosed with lumbar disc herniations following the accidents. She underwent a double- level lumbar fusion and laminectomy. The plaintiff also alleged that she sustained multiple herniated discs in her cervical spine which would require surgery in the future.
The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff’s permanent injuries and need for neck and back surgery was the combined result of both car accidents. The plaintiff’s counsel requested total damages of $1,500,000 in closing statements, including $745,000 in economic damages.
The first defendant (New Jersey Manufacturers Ins. Co.) presented a neurosurgeon and nuclear medicine physician who opined that the plaintiff showed no objective evidence of injury from her 2008 collision. The co-defendant (21st Century Centennial Insurance) presented similar testimony from its medical experts related to the subsequent 2010 accident.
The co-defendant’s accident reconstruction expert testified that these were both minor, low impact collisions. The co-defendant’s biomechanical expert testified that neither of the accidents was sufficient to cause the injuries claimed by the plaintiff.
The jury deliberated a little over one hour-and-a-half before finding that the negligence of the underinsured tortfeasors was not a legal cause of injury to the plaintiff. Both defendants have filed motions for the recovery of attorney fees and costs.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This is another case involving two defendants, which is often not good because you are fighting two entities, who both consistently claim you are wrong. This was also a low impact collision, with medical experts from both defendants saying that this impact couldn’t have caused these injuries. For this reason, we do not pursue low impact collisions (not that they never could cause injuries, just that juries usually don’t believe they do). If the vehicle damage is on the lower end of the scale, but the injuries are serious, usually the best course is to settle without filing a lawsuit. This case also shows that plaintiffs can seek a lot of money, but if they risk going to trial, rather than settling at a mediation, they can get zero dollars. Therefore, if there are good arguments against our client (like bad medical evidence, or low vehicle damage, in a car accident), we often recommend that clients either settle pre-suit, or, if we think filing suit makes sense, to settle at mediation — rather than risk getting zero from the jury.
(8) CONSTANT vs. SUMONTHEE
Motor Vehicle Negligence – Rear end collision – Meniscus tear – Surgery indicated – Damages/causation only
Result: DEFENDANT’S VERDICT — $0
COUNTY: Palm Beach
Car Accident Details:
This case involved a minimal impact, rear-end automobile accident in which the defendant admitted fault, but not causation. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s medical complaints were unrelated to the accident. The plaintiff was a 38-year-old male insurance agent at the time of the collision.
The plaintiff presented live testimony from an orthopedic surgeon and radiologist who said that the plaintiff sustained a torn medial meniscus in his right knee as a result of the accident. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon opined that the plaintiff is a candidate for arthroscopic knee surgery in the future. The plaintiff contended that he could no longer participate in amateur baseball due to the knee injury. He testified that he delayed surgery because his mother-in-law had recently died from surgical complications. The plaintiff’s counsel requested $189,000 in damages during closing statements.
The defense read the deposition of the defendant driver and an expert radiologist during the plaintiff’s case in chief on the first day of trial. The defendant also presented the video deposition of an expert orthopedic surgeon after the plaintiff rested.
The defendant’s orthopedic expert agreed that the plaintiff exhibited a meniscus tear of the right knee. However, this expert testified that one could not tear a meniscus in a rear end car accident.
After a three-day trial and 23 minutes of deliberation, the jury found that the defendant’s negligence was not a legal cause of injury to the plaintiff.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This case had a lot of bad factors, which led to the zero verdict. The first is that this was a minimal impact collision. Bad vehicle damage is much more likely to persuade a jury that the claimed injuries resulted from the accident. In addition, this plaintiff’s doctor recommended surgery, but the plaintiff didn’t get the surgery (even if there is a good reason that the plaintiff doesn’t want the surgery, as in this case). We often tell clients that recommended future surgery is a LOT less valuable than surgery that actually happens (and more invasive surgeries, or multiple surgeries, have a higher value than minor surgeries). Simply put, the jury didn’t believe that this man’s meniscus tear was caused by this accident, and the defense presented medical expert testimony (doctors) who said the same thing. This is another reminder that the outcome at a jury trial can be unpredictable, including zero, which is why most cases settle during a mediation, or sooner. The defense never wants to risk a high verdict, and the plaintiff may not want to risk going home with nothing.
(9) SHAUGHNESSY vs. GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE COMPANY (GEICO)
Basic Facts: Motor Vehicle Negligence – Rear end collision – Driving while intoxicated – Three-car, rear end collision – Aggravation of preexisting lymphedemia – No permanent injury found.
Result: $68,333 VERDICT, INCLUDING $63,333 IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES
Car Accident Details:
This case involved a three-car automobile accident that occurred in Key West, Florida. The defendant’s vehicle struck the rear of a vehicle driven by the plaintiff’s husband, in which the plaintiff was a passenger. They were then pushed into a third vehicle. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant driver alleging that he was intoxicated at the time of the collision. The plaintiff sought punitive, as well as compensatory damages. The defendant driver admitted that he was negligent and that he was operating his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. However, the defendant contested the nature and extent of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the collision.
The plaintiff alleged that the collision caused a permanent aggravation of preexisting lymphedema, a condition involving impaired flow of the lymphatic system, resulting in swelling in one or more extremities.
The defense argued that the plaintiff suffered only a temporary exacerbation of lymphedemia as a result of the accident, with no permanent injury.
The jury found that the plaintiff did not sustain a permanent injury as a result of the accident. The plaintiff was awarded $5,000 in past pain and suffering with no economic damage award. The jury also found that the plaintiff was entitled to punitive damages and, in a separate (Phase II) proceeding, awarded her $63,333 in punitive damages.
With the addition of costs, judgment was entered for the plaintiff against both defendants in the amount of $74,433.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This case suffered from the simple fact that the plaintiff’s injuries weren’t severe enough to justify the litigation. Normally having a defendant who admits to drinking and driving is an extremely helpful fact in any lawsuit (and, in this case, his admitted intoxication was the only reason the plaintiff recovered any money (the purpose of punitive damages is to punish bad behavior — something normally not present in car accident cases, unless the defendant was drinking while driving). I’m sure the plaintiff was hoping for a much higher verdict, because we generally do not go to trial for $74,433, which is a relatively low amount considering that medical bills, trial costs (which include things like paying testifying expert doctors, and producing fancy exhibits for the jury to see), and attorneys fees must be repaid first, out of the verdict. This defendant was daring, however, in going to trial despite his admitted intoxication. This was a risky move for the defendant, but the minor injuries gave them confidence. If the injuries had been more serious, this case would have never reached trial because the defendant would have offered a higher amount to settle the case without going to trial.
(10) WILLIAMS vs. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY
Insurance Obligation – Uninsured motorist claim – Three- car, rear end collision – Lumbar disc herniation with surgery – Cervical sprain and strain.
Result: $136,496 VERDICT
Car Accident Details:
The plaintiff was driving the center vehicle in a three- vehicle collision, which occurred on the Buckman Bridge in Jacksonville, FL. The plaintiff alleged that the accident was caused by an uninsured motorist who struck the back of his vehicle and pushed it into the car in front of him. Since the at-fault driver had no insurance, the plaintiff had to sue his own insurance company, which was State Farm, to try to recover his uninsured motorist coverage. State Farm argued that the plaintiff first struck the car in front of him, before the rear vehicle hit him. State Far also denied that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury as a result of the accident.
The plaintiff testified that he was driving across the bridge, when he felt the impact to the back of his vehicle. The plaintiff testified that he then felt a second impact as his car was pushed forward into the car in front of him.
The plaintiff was diagnosed with cervical sprain and strain, including a lumbar disc herniation, which his doctors causally related to the accident. The plaintiff underwent a lumbar laminectomy.
State Farm hotly contested causation, and argued that the plaintiff’s lumbar condition was unrelated to the subject accident. State Farm maintained that the plaintiff was treated for approximately four months for cervical sprain and strain after the accident. There was a five-month gap in treatment, however, during which medical records indicated that the plaintiff injured his back while leaning over the seat of his car, according to defense arguments.
The jury found that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury as a result of the accident, and awarded him $136,396 in damages.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This was a fair and reasonable jury verdict, although maybe a little on the low end, given the likely cost of the surgery. This case illustrates two important points, which I make often to my clients: (1) your own insurance company absolutely will fight you in court, if you have a potential uninsured motorist claim (that requires that you have uninsured motorist coverage on your policy), so you should never speak to their adjusters before quickly calling us first, and letting us communicate on your behalf (there are countless things you could tell them that would hurt your case, without you ever knowing); and (2) any gaps in treatment will be used against you during any trial, so it is important to continue treatment as long as your case is pending (we provide more details to our clients about exactly how to continue treatment).
(11) HENLEY vs. MUDUNDI
Motor Vehicle Negligence – Rear end collision – Plaintiff’s car struck from behind – Lumbar disc herniations and bulges – Damages/causation only.
Result: $88,541 VERDICT
Car Accident Details:
The plaintiff claimed that her car was struck from behind while she was trying to make a left turn. The defendants admitted that they caused the collision. However, the defendants argued that the impact was minor and that the plaintiff did not sustain a permanent injury as a result of the accident.
The plaintiff testified that she was driving in the left turn lane at the intersection. The defendant driver struck the rear of the plaintiff’s car and sideswiped the right passenger side. Evidence showed that the plaintiff’s vehicle sustained approximately $3,000 in damage as a result of the crash. The plaintiff was employed part-time as a registered nurse at the time of the accident. The plaintiff testified that her knees hit the steering wheel on impact and her left shoulder hit the driver’s side door. She contended that she felt lower back and right shoulder pain within days of the accident. The plaintiff was first evaluated by a chiropractor approximately five days post-accident. She was diagnosed with lumbar disc herniations and bulges with annular tear which she claimed were caused by the accident. The plaintiff testified that her accident-related back injury limits her activities, including her ability to play the violin.
The defendants argued that the plaintiff’s physical examination and radiological findings indicate that she did not sustain a permanent injury as a result of the accident. The defendant’s family medicine expert opined that the plaintiff sustained only mild cervical, thoracic and lumbar strains which had fully resolved.
The jury found that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury as a result of the accident and awarded her $88,541 in damages.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts:
This was a excellent recovery considering there was no surgery. Part of the reason is probably because the plaintiff received treatment very quickly after the accident (sooner is always better, to start and continue treatment). The defense did not surprise by arguing that she wasn’t permanently injured, and that she only had mild sprains. Those are common defenses. Defense attorneys always argue that the plaintiff’s injuries aren’t as bad as they claim. Having a believable plaintiff (in this case a nurse & violin player, so we can guess probably someone who presented well) also goes a long way with any jury. The moral of this story is to get into treatment quickly, and continue doing whatever the doctor recommends until your case is resolved (with some exceptions in the case of lower insurance policies, which we explain to our clients after we learn the policy amounts involved in their cases). This case might have had a higher value had the plaintiff received treatment from an orthopedic surgeon, a surgical recommendation, or surgery itself.
(12) D’ANGELO vs. IRAGAVARAPU
Motor vehicle negligence – Rear end collision – Disc injuries to neck and back – Cervical fusion recommended – Damages/causation only.
Result: DEFENDANT’S VERDICT — $0
COUNTY: Palm Beach
Car Accident Details:
The plaintiff was a female in her 60s who was operating a motor vehicle which was struck from behind by the defendant’s car. The defendant admitted negligence in causing the collision. So the case was tried on the issue of damages and causation only.
The plaintiff did not seek treatment at the scene, but went to a chiropractor about two-and-half weeks later. She was diagnosed with injuries to her lumbar spine, as well as a left-sided C6-C7 disc herniation. The plaintiff’s doctor testified that the plaintiff would need a future cervical fusion surgery due to the accident.
The defendant argued that the impact to the back of the plaintiff’s car was light, there was a significant gap in time before she sought medical treatment, and that the plaintiff had a history of prior neck and back treatment. The plaintiff argued back that her prior symptoms had resolved before this accident.
The defendant testified that her vehicle lightly tapped the back of the plaintiff’s car. The defense introduced photographs, which proved minimal property damage to the plaintiff’s car. Evidence showed that the plaintiff was involved in a prior motor vehicle accident (6 years earlier), and cervical surgery had been recommended before the date of the subject accident. The defendant’s radiologist opined that the plaintiff’s spinal condition was not caused by the subject accident.
The jury found that the defendant’s negligence was not a legal cause of injury to the plaintiff.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This case illustrates several points we make often to clients. First, minor property damage is usually a very bad thing in front of juries, because they have a hard time believing that the accident caused serious injuries (and defense doctors will testify that serious injuries cannot result from a minor impact). As a result, we do not accept cases below a certain vehicle damage / repair cost threshold. Still, if the repair cost was high enough for us to accept a case, but the photos show minimal vehicle damage, the minimal vehicle damage will lower the case settlement value, and cause us to suggest that the case be settled without filing suit, or going to trial.
Additionally, the plaintiff’s prior medical treatment was significant. In fact, a doctor had recommended cervical surgery before this accident, which would make it almost impossible to prove that this accident caused her pain, and need for surgery.
Although prior medical treatment can definitely impact case value, it is still extremely critical that all of our clients tell us about ALL prior medical treatment, because we can often make arguments that still help the case, as long as we know the true medical history.
That all being said, the plaintiff (and his or her lawyers) always have the burden of proving that this accident caused the injuries that are the subject of the lawsuit. That’s not really possible when there is a prior surgical recommendation involving the same area of the body.
(13) ASADIPOUR vs. DEEGAN
Motor vehicle negligence – Pull-out collision – Aggravation of preexisting cervical condition claimed – 5% comparative negligence – No permanent injury found.
Result: $6,712 GROSS VERDICT
Car Accident Details:
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant negligently exited a parking lot, violated his right-of-way, and struck the side of his car. The defendant admitted some negligence, but argued that the plaintiff was partly to blame. The defense additionally maintained that the plaintiff did not sustain a permanent injury as a result of the accident.
Evidence showed that the outer lane of the highway was backed-up with traffic, but the inner lane was not backed up when the defendant pulled out of a parking lot. The plaintiff was proceeding in the inner lane when his vehicle was struck in the side by the defendant’s 2001 Dodge Ram.
The plaintiff drove his vehicle from the scene and went to the emergency room the next morning. The plaintiff claimed that the impact caused nerve root irritation and aggravated his pre-existing arthritis, cervical disc protrusions, and narrowed foramen. The plaintiff asserted that his neck condition was previously asymptomatic, but became symptomatic as a result of the subject accident. The plaintiff called two radiologists to support his MRI findings, as well as a radiologist to establish the nerve root injury.
The plaintiff sought $24,000 in past medical expenses. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was driving at an excessive speed, and failed to use appropriate caution when entering he heavily congested traffic area.
The defendant’s experts (a neurologist and radiologist) testified that they saw no objective evidence that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury as a result of the collision. The defendant’s neurologist also testified that only the first three months of the plaintiff’s care was reasonable, necessary, and related to the accident.
The court directed a directed verdict for the plaintiff as to causation and three months of past medical expenses.
The jury found the defendant 95% negligent and the plaintiff 5% comparatively negligent. The jury also found that the plaintiff did not sustain a permanent injury as a result of the collision. The plaintiff was awarded $6,712 in past medical expenses, which was reduced by the judge to reflect the plaintiff’s 5% fault, as determined the by the jury.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: this was a tough case, with a very low outcome for the plaintiff, considering his or her documented medical expenses were 24K. My guess is that the defense offered more money to settle this case before trial (which the plaintiff would have refused), than the jury awarded.
We never know what juries will do (that applies to both sides — plaintiff and defense), which is why 99% of cases settle before trial. The real problem were the pre-existing conditions, which the plaintiff claimed had been aggravated by the accident. That can be an effective argument, but usually also best for settlement before trial, rather than having a jury decide.
Also note that the defense can always find experts to say that the plaintiff’s injuries weren’t caused by the accident. These are usually well-credential doctors, who come and testify live to the jury, and explain the injuries using diagrams of the human body to help jurors understand. Plaintiffs also present their own experts. But the jury ultimately decides — and these are people from all walks of life, whose opinions and votes are impossible to predict.
This case also demonstrates that there are usually arguments going both ways about fault during any intersection collision, or turn out, collision. The only clear auto accident cases are rear end (and sometimes head on, in the plaintiff’s lane).
(14) REIN vs. GULFCOAST YELLOW CAB LLC A/K/A FLORIDA GULF COAST TRANSPORTATION
Motor vehicle negligence – Rear end collision – Lumbar and cervical disc herniations claimed – Lumbar surgery performed – Damages/causation only – No permanent injury found
Result: $34,553 VERDICT
Car Accident Details:
The defendants, in this motor vehicle negligence action, were a taxi cab company and its driver. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s taxi cab negligently struck her car from behind while the plaintiff was stopped at a traffic light. The defendant admitted to negligence in causing the collision, but argued that the impact was light, and did not cause the injuries alleged by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff, a female in her early 50s at the time, went home after the accident but went to the emergency room later that day. She alleged that the rear end collision caused disc herniations in both her lumbar and cervical spine. The plaintiff underwent lumbar disc surgery, which she claimed was required because of the impact.
The defendant cab driver contended that his foot slipped off the break, and his taxi cab rolled into the back of the plaintiff’s car at a low speed. The defendant’s biomechanical expert testified that the forces generated by the rear end impact were minimal.
Evidence showed that the plaintiff had undergone prior neck and back treatment some 15 years before the subject collision. The defendant’s radiologist testified that the plaintiff’s diagnostic films showed pre-existing degenerative conditions of her cervical and lumbar spine, which were not related to the accident.
The jury found that the plaintiff did not sustain a permanent injury as a result of the accident, and awarded her $34,553 in past medical expenses. The defendant’s motions for attorney fees and costs are pending.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: If you have been reading along, you can start to see a theme in the defense arguments. Even when the defendant ADMITS that he caused the accident, defense attorneys still ALWAYS argue that the plaintiff’s injuries either weren’t that serious, or weren’t caused by the accident. In other words, defendants ALWAYS fight back, and vigorously challenge the amount of the plaintiff’s desired damages. This case was no exception. Additionally, radiological films can show degenerative damage (from pre-existing medical injuries) versus trauma that resulted from the accident. In this case, the jury believed the defense’s experts. The light impact (minor vehicle damage) surely didn’t help.
(15) MCLENNAN vs. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY
Insurance Obligation – Underinsured motorist claim – Negligent left turn – Front end collision – Rotator cuff tear with surgery – Damages/causation only
Result: Plaintiff awarded $484,785 in damages
COUNTY: Palm Beach
Car Accident Details:
The plaintiff was a female nurse in her 50s, when the at-fault driver made a left turn from the opposite direction in front of her car and caused a front-end collision. The at-fault driver tendered his underlying $10,000 liability policy limit (which removed him from the case), and the case proceeded as an underinsured motorist claim. That means the plaintiff was suing her own insurance company, which was State Farm. State Farm admitted that the at-fault driver caused the collision, but disputed causation and damages.
The plaintiffs doctor testified that the collision caused a rotator cuff tear, which required the plaintiff to undergo shoulder surgery. The plaintiff contended that she was previously physically active, but her activities are now limited.
The defendant argued that the plaintiffs shoulder condition was pre-existing and not causally related to the accident. The defense claimed that medical records showed that the plaintiff experienced prior pain in her shoulder. However, the plaintiff countered that the prior pain radiated from her neck, and did not indicate a preexisting shoulder injury.
The jury found that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury as a result of the accident, and awarded her $484,785 in damages. The applicable underinsured motorist policy limit was $250,000.
Injury Attorney’s Thoughts: This was a great outcome, which demonstrates that juror verdicts can be all over the map (on similar facts, you can see above, many other plaintiffs received nothing at trial). The reason is that jurors are vastly different — they are always a different set of people, with different opinions & belief systems. A rotator cuff tear, and the subsequent shoulder surgery, is a serious injury. And simple “shoulder pain,” in prior medical records, wasn’t enough to persuade the jury that the plaintiff had a torn rotator cuff before this accident.
Also, because the original at-fault driver only had 10K in insurance coverage, but the plaintiff herself had 250K in uninsured motorist coverage, the plaintiff was suing her own insurance company, and they were fighting back (hard). This is why you ALWAYS need a lawyer speaking on your behalf, right away, even when dealing with your own insurance company (this is only really important if you have UM coverage, but most people don’t know whether they have this coverage, or not). Note that the $484,785 in damages was likely reduced via post-verdict settlement, since the UM policy was only for 250K.
Want To Know Your Auto Accident Case Value?
We can never tell new clients their case value, because too many factors might impact their case (which we can’t know until we review their medical bills, see the insurance policies, and hear from witnesses). But we CAN explain our thoughts about your specific case, including what might increase, or decrease, your case value, including your actions (or inaction) after the accident. If you have the type of case we typically handle, our attorneys will provide an entirely free consultation. Just text or call (407) 803-2139. We answer calls 24/7/365.
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