To illustrate the potential value of a car accident, along with some pitfalls that might negatively impact the final outcome, I thought sharing an interesting reported case might be helpful. This was not my case but will give you some idea of the ultimate resolution of car accident cases (assuming you hire a lawyer who will file a lawsuit–and fair warning NOT all of them will). My analysis might also give you some insight as to some of the pitfalls that might arise if a car accident case is not handled properly.
Light Impact Rear End Collision
This case involved a rear end collision at a red light and, at least the defendant argued, not a hard impact. The ultimate outcome is interesting because sometimes insurance defense attorneys believe that cases involving less impact are worth less. Often this is true because the injuries usually aren’t as bad. But this case proves that the car accident attorney should always take the time to learn exactly how the collision affected the injured person, rather than relying on generalized patterns to quickly settle high volumes of cases.
What Money Damages Are You Entitled To Recover After A Car Accident?
After determining who is liable for a car accident, which may or may not be disputed, the most important questions to any car accident attorney are: (1) what is the amount of available insurance coverage; and (2) what is the clients medical diagnosis AND treatment? Those two things are the probably most important factors in determining the ultimate outcome, again assuming fault is clear. Clients who have serious injuries but, for whatever reason, refuse treatment, can expect MUCH less in their case. Florida law entitles you to recover three main categories of damages in car accident cases, including: (1) past and future medical treatment; (2) past and future wage loss; and (3) money to compensate for your pain and suffering.
Probable Cervical Bulge Leading To Surgical Implant Of A Spinal Cord Stimulator
In any event, this particular case went to trial in Pensacola Florida in 2014 (in a case called Sanders v. State Farm). The plaintiff, a 40 year old woman, suffered a probable cervical bulge. As a result of the accident, she claimed to have suffered ongoing severe neck pain and headaches. Her MRI results demonstrated the disc injury (cervical bulge). Although she tried more conservative forms of treatment, eventually her doctor felt the need to surgically implant a spinal cord stimulator. These are devices that use an electrical current to treat chronic pain. Basically they send electrical pulses to the nerves, which interfere with the impulses that make you feel pain. Typically the devices are inserted in a two-step process, beginning with temporary implantation of an electrode to determine whether the permanent device will work. If the trial run is successful, the permanent device is installed. Additionally, and importantly for purposes of the ultimate case value, these devices must be replaced approximately every 7 years, which can lead to significant future medical expenses. (Red flag moment: an insurance company will never tell you that you are entitled to future medical benefits, and money for pain and suffering, if you make the mistake of dealing with an insurance company without an attorney. Additionally, if you work with a settlement mill (high volume) law firm, they may not spend the time to carefully analyze whether your case should be worth much more.) In this reported case, although the device helped somewhat, the plaintiff complained that she continued to experience chronic pain after her surgery.
Why Don’t Insurance Companies Just Pay? What Is Their Defense?
You might wonder what the defense would argue in this type of situation. I mean, liability was presumably clear, since this was a rear end collision, and those are usually clear liability cases. Many people do not understand why an insurance company wouldn’t simply write a check once they learn how the accident happened. But the insurance company’s goal–always–is to pay you as little as possible. And there are many arguments they can make revolving around your injury itself. Their arguments often include: the injury was pre-existing, the symptoms are not as bad as the plaintiff claims, the accident did not cause the injuries, the claimed injuries are inconsistent with the degree of impact, your treating or examining doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or the treatments were unnecessary.
A Warning About Related Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
In this particular case, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s prior history of migraine headaches proved that this accident did not cause her injuries. This is a common insurance company defense lawyer tactic–you can be certain it happens in every litigated case–they search through your prior medical records looking for related pre-existing conditions. They will request your prior records in ALL cases. If they find any even remotely related pre-existing condition, then they argue the accident did not cause the existing symptoms. But the plaintiff in this case countered by telling the jury that her headaches after the accident were qualitatively different and occurred with much greater frequency. The defendant also argued that the light impact of the collision refuted her testimony regarding the severity of her injuries.
High Verdict Based Largely On Future Medical Bills
Ultimately, the jury agreed with the plaintiff. The jury awarded $794,572, including $182,472 for past medical bills, $478,100 for future medical bills over 42 years, $0 for past lost wages, $60,000 for future lost wages for 27 years, $20,000 for past pain and suffering and $54,000 for future pain and suffering. Again, this is a GREAT example of why future potential medical bills should never be ignored (nor should your attorney fail to explore whether and to what extent they will be needed).
Understanding Payment Breakdown & Likelihood
There are also some important aspects of this verdict that you should understand: (1) past medical bills must be repaid, in other words, if a provider OR a health insurance company paid for your treatment, then your attorney WILL be required to reimburse the full amount of those damages. However, very often those amounts can be negotiated down with the provider, ultimately putting more money in your pocket; (2) although you are awarded future medical bills, you are not required to undergo future medical treatment; (3) worth repeating: insurance companies will NOT generally offer to pay future medical bills voluntarily; (4) although we know the jury’s verdict in this illustrative case, we have no way of knowing whether there was sufficient insurance coverage (or defendant assets) to pay the plaintiff this amount of money aka “you can’t get blood out of a turnip.” Again, very often a major limiting factor in auto accident cases is the amount of insurance coverage available. Florida’s collection laws, together with the availability of bankruptcy, make seeking and recovering defendant assets (assuming they have any) frequently a useless endeavor.
Call Or Text Me Anytime
If you have any questions about your potential car accident case, you are welcome to call or text me anytime, day or night. If I happen to miss your call, I will return your text or call quickly. Talking to me costs you nothing until I win your case.
Inspiration For This Post
This post was inspired by one of my friends, attorney Christopher Hoffman, a very experienced car accident attorney from St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hoffman frequently writes about negligence & car accident law affecting injury victims in his state.