Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sometimes Trial Is The End of The Case. Sometimes, Trial Is Just Another Event

    I just finished a 2 week trial in a motor vehicle accident case ending on December 20.  After 5 years during which the case went up to the Alaska Supreme Court, the jury came back with a $1,430,000 verdict. While the verdict was good news for the client, the trial was also an exercise both in how challenging it is for a client's case to go to trial and how many pitfalls lie in trial.

    The case involved a 25 year old man who was a motor vehicle accident victim in a T-bone collision on December 31.  When other people were celebrating the New Year, he was in the emergency room.  Within a month, he had been diagnosed with herniated discs in his low back.  Within 6 months, he had been forced to undergo disc replacement surgery.  These injuries caused him to develop herniated discs in his neck 4 years later.   He made 2 unsuccessful attempts to go back to work.

    The trial show the lengths that an insurance company and defense lawyer would go to avoid payment.  Over the last 5 years, these have been the defenses.

1.   It is impossible for persons to be seriously injured in a T-bone collision.
2.   The client's injuries must have been the result of misjudgments by his physicians who were trying to help him recover.
3.   The client's problems must be related to the medications his physicians prescribed to control his pain.
4.   Because the client happened to occasionally play poker, he must be able to work.

   During trial, the insurer actually called a biomechanicist to testify that the forces of a T-bone collision were less  than walking down stairs or lifting up a box.  The biomechanicists earns his living giving this testimony.
The insurer also called a retired neurosurgeon to also testify that serious injury was not possible.  The surgeon, working part time, has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from insurance companies giveing testimony like this.

   After a hard 10 days, the jury came back with its verdict.  While gratified, I have seen juries return verdicts that were much less compassionate under similar facts.  Sometimes, they believe the hired gun witnesses.

    As for the future, my client is waiting to see whether the insurer will now appeal.

    You have to play your hand well.