An appellate court affirmed a $1.3 million verdict in favor of an auto accident victim who suffered serious injuries after defendant’s employee negligently struck a vehicle stopped at a red light.
The appellate court in Bean v. Pacific Coast Elevator Corp. did find trial court erred in how it calculated prejudgment interest, but otherwise affirmed the verdict, despite defense protestations that the non-economic damages – $1.1 million of the total – were excessive.
This case reveals how economic damages – such as lost wages, property damage and medical bills – are only part of what may be considered in a crash case.
Those who have been injured in a car accident in Montgomery should be aware they may be entitled not just to compensation for economic losses, but also for pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment and other damages.
In this case, plaintiff went from being a highly active, social person who enjoyed physical activity to someone who was depressed, withdrawn and gained a significant amount of weight after the crash.
According to court records, plaintiff was stopped in his truck at a red light when defendant’s employee slammed into the rear of plaintiff’s vehicle. Defendant driver would later say he didn’t see plaintiff’s vehicle, as it was a bright, sunny day and there was a lot of glare.
Plaintiff was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital. He was reportedly in a great deal of pain, and hospital personnel had to cut off his clothing to administer treatment, which included a number of x-rays, imaging tests and pain medications. He was discharged that same day, and didn’t return to work until several days later.
In the subsequent lawsuit plaintiff filed against defendant, it was established plaintiff underwent extensive medical treatment for accident-related injuries. He was in great pain and had trouble sleeping, dressing and even using the bathroom. The pain, he told doctors, was forcing him to live a much less active lifestyle.
He received steroid injections, underwent physical therapy, submitted to several nerve ablation procedures on his spine – and still suffered great limitations in overall function. He could no longer play baseball, as he once loved to do, or engage in other activities like water sports or off-roading.
This was all well-documented before he was involved in a second auto accident in which he was again rear-ended. After this crash, he underwent spinal surgery. He was unable to walk any significant distance or play sports. He had trouble with basic daily tasks, such as driving and sleeping. He began using narcotic pain relievers and muscle relaxers, which resulting in family tensions. Following his surgery, he had to wear a neck collar to immobilize his neck for two weeks and was out of work for six weeks.
Despite some relief, plaintiff continued to suffer chronic pain and limited ability to perform basic tasks, like climbing the stairs. He also was unable to help care for his aging mother or perform basic construction or yard work around his home.
Doctors opined he would likely need another spinal surgery in the future. Still, defendants argued the non-economic damages awarded by jurors were excessive. Appellate court disagreed.
First of all, all presumptions are in favor of the trial court’s decision to start. An appellate court can intercede when a verdict is so large that it “shocks the conscience” and suggests that jurors were swayed by prejudice, passion or corruption.
Secondly, plaintiffs are entitled to collect damages not just for pain, but also for nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, fright, shock, mortification, embarrassment, humiliation, indignity, apprehension, terror or the overall ordeal. This can include loss of life enjoyment.
Defendant alleged plaintiff was not in pain, the accident was minor and plaintiff has no major life limitations. However, appeals court found the evidence supported jurors’ finding that plaintiff suffered extensive damage as a result of the crash, and affirmed the verdict.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Bean v. Pacific Coast Elevator Corp., March 10, 2015, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One
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Travelers v. Gray – Alabama Supreme Court Reverses Crash Judgment, Jan. 22, 2015, Montgomery Car Accident Lawyer Blog