Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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Car Accident and Montgomery County Juries



I just finished a three day jury trial in a fairly normal car accident case with some unfortunate twists.  My client was involved in a car accident in September of 2008.  The other driver made a left turn in front of him and my client broadsided the car.  The other driver was clearly at fault assuming you are reasonably intelligent and not an insurance company.  My client suffered some injuries to his neck and later on they spread down to his back.  His wife was a passenger in the vehicle and she also suffered some injuries.

Both of them went to the emergency room later that evening complaining of injuries to their neck.  They were referred to see their own doctors if the problems continued.  Both of them went on to see their own doctors for follow-up therapy.  Both were basically diagnosed with whiplash type injuries affecting their neck and back.  They went to conservative treatment which was basically physical therapy.  My client did not resolve after approximately 8 months of conservative treatment.  His doctor, who treats several thousand people annually, did the normal, conservative and intelligent thing and ordered an MRI.  The MRI showed that my middle-aged client had significant degenerative changes to his spine.  His doctor recommended that my client see a pain management specialist.  The pain management specialist gave my client epidural injections over the next year which helped somewhat.

I received the case from another attorney sometime after the lawsuit was filed and seven months before trial.  I found my client to be a decent person and sympathetic if not somewhat forgetful.

His forgetfulness I believe cost him somewhat in the case.  After a lawsuit is filed the parties conduct discovery where they learn about the other party's case.  In this case the insurance company requested that my client answer interrogatories which are formal questions under oath.  My client did so.  Some of the interrogatories somewhat asked if he had prior injuries.  My client did not reveal prior injuries.  Also during discovery depositions are taken.  My client was asked point-blank if he had any prior injuries to his neck or back and he replied he did not remember.  Also during discovery the insurance company tends to subpoena the medical records for approximately the past 10 years from the client's slick medical providers.  I received documentation which seemed to indicate my client had pre-existing injuries.  I asked my client about this but he truly could not remember.  Finally I received actual records showing that my client was in physical therapy with his treating Dr. just five months before this accident of September 2008.  I truly believe my client did not remember that he had been seeing his doctor earlier but it did not look very good in front of the jury.

When the case came to trial I explained to the jury immediately that my client had prior injuries before the accident.  I explained that my client just did not remember this.  I also explained that 2 1/2 years after the accident he had another accident also injuring his neck and back.  My client had $22,000 in medical expenses and was pretty miserable from the time of the accident until the time of the second accident (I was not asking for compensation after the second accident because the doctor could not cleanly differentiate the adverse effect of each accident).

His wife's case was also tried at the same time by a colleague.  She had $16,000 in medical expenses.

Other than forgetting I think my client testified fairly well.  His employer did not like him because he was not able to do his job very well but he couldn't do his job very well because of the injury.  My client's doctor testified quite well.

The defendant testified how the accident happened.

The insurance company for the defendant hired their own medical doctor to review my client's medical records and examine my client.  Of course he would claim that my client injuries were either not related or were fairly minimal.  I subpoenaed that doctor's financial records including his 1099 forms for the past five years and his income taxes.  I was able to show the jury that this doctor received easily $500,000 from insurance companies to testify on their behalf.

At the end of the case I asked that the judge find that the defendant driver was liable as a matter of law for the accident.  The judge granted that request based on the evidence.  The jury was only required to determine the extent of each party's injuries.

The jury awarded $10,000 in medical expenses to my client and $200 in pain and suffering.  For his wife she received $16,000 in medical expenses and only $600 in pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, this result is not unusual and Montgomery County.  I tried to avoid trying the case in Montgomery County in front of a jury but could not.  Everybody lived in Montgomery County and the accident occurred in Montgomery County.  The insurance company knew what Montgomery County juries do and refused to arbitrate the case.  On the morning of trial I asked if they would let the case be tried by a judge but they declined that also.

There is no lesson here.  It is simply worth noting that Montgomery County juries are not usually generous when it comes to whiplash/ soft tissue injuries.
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