C5-C6 Herniation Vertebral Fusion – $185,000
The Erie car accident happened in December 2007. The defendant driver was westbound on 12th Street between Weschler and Greengarden. It was rush hour. He was in the passing lane and thinking about his tasks for the day. He took his eyes off the road for up to 15 seconds. The Erie auto crash happened with little warning for the defendant driver and with no warning for our client. The defendant driver looked up and had just enough time to apply his brakes, but not nearly enough time to stop. He rear-ended our client at approximately 20 mph.
The defendant driver’s vehicle had nose-dived with the sudden deceleration. This common behavior of rapidly decelerating a vehicle causes the front end of the car to drop toward the ground. As a result, the defendant’s bumper did not strike the rear end of our client’s car. Instead, his front end slid under our client’s rear and pushed our client’s car into the car in front of her, causing a second Erie car collision.
Damage to the defendant’s vehicle was severe. The entire front end was ripped off and it had to be towed from the scene. However, damage to our client’s car was modest, with only scrapes and minor dents in the rear and a cracked bumper in the front.
Our client was taken by ambulance to the E.R. for treatment of her car accident injuries. Fortunately, there were no fractures and she was released with instruction to follow up with her family doctor.
Follow-up care proved difficult. Our client began with physical therapy for neck and shoulder pain that radiated into her arm and hand. The radiating symptoms suggested a nerve injury, but the health care professionals hoped that it was a strain or sprain that would heal shortly. When her symptoms persisted more than three months later, an MRI was ordered.
The MRI showed herniated disc material at C5-C6 along with degenerative change. The degenerative change plainly predated the Erie car crash, but the herniation was acute. Her doctors continued to advise conservative care.
Unfortunately, the car accident-related neck pain and radiating symptoms led to development of temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ), a condition that sometimes results from stress and pain when the patient clenches vigorously at night. The client began treatment with her dentist, who gave her an appliance to wear at night. She ended up wearing through her appliance and getting a new one.
Meanwhile, the herniated disc from the Erie car crash continued to cause problems. In desperation, her doctors tried a TENS unit (an electrical stimulation machine) and acupuncture. She was referred to a pain specialist, who tried spinal injections meant to block pain. She counseled with a neuropsychologist for pain management techniques. When all else had failed, she saw a surgeon, who recommended removal of the disc material at two levels (C4-5 and C5-6) and fusion with instrumentation of both vertebrae. During the surgery, the doctor observed the herniated disc material that was putting pressure on her spinal canal and that was causing her problems. He was able to remove the disc material, which ultimately helped her symptoms greatly — but some of the nerve damage was permanent.
After the surgery, the patient improved dramatically. Unfortunately, some of her car accident symptoms were permanent and, worse, the bone fusion failed to heal properly. She required an electrical stimulation collar, which she wore at night for six months.
As a result of her Erie car crash injuries, our client was forced to give up a part-time job she loved. Her lost wages were approximately $50,000 at the time of settlement. In addition, Medicare had paid for some of her medical bills and there was a lien of approximately $14,000.
The insurance company and their defense lawyer (a veteran insurance lawyer from Philadelphia) took a strong “no pay” posture when the case began. They didn’t explain their position. They simply refused to discuss settlement. They then filed multiple failed motions with the Court, sending their defense lawyer from Philadelphia each time. They insisted on sending subpoenas to doctors and other health care providers, even when we offered to give them authorizations that would have allowed them to get the records without harassing the doctors. They took depositions of co-workers, doctors, our client, and her dentist. In short, they did everything they possibly could to increase costs for everyone, to harass and annoy the doctors and other witnesses, and to delay the case.
As the case neared trial, the defendant made a surprise move. They fired their Philadelphia defense lawyer and hired a new defense law firm (this time from Scranton). The new lawyers were polite and professional. They needed time to review the file. We agreed. A short time later, the new defense lawyer called. “Would we be willing to discuss settlement?”
The Erie car accident case settled upon agreement for $185,000 a short while later. It could have settled much sooner and with far less cost and annoyance to everyone involved.