Case Spotlight: Trial Necessary to Win Justice in Car Accident Case

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Personal Injury
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Most Personal Injury cases can be settled without going to trial. At some point prior to trial, the insurance company will finally evaluate the negligence of the defendant, the injuries of the plaintiff, and offer a fair settlement. But not always. For Erin Jones, who was injured in a car accident caused by Donald Henry’s negligence, her case had to go all the way to a jury verdict to obtain justice.

On April 23, 2007, Erin was driving home from a college internship and was traveling through West Chester Borough on Darlington Street. As Erin drove through the intersection with Patton Alley, her car was struck on the passenger side by Mr. Henry’s car after he failed to stop for his stop sign.

Immediately after the impact, Erin began to feel pain in her neck and back and went to the Chester County Hospital Emergency Room where she was x-rayed, given medication and released. Erin had follow-up treatment with her family doctor and then had three months of physical therapy for neck and back pain and headaches. Although Erin’s symptoms improved, they continued to bother her. However, since Erin had no health insurance, she did not receive any further treatment for 15 months. In January 2009, when Erin obtained health insurance, she resumed her treatment and was seen by an orthopedic surgeon, a neurologist, and was eventually referred to a pain management specialist who treated Erin with medication and spine injections. At the time of the trial, Erin’s pain management specialist testified that Erin’s injuries were permanent and would require ongoing treatment and medications.

Erin retained Tim Rayne of MacElree Harvey to pursue her Personal Injury claims for compensation against Mr. Henry. When the insurance company would not offer a reasonable settlement, Tim filed a lawsuit against Mr. Henry. The insurance company hired an attorney, who vigorously defended the case. Although the defense attorney readily admitted that Mr. Henry’s careless driving was the cause of the collision, he disputed the nature and extent of Erin’s injuries and retained a Defense doctor to examine Erin and comment on her injuries and progress. The Defense doctor indicated that, even though Erin was initially injured in the accident, she was cured after her physical therapy and required no further treatment.

Erin, like most clients, was nervous about going to trial. At the beginning of the case, Tim tried to reassure her by explaining that well over 90% of Personal Injury cases settle before trial. This case, however, was one of the less than 10%.

Erin’s case was referred to a Settlement Conference and a retired judge recommended that the insurance company pay $65,000 to settle, a figure which Erin said she would accept. Truth be told, Erin likely would have accepted half that amount to settle the case and avoid the stress, expense and risk of trial. What did the insurance company offer? $12,000!

Reluctantly, Erin had her day in court. During a two-day trial, Erin, her boyfriend, mother and doctor testified about the accident and the difference between her life before and after the collision. The Defense doctor was the only witness for Mr. Henry. The jury deliberated for two hours and returned a verdict of $50,000, over four times the insurance company’s offer.

“I was extremely pleased with the jury verdict,” explained Tim. “It just proves that, even in conservative Chester County, insurance companies need to treat injured people fairly, or jurors will make them pay.”

Erin states, “I was worried about going to trial and what that could mean, but Tim assured me throughout the process that everything was going to be okay and exuded confidence throughout. I was very impressed with Tim’s ability and the result he achieved for me.”

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