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On July 30, 2020 our client was rear ended in a car crash when he sat at a red light. The other driver had a bad driver history and was let go from the company six months after this accident. Our client sustained permanent injuries from the collision and after failing to get better with conservative treatment decided to have neck surgery performed about a year after the accident. The exact surgery is called an ACDF (Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion), and it was for two-levels at the C5/C6 and C6/C7 levels. According to our client, he never felt like the surgery was successful and was still in pain after the procedure. Unfortunately, he was in a second accident about three months after the surgery. An X-Ray taken after the second accident showed that a screw had come loose from the metal plate stabilizing his spinal cord. He immediately underwent potentially lifesaving surgery to correct this surgical failure. The subsequent surgery resulted in a successful outcome for our client although he still had range of motion limitations in his neck.
It was unclear in this case whether or not our client’s first neck surgery was already failing prior to the second accident. That was because no X-ray was taken prior to the second accident since it occurred so soon after the first surgery. This presented a problem because the defendant is only responsible for the harm they caused and now the defense would argue that anything after the second accident was not their fault. Since our client would need significant future medical treatment this had the potential to significantly reduce the compensation our client could get at trial. To further complicate the matter, the second accident looked way worse from the photos than the first, even though many medical doctors have the opinion that just because a car crash has a low amount of damage does not mean that someone can not have serious injuries. Note: it is true that the higher the amount of damage and the more significant the force in the accident, the higher likelihood of significant injuries, however the inverse is not always true and just because the force is low does not mean the injuries are always low.
Filing of the Lawsuit
On November 2021, we had to file a lawsuit in Sarasota County because the insurance company would not pay any attention to our client’s case. We had not received a single offer to settle the matter after over six months of trying to communicate with the insurance company. Once we filed the lawsuit, the insurance company had a very experienced litigation firm defend the case. Opposing counsel throughout the case did everything they could to drag the case out and deny our discovery requests. They also refused to mediate the matter without the necessity for us to file a motion to compel the mediation after over a year and a half of litigation. We consistently had to go to court to fight against the defense filing motions to continue the case for 3 month periods. They used this delay tactic when the crash happened in 2020, over 18 months prior to the trial period!
We argued against any continuance and went in person to the courthouse to argue reasons why the case was ready for trial. The judge ultimately agreed with us and denied the motion to continue. This was after opposing counsel had told us that there was no way the judge would deny his motion. However, he was an out of county lawyer and had no experience in front of this particular judge. He did not have the advantage of knowing that this judge was a no nonsense type who would not allow games to be played during the litigation process.
We ultimately had a chance to mediate the matter about a month before the trial was to take place. At mediation the defense firm claimed that our client’s injuries were basically a money grab and made him out to be selfish for seeking the compensation he deserved. Note, this is a typical tactic that defense firms use and insurance companies with billions in revenue every year, spend significant amounts of money to ingrain in the public that people who seek compensation for their injuries are inherently greedy. Remember, these companies look at everything from a business perspective and will do everything in their power to pay as little on a claim as possible by whatever means necessary.
Of course we knew based on our interactions over the three years with out client that he was a hard working, credible, honest, and likable client. You never know how a jury will perceive an individually like our client but ultimately we believed that our client was the type of person who could go into a court room and resonate with a jury. He was not someone faking minor injuries. He had neck surgery that would keep him from being able to every work safely for Uber again and would need future medical treatment throughout the rest of his life.
About a month after we were unable to agree at mediation, we continued to aggressively prepare the case for trial and fought further continuance motions by the defense firm. We also got on the offensive and distracted the defense attorneys from getting information on our client by by amending our witness list to include a fact witness that would testify about the injuries our client had. The defense firm spent weeks trying to file a motion to exclude this witness, when in reality we could care less if the witness testified or not, we just wanted to make sure that they were not focused on trying to uncover any new evidence from our client.
It worked and a few days before we were schedule to go to trial we received the offer of $700,000 to resolve the matter without going to a jury. The defense firm knew that we were prepared to go to trial if necessary and therefore knew that it was time to make their top dollar effort. This offer was in fact, significantly higher than their offer at mediation.
Most importantly, our client was happy with this settlement because he was able to pay all of his medical debts incurred as a result of this accident, pay his attorney’s fees, pay for all of the doctors who were willing and able to testify for him at court, and put over $200,000 in his pocket.
Tom Harris, Florida Injury Attorney, has over 39 years of experience, including 17 years of defending insurance companies before reinventing his law practice to represent injured people as a personal injury attorney.
Kyle Harris is a Florida licensed attorney who joined the family practice after starting his career as a licensed attorney in California