Tarun and Paul recently tried a case in St. Charles and won big for their client by turning a pretrial offer of $47,149.78 into a verdict at trial of $260,000! The case involved a t-bone crash at an intersection, resulting in significant damage and airbag deployment to both vehicles. We wanted to use this case as an example of best practices if you are unfortunate enough to be in a crash with injuries as well.
While you would imagine the people inside those vehicles would be lucky to be alive, our client did not have enough pain at the scene that she required an ambulance. [PRO TIPS in brackets moving forward: if you have injuries, ask for an ambulance. The statements made to the police officer (no serious injuries reported) were blown up and used against our client, despite what ended up being obvious injuries. It is important to report injuries to the police officer and ask for an ambulance IF you have injuries OR simply state “I don’t know at this time”. Otherwise, the lack of doing so will be used against you later, as it was in our case].
Our client went home and did not go to the emergency room until 4 days later, which was also used against her. [It is important to get medical care early to create a paper trail of your injuries]. Once she finally went to the emergency room, she only complained of her most serious injuries (rib, chest and abdomen) and did not mention her neck or back (which was also used against her. In another case, we had a client with a broken ankle who did not mention his back. While that made sense, his lack of addressing the back to focus on the more serious injury was also used against him in his trial). [Mention ALL injuries (no matter how insignificant) in case a specific injury becomes worse later].
She followed up with a chiropractor 2 days after the ER (6 days after the crash) and treated more than 50 times. The defense argued this was excessive. They also argued if it did not work after the first 3-4 months, it was not going to work and she should have tried something else. [It is good to get treatment with a higher-level specialist if things are not improving.] She eventually obtained an MRI, which showed disc disturbances in her thoracic (mid back) spine, which explained why her pain radiated into her chest wall (similar to when people with low back have radiating pain into their legs). She received two pain injections, however, they did not stop the pain and she was not a surgical candidate, so she was deemed chronic and permanently in pain.
Her total medical bills were $38,000 but the most the insurance company was willing to offer until the week of trial was $47,149.78, which is unreasonable. People (especially on juries) do not realize the number is a TOTAL number from which attorney’s fees, expenses and medical bills come out. While a good lawyer can typically get reductions on the medical bills (as would have been done if we had to settle at the initial offer), it is not ideal for anyone involved, including the medical providers who end up getting paid pennies on the dollar. This is why we tend to litigate more cases than the average firm. Sometimes, the only way to truly get a fair result is having a jury tell the insurance company a fair number. We were happy to get this tremendous (and fair) verdict for our deserving client, which should be 100% paid by the insurance company. Most seasoned lawyers can properly document the file to demonstrate the insurance company’s unreasonable stance, thereby ensuring the verdict is paid by the insurance company and NOT the defendant/at-fault driver, even if the verdict exceeds the at-fault party’s insurance limits (in this case, $100,000).
Workers’ Comp Spotlight – Work Status Report / Light Duty Restrictions
Clients with restrictions from the workers’ compensation doctor frequently ask if they have to show up to work. The answer is probably yes, but it depends. For instance, if someone hurts their back and they have a restriction of no lifting or pushing over 10 pounds, if the employer has work within those restrictions, the employee must return to work. If the employer does not have work within those restrictions, then the injured worker can stay home and should be paid by workers’ comp.
Oftentimes, the employer will find work that honors the restrictions but the work may be something different than the employee’s regular job duty. We previously had a bus driver who had to sit at a Metrolink station and count the number of people who came through the turnstile. It was mind-numbingly tedious but, technically, the employer accommodated her restrictions and was within their rights under the law.
It is imperative to communicate any work restrictions to the employer and (if the injured person has representation) to their attorney after a doctor’s visit. Sometimes, employers push the boundaries and consistently ask (or threaten) an injured employee to do more than their restrictions permit. This can be dangerous because the whole point of the restrictions is to NOT further injure the employee. When this happens, we usually have the injured person tell their employer, in writing, something like the following:
“I spoke to my attorney and confirmed my work restrictions state no lifting, pushing or pulling over 5 pounds, however, the current task requires that I lift and push over my restrictions. This is outside of my work restrictions from the doctor and it is causing me pain. I ask that you do not offer this type of work outside my restrictions. However, if I am forced to work outside my restrictions, unfortunately I am unable to do so and will seek all available remedies under the law.”
This will typically get employers who try to skirt the law back in line because there is now a written account of their attempts to do something improper. If you or someone you know has an injury on the job, reach out to us for more advice.
Just for Fun: Thanksgiving
Hopefully all of you enjoyed the recent Thanksgiving holiday! Sarah and Paul each hosted family at home in St. Louis, while Brittany and Tarun spent the holiday in Chicago with their families. Even though it is usually brutally cold in the windy city in November, Tarun’s favorite thing is shopping Michigan Avenue when all the storefronts are decorated for the holidays. The city really goes all out out and it gets everyone in the holiday spirit. This year, rather than going downtown to The Daley Center, he attended the Christkindlmarket in Wrigleyville. In addition to the ice skating and holiday themed selfie stations, they still had plenty of German ornaments, Parisian patisseries and stinky Raclette cheese stalls to enjoy. They even opened up part of Wrigley Field for visitors to roam.
From time to time, clients call and ask which type of cases we handle. Our practice is built on referrals from satisfied clients. We know that if we work hard and do a good job for our clients, they will tell their friends about us. The best compliment from a former client is that client entrusting us with the potential case of their friend or family. Our office specializes in the following cases:
Personal Injury (auto collisions, trucking, motorcycle, slip and fall)
Traffic tickets and DUI/DWI
If you know someone that meets these criteria, please have them call our office. If someone does not quite fit the above criteria, please still have the prospective referral give us a call as we can usually help the person find the right attorney via a referral.
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