Case settled for $1,700,000
The long-term effects of a head injury sustained in a car crash are potentially complex and can be difficult to prove in a legal action. The complexity of the human brain and the way it heals (or does not heal) after an injury can have both long-term effects and delayed effects.
It is always important after a crash, therefore, to ensure doctors in the ER, or your personal physician, pay close attention to any harm to the brain. This is especially important if the injured person has lost consciousness, sustained a concussion, or sustained a fracture to the skull.
A Case in Point
This crash occurred in 1999 in Clarke County and resulted in what may be the largest personal injury settlement in the entire history of Clark County. It is a story about the long-term and delayed effects of a head injury.
A tractor-trailer driver failed to notice that the car ahead of him was slowing to make a left turn. When he did notice it, he attempted to stop. However it was too late to stop quickly. His effort to stop caused the truck to jackknife and to slide into the oncoming lane of traffic. As a result, the truck crashed into a car in the oncoming lane. The collision was almost head-on. The car was being driven by the father of a seven-year-old child who was riding in the front passenger seat.
Despite proper restraints, the little girl sustained a serious head injury, including a broken nose and significant facial bruising. The first person on the scene was a 25-year-old man. When approaching the car, he found the little girl hanging by her safety restraints. She was unconscious. The car was precariously positioned on the edge of a 10-foot deep ravine. The man carefully removed the little girl from the wreckage and placed her in a safe location. She was still unconscious at that time. She did not regain consciousness for five minutes. By this time, her father had been transported to a hospital. When she reached the hospital, she was not diagnosed with a concussion.
Aftermath of the Crash
The child returned to her first-grade class, where she continued to receive good grades. Family members, however, noted significant changes in her personality. The behavioral changes included short and unpredictable temper, anger, and isolating herself from others. These behaviors became progressively worse over time. As a result, she continued to withdraw from friends and family members, and she became unable to relate to other people. She also demonstrated cognitive and psychiatric issues.
The child was tested for brain damage and neurological problems. The tests showed a brain dysfunction and brain damage. She was able to earn good grades throughout her primary and secondary education. She was also accepted by a college with high standards for acceptance. However, she had been provided a 504 plan with accommodations for brain injury, major memory loss, and slow processing time.
The Legal Arguments
Attorneys for the truck driver acknowledged both that she had sustained a brain injury in the crash, and that her behavior was far from normal. They pointed to her ability to finish primary and secondary education and to be accepted by a good college in arguing that the brain injury had no long-term effects on the child. The neuropsychological expert retained by the truck driver’s attorneys also argued that her early medical records did not indicate any complaints, cognitive issues, or emotional problems.
Had the case reached the courtroom, the child’s attorneys would have called the man who extricated her from the wreckage of the crash. He had indicated to the attorneys how deeply the crash had affected him.
The case was settled in mediation, awarding $1,700,000 to the girl.
This case demonstrates several things: that brain injuries often have long-term effects, that brain injuries can affect cognition, memory, and behavior; that some of these injuries, although less observable at first, will become progressively worse over time; and that brain injuries can be missed by ER physicians, resulting in long-term ramifications.
If you or a loved one has sustained a head or brain injury, through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to a financial settlement to pay for medical expenses, damages, and future care. If you believe you have sustained such a head or brain injury, we encourage you to schedule an appointment and speak with one of our experienced attorneys. We will listen to your account, review medical records, and evaluate the viability of a legal action. We are here to help you to recover the maximum allowable and appropriate financial settlement under Virginia Law.