By: Firm Founding and Managing Partner, William M. Berman, Esq.
Our firm recently had the privilege of trying a case here in San Diego Superior Court for a client who suffered serious personal injuries when she was involved in an automobile accident. The accident occurred at approximately 8:54 a.m. on Halloween morning, October 31, 2010. While sitting at a red-light as a restrained front seat passenger in a vehicle being driven by her husband which was also occupied by their then 2-yr-old son, our client’s vehicle was rear-ended at a high rate of speed.
Being 34.5 weeks pregnant at the time, our client was rushed to the hospital with complaints of severe abdominal pain. At the hospital, she was diagnosed by maternal fetal-medicine specialists as having suffered an abruption of her placenta, thereby placing the baby at risk. Within hours of the diagnosis, an emergency caesarian-section surgery was performed. The surgery was successful, however, our client’s new-born baby daughter had to stay in the NICU for 10 days so that her lungs could more fully develop.
Following the accident, our client, a former Officer with the U.S. Navy, developed bruising and pain in her lower-back and to her knees. These injuries required six-months of intensive physical therapy, but eventually resolved. More serious, however, she suffered a persistent urinary urge and frequency incontinence. Her medical physicians believed that during the forceful impact, damage had been caused to the nerves that control bladder-function.
Despite admitting liability for causing the accident to occur, the defense disputed our client’s claim that the accident caused the persistent urinary urge and frequency incontinence. At trial, defense counsel argued that the incontinence was not the result of the car accident but rather the result of strains placed upon her uterine floor due to her being a lifetime long-distance runner coupled with her carrying the weight of two pregnancies. Arguing that our client had, at most, suffered the need for an emergent caesarian-section surgery (which they reminded the jury was successful) and the need for six months of physical therapy (for what they called minor “soft-tissue” injuries), the defense suggested that the jury should award plaintiff total damages in an amount between $75,000 and $100,000.
After six days of trial where multiple medical experts were called to testify about our client’s injuries, the jury rendered a verdict in her favor in the amount of $1,018,000. The verdict was especially gratifying in that we sought no money for past incurred medical expenses and only asked for $25,000 for future medical expenses (so that our client could undergo the specific out-patient medical procedure that the medical expert testified she needed to resolve the incontinence). With no lost earnings claim, the bulk of the jury’s $1,018,000 award came in the form of non-economic “pain and suffering” damages ($993,000). The defense never saw it coming.
As trial lawyers, it is gratifying to achieve these kinds of results, and especially for such a great client. In addition to feeling an overwhelming sense of joy for our client, I feel it important to thank my entire staff, and in particular my associate and co-counsel Lukas I. Pick, who all worked tirelessly with me in trying this personal injury case against two very good defense attorneys. In a case where State Farm had rejected our client’s earlier demand of $200,000 to settle the case and avoid trial, we tried the case and obtained an outstanding verdict on her behalf. Three months following trial, our client received a check from State Farm to satisfy the Judgment, which together with prevailing party costs, CCP §998 costs, and legal interests totaled an amount of $1,197,400.76. In sum, State Farm paid nearly $1,000,000 more than the $200,000 demand that our client had offered to settle her case for six months earlier before trial. A truly exceptional woman, our client deserved the jury’s verdict and we are extremely happy that she obtained the justice that our legal system was established to provide.