Jury Awards Auto Accident Victim ($267,500)

A woman was awarded a $267,500.00 jury verdict after suffering soft tissue injuries to her neck, shoulders, and upper back that were the result of acute strain and sprain of muscles following an automobile accident.

The Case

A woman was awarded a $267,500.00 jury verdict after suffering soft tissue injuries to her neck, shoulders, and upper back that were the result of acute strain and sprain of muscles following an automobile accident.

In-Depth Look

Many people suffer injuries that cannot be detected through traditional means, including X-rays, CT scans or MRI’s; this does not mean the injuries do not exist. These injuries can cause chronic and sometimes debilitating pain. Many attorneys are led to believe that soft tissue injuries are not worth prosecuting due to low medical expenditures (surgery is typically not required), vague or transitional limitations, and the inability to point to an X-ray or other concrete evidence to prove injury.

Soft tissue injuries are very real injuries.

She suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, shoulders and upper back that were the result of acute strain and sprain of muscles. Her condition, associated with chronic pain, could only be relieved through long-term therapy and medication for pain management. By trial in April 2007, she had exhausted all avenues of viable treatment alternatives.

Unwilling to forego the life she had planned with her husband before the accident, and determined to rise above her physical limitations, she pushed through the pain and later returned to school as planned, earning her teaching degree. Her accomplishment in the face of painful adversity brought criticism by attorneys for the insurance company, citing it as proof of a life uninterrupted by injury.

The driver who ran the red light never denied responsibility for the accident, but lawyers for the Defendant, State Farm Insurance, continued to dismiss her injuries. Without clear evidence from an X-ray, which is impossible with soft tissue damage, and a limited out of pocket expense of $9,000 for outpatient pain management, the Defendant argued that the Plaintiff was not entitled to receive any monetary judgment, requesting an award of zero.

Over the course of three years prior to trial, Chicago car accident lawyers of Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Ltd, tried to negotiate with the insurance company for the policy limits of $50,000, or a sum reasonable to their client’s needs, but the insurance company refused and/or ignored all negotiation attempts.

“The insurance carrier was betting that we would sell the case short, and be beaten down to accept an amount under $50,000, rather than spend the money it takes to go to a jury trial. However, our firm tries more cases before a jury than most law firms,“ claimed the Horwitz attorney. “It’s a lot more work, but that’s why I got into this profession in the first place.”

During the years following the accident, the Plaintiff discontinued the use of pain medication for extended periods of time, initially because she underwent surgery for possible kidney cancer in which a kidney was removed. Pain medication was deemed detrimental to her care and the surgical procedure. Following her physician’s recommendation, she endured without pain medication. She later became pregnant and discontinued her pain medication through term. The insurance company pointed to these two extended time periods as evidence that she was, in fact, able to live without pain medication by choice. Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates’ attorneys convinced the jury otherwise.

According to the Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates’ attorney for the woman, “Pain medication posed a significant risk to our client’s unborn child, so there was no alternative but to forego it during her pregnancy. The medication also posed a significant risk to her personal health during the crisis surrounding her kidney disease and subsequent surgery for kidney removal, thus forcing her to endure enormous levels of pain without adequate relief. “Neither incident,” the Horwitz attorney added, “should be considered a casual choice by our client not to medicate for pain, but rather a testament to this young woman’s will despite the incredible difficulty and prolonged suffering.”

The attorneys for State Farm Insurance also argued that the Plaintiff had declined more aggressive, alternative therapies, such as surgery, and often did not see her physician for extended periods of time. “Patients have the right to discuss aggressive, alternative treatment options with their physician, weigh the risks and disability/recovery time involved, and determine the treatment plan they’re most comfortable with.” Says the Horwitz attorney. “They’re under no obligation to pursue all options, including surgery, to appease an insurance company when the risk factors are great, and for which a successful outcome cannot be guaranteed. In consultation with her physician, our client determined that the possible benefit of such options (however impossible to predict) did not outweigh the risk and/or rehabilitation requirement. Her current treatment does not require frequent office visits, nor are the frequency of such visits a measurement of her pain.”

Life today remains as it has been for five long years following the accident; a daily exercise in pain and challenge. Still, this case was not based on what their client could or couldn’t do, but more so the fact that whatever she does in the course of her life is done in the presence of pain. The Horwitz injury attorney explains, “Through no fault of her own, our client’s day begins and ends in pain without a prognosis of recovery as a direct result of the actions taken by the Defendant’s client. End of story.”

Speaking to their client’s ability to pursue a full life in spite of her pain, the Horwitz team cited John F. Kennedy, who became President despite years of chronic back pain that required heavy medication and long periods of bed rest. They also cited Helen Keller, regarded as the most famous advocate for life beyond disability.

What the attorneys for the insurance company failed to acknowledge was the vast expertise now available regarding soft tissue injuries and the specialty physicians whose medical practice is dedicated to pain management for such victims. The only expert witness during the trial was the Plaintiff’s treating physician; a Triple Board Certified physician of Chronic Pain Management.

“In addition to their arrogant display of contempt for our client’s enormous courage to make a better life for herself and her family despite incredible pain,” the Horwitz injury attorney explains, “the Defendant’s attorneys had ignored the vast amount of knowledge available today regarding soft tissue injuries and the field of pain management.”

Such arrogance, however, was not lost on the jury, nor was the testimony of the Plaintiff’s physician. The jury awarded the Plaintiff $267,500; a far cry from the $50,000 offered by the insurance company attorneys the day before trial began.

“There’s a great lesson to be learned here,” says Horwitz personal injury attorney representing the woman, “in that many people suffer from injuries that are difficult to define and even harder to treat from a pain management perspective. It does not mean, however, that injuries have not occurred, or that their right to seek a remedy through the courts are any less viable. Juries understand and are willing to acknowledge the presence of pain regardless of one’s level of disability, even if insurance company lawyers don’t. To her credit, our client faced her pain with courage and grit. The arrogance and unwillingness of the insurance company to acknowledge this played a very large role in the jury’s decision …and rightfully so. We’re grateful to the jury and pleased with their decision.”