Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson

August 2012 – Head On Collision

In 2010, a client from Saco was traveling east in Saco, Maine on a busy highway. The defendant passed two vehicles and struck our client head-on. Damage to our client's vehicle was extensive. The vehicle was a total loss. The investigating officer of the Saco Police department determined that a contributing factor in the accident was the defendant's illegal passing.

Our client immediately went to her primary care provider and reported pain in the seatbelt region, her left arm, her left knee, as well as her lower back. She also reported a concern regarding a previous spinal fusion, since the back pain she experienced was in the same area where the fusion occurred. She experienced radiating pain to the hips. On examination, tenderness was noted over the lumbosacral joint and her lumbar flexion was characterized as decreased.

Our client returned for follow-up treatment two months later and reported limited improvement from the standpoint of her pain and decreased flexibility. An x-ray was performed to determine whether any damage to the spinal fusion occurred. X-ray results showed that the lumbar fusion was still intact. (X-rays, however, do not show damage to the ligaments, tendons, and muscles surrounding the area of the fusion.)

After several months of additional conservative treatment, our client again followed up with her primary care physician. She continued to report ongoing back pain, as well as continuing problems with left elbow and left knee pain. The doctor's records indicated that the ongoing left elbow and knee pain was likely due to inflammation.

Our client continued an aggressive strengthening and strengthening regimen which considerably improved her symptoms over time. However, it was ultimately determined that the pain would likely be permanent despite our client's best efforts to eliminate/reduce the pain and stiffness through a home exercise program.

This case presents a fairly classic set of facts that we encounter many, many times in our practice: significant damage to tendons, muscles, and ligaments due to sudden acceleration/deceleration that occurs when vehicles collide; fairly conservative treatment by medical professionals; pre-existing health problems that are worsened by the accident trauma; and permanent pain and stiffness that does not go away despite diligent efforts by our client to get better by following a home exercise program.

This case also presents a fairly typical example of the difficulties we initially encountered in settlement negotiations with the insurance company: an unsympathetic insurance adjuster who do not believe that the problems that the client experienced were due to the accident; who was not receptive to the severity of the injuries; and who was unwilling to include as part of any settlement our client's full lost income. In order to overcome these obstacles, we demonstrated to the insurance company that our client's back pain was not due to the prior spinal fusion injury by obtaining our client's pre-accident medical records which demonstrated that our client reported no back pain on previous physical examinations. We were also able to obtain a statement from our client's employer that demonstrated that our client's job involved substantial heavy lifting and repetitive motion work and, despite the nature of the job, our client did not report any difficulty doing the job or any aches and pains at the end of a busy day. The employer was also able to establish that our client's lost time from work was all due to the accident-related injuries and that the amount we were claiming for lost income was accurate. Through statements from family members, we were also able to demonstrate how much the pain and stiffness that our client experienced on a daily basis impacted her ability to perform normal daily activities around the home and precluded her from engaging in many of the activities she loved.

After extensive negotiations, we were able to successfully resolve this case. We also successfully reduced her liens and bills arising from the accident by several thousand dollars, all of which increased the amount she received from the settlement. Our client was very pleased with the overall outcome. In the survey she completed after the case, our client gave us the highest possible ratings for our communication with her, our responsiveness to her questions and concerns, and the overall quality of our services. In response to our question whether she would recommend our firm to others, she responded "Yes, definitely."