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Recent Example of a High Speed Collision Case We Handled - Example #1

Our client was operating her vehicle on Forest Avenue in Portland when a vehicle approached her rapidly from behind. The driver of the vehicle was apparently attempting to make a green light ahead and accelerated as he passed our client on the right. The light changed to red when the defendant driver was more than 100 feet from the intersection, but the defendant driver continued through the red light. Another vehicle entering the intersection from the right, had to veer sharply to avoid colliding with the defendant driver and came directly into the side of our client’s vehicle at a high rate of speed. Our client’s vehicle was totaled and the defendant driver sped away.

Although the driver who went through the red light was never located, we were able to utilize our client’s own insurance to provide our client with compensation. We were also able to establish that the driver who collided with our client’s vehicle was at least partly negligent for causing the accident due to excessive speed. The combined insurance coverage was fortunately sufficient to compensate our client for her injuries, lost income, etc.

One aspect of this case that was particularly challenging was establishing the extent to which our client’s pre-existing neck and back problems were worsened by the collision. Because the collision between the two vehicles was violent and caused extensive damage, there was no serious dispute that the force of the impact could have caused serious physical harm to our client. As in many cases we handle, our client had long-standing pre-existing degenerative problems in her spine due to a combination of wear-and-tear and prior injuries. As is also the case in many cases we handle, when a client has these prior injuries, almost always whiplash causes far greater harm than would ordinarily occur to a health spine. The reason for this is simple: the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support the spine were already in a deteriorated state and are less able to weather the force of the impact. One way of visualizing this is to think of a tree that has been damaged due to decay or lightening. When that tree is severely stressed in a storm, it is much less likely to be able to withstand the forces of the wind than a healthy tree, and because of the pre-existing weakness, is much more likely to break.

Another reason that harm from a high-speed accident is generally greater to someone with pre-existing degeneration of the spine is that those degenerative changes (e.g., bone spurs, herniated disc material) are far more likely to be damaged from violent forces being applied to the spine due to the relatively fragile nature of the disks and bone structure that make up the spine. Simply put, damages disks or arthritic bones cannot hold up the whiplash nearly as well as health disks and bones.

In this case, we were able to establish through the testimony of our client’s doctors, friends, and family, that our client was extremely functional and relatively pain free prior to the accident and that, after the accident, our client’s quality of life and ability to engage in activities of daily living (e.g., cleaning, yard work, etc.), were greatly diminished. Because x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans often do not reveal damage to the spine, regardless whether there were pre-existing spinal problems, and, in this case did not, the testimony of experts and lay persons proved critical to getting a successful resolution to this case.