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Passenger settles denied-liability wreck claim for $400,000

Passenger settles denied-liability wreck claim for $400,000

Plaintiff was a 17-year-old high school student riding as a passenger with a fellow student on the way home from school. The plaintiff was injured when her friend pulled from a stop sign into the path of an oncoming logging truck.

The driver of plaintiff’s vehicle was fatally injured in the collision, and the plaintiff was knocked unconscious. After being extracted from the vehicle, the plaintiff was transported to Carolinas Medical Center, where she remained in ICU for three weeks recovering from her injuries.

The liability insurance carrier for the driver of the plaintiff’s vehicle tendered liability limits of $100,000. However, the insurance carrier for the logging truck denied negligence based on the truck driver’s contention that the driver of the plaintiff’s vehicle ran a stop sign and was the sole proximate cause of the collision. The insurance company failed to make any offers, prompting the plaintiff to file suit.

The plaintiff’s theories of liability included assertions that the logging truck driver was exceeding a safe speed, exceeding the posted speed limit and failed to maintain a reasonable lookout and control.

The plaintiff had a less-than-clear recollection of the moments leading up to the collision due to trauma sustained in the collision. The driver of the logging truck asserted that the deceased driver’s conduct afforded him no time to avoid the accident. Plaintiff’s counsel relied upon scene measurements, scene and vehicle photographs and on accident-reconstruction expert testimony to establish the driver of the logging truck was speeding and could have taken evasive action to avoid the accident. The defendant hired his own expert who offered contrary testimony.

After a failed mediation, plaintiff’s counsel successfully defended the logging company’s summary-judgment motion leading to settlement on the eve of trial. The plaintiff accepted a total settlement of $400,000, which was structured and will produce a net payout, after legal fees and liens, in the amount of $498,000 over the next 38 years.


Settlement Report

Injuries alleged: C1/C2 fracture, traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage, ventilator-associated pneumonia and post-traumatic depression

Case name: Confidential

Case number: Confidential

Court: Union County

Verdict or settlement: Settlement

Date: March 2010

Amount: $400,000

Special damages: $194,572 (medical expenses)

Insurer: Confidential   

Plaintiff’s experts: Aaron Kiefer, accident reconstruction (Raleigh); and Maria Vargas, life-care plan/vocational (Charlotte)

Plaintiff’s attorney: I. Timothy Zarsadias & R. Michael Chandler, both of Hull & Chandler (Charlotte)

Editor’s note: The information in Lawyers Weekly’s verdicts and settlements reports was submitted by the counsel for the prevailing party and represents the attorney’s characterization of the case.

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