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Elderly couple rear-ended; surviving spouse settles for $5.35M

Elderly couple rear-ended; surviving spouse settles for $5.35M

Action: Motor vehicle negligence

Amount: $5.35 million

Injuries alleged: Wrongful death; injury to spine requiring surgery

Case name: Withheld

Court/case no.: Withheld

Jury and/or judge: N/A (settled)

Date of settlement: October 2022

Special damages: Approximately $150,000 in medical expenses, including permanent impairment to spine of one plaintiff and wrongful death of another

Most helpful experts: Steve Farlow, accident reconstruction analysis; Dr. Patrick O’Brien, WakeMed Physiatry and Rehabilitation

Attorneys for plaintiffs: Hunt Willis and Forest Horne, of Martin & Jones, Raleigh

Attorney(s) for defense: Withheld

Were liability and/or damages contested: Yes

Has judgment been successfully collected: Yes

An elderly couple was traveling on a rural North Carolina highway when they stopped for traffic in front of them. As they waited for the traffic in front of them to clear, a commercial van operated by an employee of the owner failed to see or slow for the traffic in front of him and rear-ended the couple at full highway speed of approximately 65 mph. The initial impact then sent the plaintiffs’ vehicle into the stopped vehicle to their front, causing a second violent impact.

Both plaintiffs were hospitalized. The husband would spend about 20 days in the hospital due to a spinal injury that required surgery to place a stabilization rod, but he otherwise made a miraculous recovery when his treatment was completed. The spouse, who was the front-seat passenger, succumbed to her injuries in the hospital approximately eight days after the crash.

Damages were significantly contested due to the old age and health of both plaintiffs. One plaintiff had recently beat a near-terminal cancer diagnosis, and there were significant pre-existing conditions asserted by the defense. Because of the damages elements of a wrongful death case in North Carolina, there were no economic loss damages as both plaintiffs were long since retired, so the damages largely consisted of the loss of a mother to three adult children.

The case settled on the first day of trial pursuant to a confidentiality agreement keeping the names of the parties, defense counsel and jurisdiction confidential.

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