Drunk Driver Accident
Unfortunately, auto collisions caused by drunk drivers are all too common. And when they do occur, the injuries are usually much worse than from many other collisions. The other types of collisions include minor impact cases in which there is a light bump between the cars that causes no or little injury. Drunk drivers are usually driving recklessly and at a greater rate of speed, so the impact is worse and the injuries are worse also.
I had a recent case involving a drunk driving incident that occurred on Main Street near the intersection with North Avenue. In this case, the drunk driver crossed over the yellow line while driving at a high rate of speed. My client tried to swerve out of the way but it was too late, and the drunk driver hit the driver’s side door and front end of my client’s car. The impact was so strong that it caused my client’s head to hit the driver’s side window even though he was wearing a seatbelt. Several witnesses told the investigating police officers that they had seen the vehicle traveling unreasonably fast and erratically.
My client sustained several injuries from this incident. First he had a left shoulder injury, for that part of his body had been slammed against the driver’s side door. The laws of physics dictate that your body will go into the direction from which the ramming force is coming from. In this case the force was coming from his driver’s side door. He went to the emergency room at Norwalk Hospital where x-rays and a CT scan were taken. These were all negative for a fracture. After a couple of days he still had pain. He followed up with a doctor.
He also received a strain to the cervical spine or his neck. The movement of his body into the car door caused the bones in his cervical spine to undertake a whipping motion. The whipping motion causes the muscles and ligaments in the cervical spine to also stretch and break. He had severe pain in his neck from this strain. His doctor diagnosed a soft tissue injury. Soft tissue injury usually refers to the ligaments and muscle that connects the bones in your body. When this tissue is stretched, it essentially breaks. The whole tissue does not necessarily break, but parts of it do break which causes pain. The doctor prescribed physical therapy for a period of approximately about three months.
This client had an additional injury however. His wife noticed a change in him after the collision. She noticed that he did not smile any more. She noticed he was more irritable. He noticed that it was harder for him to focus on his work. I was immediately concerned about the possibility of a traumatic brain injury. When a person’s head receives an impact, there is always the potential for a traumatic brain injury. Upon impact, the human brain can bounce back and forth between side walls of the skull causing bruising on the sides of the brain. Even football players wearing helmets can experience this kind of injury. My client also noted that he was having panic attacks while driving and nightmares.
I instructed my client to get a check up by a local psychologist. The psychologist examined my client and found that he had he didn’t have a brain injury, but that he did have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder is a typical injury that we see in auto collision cases. The treatment usually involves numerous visits with a therapist. My client found himself a good therapist within his provider network, and after numerous weeks of treatment he was able to deal with the psychological difficulties caused by this auto collision.
My client was obviously badly injured. My concern as his attorney is how to help him get the damages that he is truly entitled too. In this case I knew that we had the potential to an award of double or treble damages. Connecticut General Statutes allow a jury to award double or treble damages when someone violates certain statutes, and that act which violated the statute was a substantial cause of the victim’s injury. In this case the laws against driving while intoxicated were and the law against driving on the right side of the road were violated.
Double or treble damages are not automatic. The jury has sole discretion to decide whether to award double or treble damages. The jury may award the normal damages that it finds reasonable, or it may award double those damages, or it may award triple those damages. There is no guarantee that a jury would award double or treble damages. However, I knew that the threat of letting a jury hear the particular facts of this case was something the insurance company would not want. Especially when it could result in double or treble damages.
I discussed this case with numerous fellow attorneys who also practice in the area of negligence law. The common recommendation among my fellow attorneys was that the most I could get this case to settle for was $45,000. This included the claim for treble damages. I knew I could get more. I knew that this collision was one that the insurance companies would not want to go to court on. They would never want a jury to hear the stories of witnesses of how their insured was driving unreasonably fast, was driving on the wrong side of the road and driving while intoxicated.
I engaged the insurance company in negotiations. At first they tried to get me to settle for a much smaller amount than I thought was appropriate. I refused their initial offers. Eventually, they came back with an offer of $60,000. My client was ecstatic. He accepted that offer. Frankly, I believe I could have made the insurance company offer more money if we had taken the case to court. We could even have won more if we had gone as far as having a jury trial. I advised my client of this, however, he was happy to take the offer of $60,000.