Disputed Brain Injury & PTSD Victim Gets $600,000

Note: The recoveries in these cases are not necessarily indicative of recoveries in similar cases in the future, since each case must be decided on its own facts and circumstances.

Craig Davis and Bill Kilduff recently represented a woman who experienced a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among other medical issues, due to a highway collision in Northern Virginia.

The plaintiff’s vehicle had been struck on an off-ramp for I-95 after the defendant had veered sharply to the right, across three lanes of traffic on I-495. The collision resulted in several impacts between the vehicles before the plaintiff struck a concrete retaining wall. Although initial EMT and ER records indicated there had been no head or facial trauma, photographs taken the following day revealed facial swelling and abrasions, which were also recorded in the first follow-up visit with the plaintiff’s primary care doctor. Following reports of panic attacks, nightmares, crying spells, flashbacks, and smelling gas fumes and burning tires, our client was diagnosed with PTSD. Based upon reports of headaches, memory loss and word finding difficulties within a month after the accident, she underwent neuropsychological testing and was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury in addition to PTSD. She also was under the care of an orthopaedic surgeon for her knee and spinal complaints, and received counseling and neurorehabilitation therapy for her brain injury and PTSD for approximately a year. After relocating to Maryland, our client received additional care from a neurologist, a chiropractor and a neuropsychologist who performed follow-up neuropsychological testing.

A noted expert on the combined effects of MTBI and PTSD was retained as a medical expert on the plaintiff’s behalf. This physician produced medical literature and research supporting his opinion that our client’s brain injury made her PTSD worse and more difficult to treat, and visa versa. He also worked with a visual artist to develop medical illustrations and other demonstrative evidence.

All elements of the case were contested. Liability was disputed because the defendant claimed that a “mystery vehicle” had swerved into her lane. Physicians hired by the defendant’s insurance company said our client did not sustain a brain injury, claimed her symptoms were exaggerated and suggested that she was malingering. The defense attorney attempted to exclude loss of earning capacity evidence because our client had not finished her Masters in Public Health degree from VCU and had no pre-accident experience as a policy analyst. The severity of our client’s brain injury was also contested because of our client’s ability after the accident to complete work for the degree, graduate with a 4.0 average and be selected as her class’s graduation speaker. Likewise, she made no effort to secure employment or obtain treatment recommended for her brain injury in the two years prior to trial. In that time she also became engaged, was married, moved to Maryland and gave birth to her first child.

The insurance carrier withdrew from a scheduled mediation and made only a minimal settlement offer of $60,000. Only minimal negotiations occurred thereafter until the night before trial, when the settlement offer was increased to $600,000.

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