Car crash -$361,000

Location: Arlington, Virginia
Injuries: Spinal Injuries
Verdict: $361,000

On August 19, 2019, the plaintiff, a 54-year-old equipment operator for a construction company, was a passenger in a coworker’s car. On the way to a job site, the defendant rammed into his vehicle while it was stopped at a traffic light.

Because of the nature of the plaintiff’s work, he refused medical treatment at the scene and worked a full day at the construction site. He reported to his primary care physician the next day, complaining of lower back pain.  After a course of physical therapy that did not relieve his symptoms, he consulted with Dr. Adam Crowl at OrthoVirginia. Dr. Crowl commenced a series of steroid injections. The injections provided some temporary relief, but the lower back pain and the tingling in his right leg always returned.

Eventually, Dr. Crowl informed the plaintiff that he would need a fusion of his lower back at L3-4 and L4-5.  The plaintiff and Dr. Crowl agreed to continue using the steroid injections as long as possible to delay the surgery. This was because of the nature of the plaintiff’s work, and the risk of adjacent segment disease—an issue that commonly arises in segments of the vertebrae next to the surgical fusion.

The plaintiff trusted Dr. Crowl, since he had performed a laminectomy in his lower back just 2.5 years before this car crash. The plaintiff’s back had been pain-free for those 2.5 years, up until the date of the collision.

The liability carrier (GEICO) offered their limits of $30,000, but State Farm, the underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) carrier, refused to offer anything, stating that the plaintiff “had been fully compensated by the liability carrier.”

The trial took place in Arlington Circuit Court.  The defense relied on Donald Hope, MD, to argue that the plaintiff suffered only a lumbar strain in the crash, which had resolved at the end of the physical therapy sessions. The defense also focused on the fact that the plaintiff had a 19-month gap in treatment, (which just happened to coincide with the onset of COVID-19).

Attorney Richard Armstrong attacked Dr. Hope for his relationship with State Farm, and the defense in general. Dr. Hope admitted that 90% of the time, he works for the defense. He regularly finds some fault with the treating doctors in these cases. We argued that this shows he consistently delivers for defense firms.

After deliberating for about 1.5 hours, the jury returned a verdict for $361,000 – over 10x the amount of money originally offered to resolve the case.