On a cold January evening in Monroe County, our client had come to a complete stop in traffic on the interstate when a high-speed tractor-trailer failed to slow down behind him. The speeding driver lost control and slammed into the rear of our client's truck. He attempted to brace himself, having noticed the truck approaching as he waited for traffic to resume moving, but the force still caused his head to rapidly accelerate and decelerate, badly injuring his cervical spine. He had been a truck driver for nearly 20 years and was a tough individual.
Once the police arrived, all parties assisted with the accident report. It was noteworthy that a semi-trailer in the next lane was able to stop without difficulty, as were all the vehicles ahead of our client.
Our client was shaken and in pain, yet continued his drive home. He hoped his symptoms would fade with time, but when they didn’t, he filed a medical case, beginning his multi-year long struggle of doctors, surgery, inability to work, and never-ending pain in the neck, head, shoulder and back.
The first claim was brought through worker’s compensation, since the accident happened during the course of employment, and the carrier grudgingly paid nearly $400,000 in medical expense, lost wages, and other amounts over four years.
Our client tried returning to work on multiple occasions. He managed to cope for months at a time through the use of numbing injections and other treatment from his physicians. It eventually became clear that the rough ride of the trucking life wouldn’t be possible with the severe neck pain and headaches he continued to suffer. He finally had a two-level fusion in his cervical spine in 2011.
He contacted and consulted with Hupy and Abraham. Our attorney retained an accident reconstructionist and biomechanical engineer to provide the needed testimony showing that the impact was sufficient to cause the neck injury and keep our client from continuing his work. In addition, his pain management physician testified that none of his intermittent neck pains prior to the accident (1998, 2004, and 2008) were at all similar to his post-accident symptoms.
Prior to filing suit, there were no offers of settlement, but at mediation, the insurance company for the truck driver offered to settle for $75,000. Eventually, our attorney obtained an offer of $300,000. In addition, the worker's compensation carrier, whose lien for the $400,000 paid out is required to be paid back per statute, nonetheless agreed to take a mere $100,000 to settle its lien.
A good attorney knows that simply dealing with the insurance company for the responsible party is not enough; in Wisconsin, any party who pays for medical care for the injured client is entitled to obtain back all amounts that they paid. This is especially true of workers' compensation insurers, who have a statutory right to repayment before nearly any other party. The ability to negotiate down the workers' compensation lien of nearly $400,000 to $100,000 was just as important as obtaining the $300,000 offer from the defendant's insurance company. Attorneys at Hupy and Abraham know how to be prepared for negotiating with the defendant and your medical insurance company.
Additionally, you should not work with a law firm that isn’t willing or able to make the significant financial outlay necessary to retain witnesses such as accident reconstructionists and biomechanical experts. It is important to note that not all cases require such experts; there are many cases that either do not lend themselves to the use of such experts or simply lack the data from the accident site necessary to utilize such experts. However, the ability to determine whether or not your case does require such expert analysis and the willingness to retain and pay those experts can be extremely important.