Our 22-year-old client was driving on a local highway with other commuter traffic when a driver suddenly turned left in front of him and caused serious damages to the vehicles—which were totaled—and to our client, who was transported to the hospital after losing consciousness. He suffered several injuries, but the long-term injury was severe muscle and tendon pain in his mid-back as a result of the sudden acceleration and deceleration of the collision.
Prior to the suit, the opposing insurance company argued that orange construction barrels near the intersection where the crash occurred obstructed their driver's view and that our client was not as hurt as he claimed. They refused to admit responsibility despite their driver's pulling directly into the path of our client, who clearly had the right of way and no way of knowing that the defendant would suddenly pull in front of him as he traveled at highway speeds.
The other side offered less than the medical bills incurred by our client at about $20,000 and our attorneys in Madison counseled our client to refuse the offer and file suit, which he did.
During the suit, we dispelled the insurance company's claims after deposing both the defendant driver, who admitted that he could see the top of vehicles despite the construction barrels but was simply impatient to get where he was going and not paying close attention, and our client's physician, who testified that he had, in fact, suffered a permanent ligamentous injury.
At mediation, the insurance company again offered $20,000, which was immediately refused, and eventually paid a demanded settlement of $70,000.
This was an excellent result. However, our client was unfortunately not wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident and if he had, substantially more could have been demanded. Under Wisconsin law, an injured party's failure to wear a safety belt allows a reduction in any jury verdict of up to 15 percent. Most importantly, the physician testified that some of the head and neck injuries never would have occurred had he been wearing a seat belt.
This is a good lesson for drivers to wear their safety belts. Not only does failing to do so expose you to great physical harm, it will also potentially limit the damages you can recover if you are injured by another driver.