A California Appeals Court Just Upheld a $1.8M Verdict for a man Hurt in a Low-Speed Rear-End Crash

A California Appeals Court Just Upheld a $1.8M Verdict for a man Hurt in a Low-Speed Rear-End Crash

In many forms of media, you’ll hear commentators mock what they call the “litigation lottery,” a/k/a the civil justice system. Many who decry injury verdicts often don’t have all the facts – or intentionally seek to avoid discussing all the facts. In reality, accidents that may not seem serious from an outsider’s perspective can still inflict life-altering damage. If you’ve been hurt in a low speed car accident, don’t let the at-fault driver or their insurance company trivialize your serious harm. Instead, seek out a knowledgeable Santa Barbara car accident lawyer who can help you develop the proof necessary to show just how significant your damages actually were.

rear end car crash

A rear-end crash case from the Santa Monica area – which recently went before a state Court of Appeal – makes a good illustration of this point.

The injured driver, G.W., was a man in his mid-60s in August 2015 when he was rear-ended in Los Angeles County. G.W. was stopped and the rear driver was going roughly 15 mph when his SUV crashed into G.W.’s Porsche.

No big deal, right? Wrong. This crash massively altered the man’s life, and not in a good way, according to his lawsuit.

In crashes like these, liable parties and/or their insurers often try to minimize their effects. Defendants may try to assert that the wreck could not have caused serious injuries and that any significant symptoms must be the result of pre-existing conditions. If you’re someone who’s been hurt in a crash, don’t fall into this trap. A proper and complete investigation of your case may reveal that the actual facts are much different than the picture the other side has tried to paint.

In G.W.’s case, he was an extremely active man. He worked 12-15 hours per day restoring cars, and spent much of his free time biking long distances or surfing – the latter as often as three times per day.

A ‘Different’ and ‘Broken’ Person After the Accident

After the accident, G.W. experienced headaches, stiffness, numbness, and pain in his neck and arms that got progressively worse over time. The numbness, stiffness, and pain limited his ability to do car restoration work. Biking was very painful if he rode for longer distances. Surfing was an impossibility.

The injured man’s case persuaded the jury, which awarded him $959,000 in past non-economic damages and $821,250 in future non-economic damages. (Non-economic damages in California include many things that can be somewhat challenging to quantify, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of enjoyment of life.)

The Court of Appeal upheld that award. The defense had argued that because G.W. could ride his bike after the collision and the injury to his neck did not require surgical intervention, the verdict was “excessive.” Also, given that the injured man “had no past or future medical expenses, was never hospitalized, and only self-treated his injuries with ice and aspirin, a verdict of $1,780,250 for a low- impact rear-end collision” was outside the bounds of what was reasonable under the law.

As the court noted, though, the jury heard evidence from G.W.’s legal team that the man endured “significant pain and discomfort… that persisted throughout the seven years before trial.” There also was evidence that the crash had ended his surfing hobby, significantly limited his biking, and greatly reduced his ability to do work he loved (car restoration.) Witnesses testified that he was a “broken spirit” and a “different person” after the wreck. The court concluded that, given that proof, a reasonable jury could decide as this one did.

Each auto accident is, to a certain degree, unique. Not all high-speed crashes cause significant injuries, and not all low-impact collisions are free of major harm. To ensure you obtain a truly just recovery, you need skilled counsel advocating for you. The diligent Santa Barbara car accident attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP have a wealth of experience pursuing – and getting – justice for people hurt in auto accidents. Contact us at 805-617-1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation today and find out how to put our knowledge and experience to work for you.


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