In September 2007, a Harnett County jury returned a verdict of $22,500 for the claimant, a female teacher in her early 20s, who had been injured in a North Carolina car accident as a result of the defendant driver’s negligence. The defendant violated a stop sign and pulled into the intersection and struck the claimant’s car in the side.
The teacher suffered injuries to her muscles, tendons and ligaments of her neck and back. Because there were no broken bones, insurance companies like to refer to these types of injuries as “soft tissue injuries."
The defendant driver was not present in court and instead was represented by his insurance company’s lawyer. At trial the insurance company lawyer admitted the obvious, that the collision was the fault of the defendant.
Nationwide Insurance Company who insured the careless defendant had offered $15,000 to settle, an amount just $3,076 above the teacher’s out-of-pocket expenses and losses. The amount demanded by the teacher’s lawyer was a mere 2.10 times the teacher’s out-of-pocket losses and expenses.
The next time you hear someone say, "You can always get at least three times your medical bills and expenses in a personal injury case," keep this case in mind. Although the jury’s verdict was far too low, it was better than a lot of verdicts in similar cases and consistent with verdicts usually obtained in these soft tissue injury cases.
Jurors today may be skeptical of any personal injury claimant. This skepticism, fanned in no small part by sophisticated insurance company propaganda machines, have resulted in verdicts far lower than would have been expected 15-20 years ago. Twenty years ago a similar case would likely have resulted in at least a $35,000 verdict.
After this unfortunate teacher pays her lawyer and her medical bills she will only have $3,280.99 to compensate her for what was undoubtedly a long and painful period of suffering. This is another case of justice denied to the innocent victim of motor vehicle carelessness.