Around nine years ago, I was assigned a case on the eve of trial by a senior
attorney in a prior
personal injury firm. The attorney didn't want to try the case because "it was
a loser". I understood her position as there was literally no property
damage whatsoever to either car. Not even a scratch. As any
car wreck trial attorney knows, that often is death sentence with a jury. The insurance
company, Nationwide Insurance, only offered $500 and refused to offer
another penny. The insurance adjuster showed up a trial, because he wanted
to see me "go down in flames." The medical bills exceeded $20,000.
So, what was I supposed to do? We went to trial.
The plaintiff was a logger from Reidsville. He was in great shape before
the wreck. Not only did he have a physical job logging, but he was also
a weight lifter. So, the insurance company claimed that he blew out his
back lifting. The problem with that theory is that he never had any problems
before. He never missed work. He never complained. He never took medication.
His wife worked at Short Sugars BBQ place, and she was well known to be
a truthful person. Together, this husband and wife were very honest and
credible people, and they made outstanding witnesses.
The case was tried in Wentworth in the old courthouse as the new one in
Reidsville hadn't been built yet. The jury pool was from all over
including Eden, Madison and Mayodan and of course Reidsville. The juror
pool was very attentive and from the beginning it was obvious that they
took their job seriously. We put the husband and wife on the stand, and
they were great. They were brutally honest in that they understood why
they were in court as they wouldn't have believed someone could get
hurt that bad in a low impact collision. If it weren't themselves
going through it, they would have been uncertain too. I played a videotaped
trial deposition of the orthopedic surgeon and I brought the chiropractor
to testify live. Our case in chief went wonderfully.
Things didn't go so well during the defendant's case. They main
problem was that I had never met the defendant. The lead attorney handed
me the file the week before trial, and the defendant had never been deposed
She was absolutely beautiful. She was young, pretty and most importantly
nine months pregnant. When she approached the stand every juror was smiling
at her, and the defense attorney was smiling at me. He had just broke
out his Ace, and he knew it. She testified that the car wreck was just
a bump. She said she barely moved inside of her car as the collision was
only a few miles per hour. She testified to rolling forward at a stop
sign and bumping him. Then she testified to when she was due and give
a big smile to the jury. Outstanding work.
On cross, I couldn't do much with such a witness. I was thinking more
about how I was going to "cross" my lead attorney for setting
me up like this. In closing, I just laid it all out there. I explained
that in personal injury cases, the burden is a preponderence of the evidence.
This means that if the plaintiff was more likely than not hurt in the
wreck, then they are liable. I made a medical treatment calendar, prepared
some deposition summary exhibits and did my best. After five hours of
deliberations, the jury came back with a $29,000
verdict. My client, and I, were thrilled. The insurance adjuster was actually
gracious in defeat and said we put on a good trial. I have had other personal
injury cases in the Reidsville area since, but this was the first case.
Hopefully, our good fortune will continue up there. All I ever ask for
is a fair and open-minded jury. We got that in Rockingham County.
I am updating this post to add
10 Tips for handling personal injury cases. If you have a lawyer or not, this
information can help you with the basics of injury cases.