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.