Crash Into a Light Pole (How a Lawyer Reaches Settlement in an Accident Case)
I recently reached a settlement in an accident case from 2016. The case bounced around the court system for several years.
My client is a truck driver. As he was driving along the highway, a driver coming from the opposite direction fell asleep and hit a light pole. The pole fell into the lanes of traffic where my client was driving, causing him and five other vehicles to crash into the pole.
His truck was totaled, meaning he could not operate his trucking business. He also experienced back pain.
Sounds like an easy case, right?
If it was, I wouldn’t be writing about it.
Prior Medical Treatment Sometimes Create Issues for Defense to Use
When I originally took the case, I too thought it was an easy one. Of course his back pain was related to the crash!
Things looked even more promising as his pain failed to resolve. He ultimately required a back surgery to remove the offending part of the damaged disc.
Typically, I do not obtain the client’s medical records until treatment is complete. So, in this case, I had no specifics on his medical condition, other than what my client related to me. Since things stretched out for so long, I filed the lawsuit before I knew exactly what was in the medical records.
And that is where things got interesting.
And the Medical Records Say…
My client had been seeing a chiropractor prior to the crash. That much, I knew. What I did not know until I finally obtained the records (once he had the surgery, I began obtaining them) was that his chiropractic records contained his comments to his doctor that he was actually feeling better after the crash. There were also some damning statements in his other medical records where the crash was not even mentioned!
This evidence appeared to be a defense attorney’s dream.
Seizing on these notes, the defense hired an expert to review the medical records and provide an opinion that the client’s injuries were unrelated to the crash.
And in a devastating deposition which I videotaped (just in case I could make him squirm, seem uncomfortable, or maybe even not kill my case), their hired gun doctor did just that.
Was the case over?
To quote one of my favorite movies, Animal House, “was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”
What Happened and How I Settled the Case
Things fell into place by happenstance.
The other attorney, who did not believe my client at all, retired shortly after that devastating deposition.
The next logical step would have been to take a deposition of the surgeon who operated on my client. Because of the turnover of defense attorneys, the deadline for the deposition came and went.
In the meantime, trying to confirm whether my client was out of luck or not, I called the surgeon to discuss what he would potentially say at trial. To my surprise, he told me unequivocally that he could not connect my client’s need for surgery to the crash. He was certain the client had a problematic back that likely would have required surgery anyway.
Why was that evidence helpful to me?
That information helped me, because now I knew what my client’s surgeon would say, and the other side did not.
At this point, I made a concerted effort to push the case toward a fast trial, bluffing my way to make the other side think I still believed in my case.
We obtained a trial date in January of 2020.
I struck up a rapport with my new opponent. We got along well. We talked about potentially settling the case. I hinted that my client’s surgeon would support the position that the surgery was at least partially caused by the crash, despite prior issues and in spite of their expert’s devastating testimony.
I also very pointedly accepted many aspects of the weakness of the case and agreed in part with his expert’s testimony.
By admitting to some obvious weaknesses, you can often gain respect for other aspects of the case.
We went back and forth for a while until he came up with a very fair initial offer. It appeared that they believed me and thought I could still prove at least in part that the surgery was the result of the crash.
We Have a Deal! (Settlement Reached.)
Finally, we agreed on a number. My client was ecstatic.
By taking advantage of the attorney turnover, building relationships, doing a bit of homework, and bluffing, I was able to get to a fair number that took care of my client’s medical bills and still left him with tens of thousands of dollars for his injuries.
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you’re injured in an accident, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.