- Richard L. Duquette
This summer a San Diego Jury returned a verdict for a bicyclist in the San Diego Superior Court after a 2 ½ day jury trial. The verdict was for $51,713.40. When the costs were added the verdict totaled $58,000.
The cyclist was forced to trial after AAA only offered $25,000 for his injuries. The cyclist was a 30-year-old researcher and single Dad. He was on a training ride near Genesee Ave. when a motorist made an abrupt right hand turn from a through lane across a bicycle lane and into a right turn lane. The motorist’s move was an afterthought to turn right at the intersection. The bicyclist was knocked off his bike onto the asphalt and bounced twice on his buttocks. He suffered a slight compression to the spine in his mid-back. Further, he had limited range in motion. His active cycling life style also slowed down.
His total loss medical bills were $1,713.40. Luckily he lost very little in wages, $200. The insurance company offered $25,000 saying it was no big deal. We countered at $35,000 to settle the case; however, the insurance company refused to pay more and to recognize his long-term injury and the interference with his life style. Consequently, we called a rheumatologist to explain the long-term effects on this 33 year old. They countered with an orthopedic surgeon arthritis hired gun expert, who repeatedly testifies for the defense and makes over $200,000 a year in litigation. Whereas, this is the first time in over 17 years that our expert has actually testified in court, he made a good witness and explained how the tissue was damaged. He demonstrated this by using a long spine and correlating it to an x-ray that I projected onto the courtroom big screen to show where the slight compression fracture was, that his own orthopedic doctor thought had fully healed.
Ultimately, the jury saw through the defense’s low-ball offer and more than doubled the award. Modernly, this raises an import issue regarding theinsurance propaganda that plaintiff injury suits are frivolous. Had it not been for this courageous jury, this injured victim would have been short changed 50% of his damages. By having the courage to go to trial and go before a jury, he was able to force the defendant, the motorist, on the eve of trial to accept full responsibility for her actions.
In conclusion, don’t accept, or be frightened back, by low-ball insurance company offers. In the long run, their attempt to save a few bucks cost them double, not to mention their attorney’s fees and expert witness costs. The insurance company’s stubbornness and frugality caused 12 jurors and a courtroom staff, funded by our valuable taxpayer’s dollars, to have to sit through their pretextual defenses. Luckily the jury saw through these tactics and came back with justice.