Personal Injury: Bus Accident - 2.5 million dollar settlement

Type of Action- Personal Injury-Bus Accident Type of Injuries- Coma-Brain Damage

Name of Case- Tong, et al v. B.B. Bonner Construction, et al

Court/Case #- Not Applicable

Jury- Negotiated with insurance representatives (see below)

Special Damages- Medicals over $130,000.00

Damages Awarded or Settled- Settled

Amount- $2,500,000.00 ($ 1,000,000.00 cash plus structured settlement with present value $1.5 million), plus $130,000 paid for medical expenses.

Attorney for Plaintiff.- Kenneth I. Kolpan, Boston, Massachusetts

Insurance Carrier- Sentry

Highest Offer- S2,500,000.00

Other Useful Info.- On July 12, 1984, the plaintiff was a thirteen year-old passenger on a school bus traveling on an interstate highway when the defendant's vehicle, traveling in the opposite direction, veered across the center line without any apparent reason and smashed into the school bus. Plaintiff was thrown out of the bus and landed on his head, sustaining an intracranial hemorrhage, an open compound fracture of the left femur with displacement and multiple facial lacerations. Plaintiff remained in coma for ten days. The defendant driver was killed.

Pre-trial investigation revealed that the defendant driver apparently lost control of his gravel truck for no readily observable reason. No defect on his truck was found. Autopsy showed no medical reason for defendant's carelessness. Liability against the defendant driver was premised on the reconstruction expert's opinion that the accident was due to the defendant's driver's inattention. Liability against the driver's employer was pursued on a respondent superior theory and on a direct basis for its alleged violations of twenty federal regulations including inadequate investigation of driver's history and poor maintenance of its vehicle

Settlement negotiations were initiated with the employer's liability carrier. Settlement package included extensive use of videotape produced by Video Resources, 44 School Street, Boston. Plaintiff's counsel obtained news station tapes of the accident and rescue (by helicopter airlift), color photographs of the patient in the hospital and family album pictures. Tapes of plaintiff's therapy sessions were also included. Plaintiff's counsel hired a local t.v. personality to narrate the settlement video.

Despite the plaintiff's severe injuries, seven months of hospitalization and over one year of out patient rehabilitation, plaintiff returned to school nine months after the accident and functioned at grade level. Plaintiff's counsel retained a neuropsychologist, Dr. James Mack, Department of Neurology, 2074 Abington Road, Cleveland, Ohio, who performed extensive neuropsychological testing on the plaintiff. The tests demonstrated that the plaintiff had incurred substantial brain injury resulting in cognitive, attentive, organizational and memory impairments. Plaintiff's present level of functioning, albeit normal, is three to four grades below his pre-accident capabilities when Dr. Mack's testing is compared with plaintiff's pre-accident educational records (including national standardized tests).

Plaintiff's vocational expert, J. Edward Conners, Ed. D., 16 Country Way, Needham, MA, opined that the plaintiff had a pre-morbid vocational potential as a high-level professional and now was functioning closer to the job level of an assembler earning $3.00 to $8.00 per hour. His vocational choices were further limited because plaintiff also had residual left-sided hemiplegia as a result of the brain damage and the potential for seizures.

Plaintiff's counsel entered into two days of in-person negotiation with insurance representatives. An essential part of the negotiations involved Richard Siegel of Applied Economics, 126 State Street, Boston, who assisted in designing and analyzing structured settlement offers during the two days of negotiation.

Settlement was reached at the end of the two-day meeting as follows:

Cash: $1,000.00

Lump sum payments:

1990: $125,000.00

1995: $175,000.00

2000: $225,000.00

2005: $375,000.00

2010: $425,000.00

Monthly payments: $5500 per month starting in 1992 with 3% annual increase.

30-Year Guaranteed Payouts: $5,694,975.00 Total Possible Payouts if plaintiff lives normal life expectancy: $12,216,622.00.

Published with permission of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.