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Rear-End Collision: Closed-Head Injury - $150,000 Settlement

Injuries alleged: Closed head injury

Name of case: Withheld

Court/case #: Suffolk Superior Court (no. withheld)

Tried before judge or jury: N/A (mediation)

Mediator: Brian Jerome

Amount of settlement: $150,000

Date: Aug. 8, 1997

Highest offer: $150,000

Insurance carrier: Aetna Insurance Company

Attorney for plaintiff: Kenneth I. Kolpan, Boston

Attorney for defendant: Withheld

Other useful information:

In February 1993, the plaintiff's motor vehicle was rear-ended by the defendant's motor vehicle. The plaintiff had stopped her vehicle because traffic approaching the South Station tunnel had stopped. The plaintiff remembered seeing the defendant's vehicle in her rear view mirror and then felt an impact. She remembered her air bag opening, hitting her face and arm and her head hitting the rear-view mirror. The plaintiff was treated at the scene and taken to an emergency room where she was treated for facial abrasions and removal of glass from her eye. Neither the EMTs nor the emergency room staff noted any symptoms of head injury. During the next several weeks, the plaintiff was treated for neck pain and shoulder injuries.

Six weeks after the accident, the plaintiff's physical therapist noted that the plaintiff was less focused. The first recording by a physician of any symptoms consistent with a head injury was made eight weeks after the accident.

The plaintiff was a nurse in the cardiac step down unit of a local teaching hospital. She returned to work several months after the accident, but was placed in the emergency room setting because her position at the cardiac unit had been eliminated. The plaintiff had difficulty completing the emergency room orientation. When she told her supervisor of her earlier motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff was granted a medical leave of absence, effective 11 months after the accident. There was contradictory evidence from the plaintiff's fellow employees and supervisors about the plaintiff's pre-accident nursing employment. A co-employee testified that prior to the accident the plaintiff had been forgetting details.

After the plaintiff left her hospital employment, she was accepted at an Ivy League graduate school of nursing. At the time of the mediation, the plaintiff had completed her master's thesis and was about to receive her master's degree in nursing. Additionally, the plaintiff, while attending graduate school, continued to work as a night nurse at a nearby nursing home.

The plaintiff's treating physician and neuropsychologist were prepared to testify that the plaintiff has permanent cognitive difficulties requiring life-long treatment with Ritalin.

The defendants' expert testified at his depositions that the plaintiff did not sustain a head injury; the head injury symptoms were only self-reported; the neuropsychological testing was invalid; the plaintiff did not lose consciousness; there was no organic damage as the result of the claimed head injury; any research indicating organic damage from the minor head injury was faulty; and the plaintiff's symptoms were likely psychological.

The defendants retained another doctor as a consulting, non-testifying expert who reviewed the plaintiff's neuropsychological raw data from her treating neuropsychologist.

After a full day mediation, the case settled shortly before trial for $150,000.

Published with permission of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.