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Traumatic Brain Injury, Neck and Head Pain - $500,000 Settlement

Injuries alleged: Diffuse Axonal Injury, type of Traumatic Brain Injury
Tried before judge or jury (or mediation): Mediation
Special Damages: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); chronic headaches, a mood disorder; and sleep disturbance, neck and back pain.
Amount (specify award or settlement): $500,000.00.
Date (of verdict or settlement):
Highest Offer: $500,000.00

Attorney for plaintiff(s) and city of office:
Kenneth I. Kolpan
Law Office of Kenneth I. Kolpan, P.C.
100 Summer Street
Boston, Ma. 02110

Other useful information:

On October 3, 2008, plaintiff was driving to her home in the Berkshires when her SUV was struck by an oncoming van which crossed the center line when the defendant operator fell asleep. (Defendant was subsequently treated for narcolepsy.)  Upon impact, plaintiff’s car violently rotated and flipped over causing her head and neck to twist, rotate, accelerate and decelerate. 

As a result of the crash, plaintiff's vehicle skidded then rolled over. Plaintiff remained conscious but was described as being hysterical at the scene. Police assisted the plaintiff to the curb and she showed no visible signs of injury. Ambulance personnel noted that the plaintiff was a 15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). She was rushed to the local ER where she was diagnosed with trapezius strain and discharged home.

Four days later, plaintiff went to her primary care physician complaining of neck and back pain. Her PCP referred her to a chiropractor. Six months later, plaintiff was diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) and PTSD by her treating Neurologist, even though plaintiff's brain MRI was normal.  Brain injuries can occur despite normal x-rays, MRI’s, CT scans and EEG’s.  Some brain injuries are not demonstrated on radiographic diagnostic testing because they occur “below the radar screen”, that is, the test’s sensitivity level.  But such brain injuries can be devastating permanent and diffuse affecting different parts of the brain resulting in varied cognitive deficits, executive functioning problems and emotional disturbances.

Plaintiff's expert was prepared to testify that the plaintiff sustained a Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) to her brain, a brain injury occurring at the microscopic level where the brain cell connections (axons) are sheared and torn.   DAI can occur throughout the brain even without the skull impacting any part of the interior of the vehicle.  If the skull is impacted, the DAI can occur opposite the impact site.  The injury is known as a Coup Contre-Coup injury.  The expert was also going to testify that the collision caused the plaintiff to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); chronic headaches, a mood disorder; and sleep disturbance.

At time of incident, plaintiff was working as a 1:1 Assistant in a public school. Though she had not returned to her full time pre collision employment, she did start volunteer work in an effort to see if she could be employed in the foreseeable future.

As with many other brain injured clients, the plaintiff appeared well without obvious deficits.  However, with appropriate questioning and prodding, the plaintiff’s continuing deficits were readily apparent. 

Case was settled for $500,000 two days before Pre Trial Conference in Berkshire (Ma.)Superior Court.