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Woman gets $575,000 Settlement for Injuries in Pre-Dawn Wreck

Type of action: Motor vehicle accident
Injuries alleged: Broken left femur, left wrist fracture, bruising to breast
Case name: Withheld
Case number: Withheld
Court: Withheld
Tried before judge or jury: Mediation
Name of mediator: Marshall A. Gallop, Jr.
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Settlement date: June 8, 2007
Amount: $575,000
Experts: Not applicable
Plaintiff’s attorneys: Robert E. Whitley and Benjamin Whitley of Whitley Law Firm
Submitted by: Alicia Delamere

Description: In the early morning before dawn, plaintiff, 69, was driving her vehicle on a country road in Columbus County near Whiteville. Plaintiff was operating her vehicle on N.C. 214, a two-lane road with 13 feet of shoulders on either side of the road. The speed limit was 55 mph at the place of the accident.

As plaintiff drove, she saw headlights to her left in the oncoming lane, and it even appeared that the vehicle was on the opposite shoulder of the road with its lights directed toward her. Plaintiff slowed her vehicle, but as she approached, she said, the other vehicle, a bobtail tractor (without its trailer) pulled into her lane, headed basically perpendicular to her direction of travel. The operator of the tractor testified at his deposition that he was attempting to do a U-turn when the collision occurred.

Plaintiff sustained a broken left femur, a left wrist fracture and bruising to her breast. Her total medical expenses were $192,346.32, and her total lost wages were $1,366.40. No permanent impairment rating was rendered by her treating physicians.

A lawsuit was filed against the truck driver and the trucking company that employed him. The defendants pleaded, among other things, contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. Plaintiff was hospitalized at Southeastern Regional Hospital for five days and then was transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation and recovery.

Plaintiff subsequently underwent two knee replacement surgeries. Of her total medical expenses of $192,346.32, approximately $35,000 was attributed to her knee replacement surgeries. Plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon, although not deposed, had informed plaintiff’s counsel that while the injuries from the wreck contributed to the necessity for these surgeries, the plaintiff had significant degenerative changes in both knees and, in his opinion, would have to have undergone a knee replacement in the not-too-distant future. He further stated that it was the bed rest, and not necessarily the trauma from the wreck, that accelerated the need for the knee replacement.

Plaintiff is a widow. She lived alone and was the sole operator of a sandwich shop on Highway 214 between Hallsboro and Lake Waccamaw. Plaintiff was quite a proprietor in that she was the cook, waitress, and busboy, and pretty much managed the restaurant herself and had done so for more than 20 years.

Several months prior to the trial, mediation was held, and the defendant made a final offer of $450,000. After mediation and before the trial date, there were informal discussions between the parties’ counsel, and the parties agreed to settle the claim for $575,000.

Extensive investigation and photography were done to help support plaintiff’s claim. For example, aerial photographs clearly showed that the defendant truck driver could have traveled less than a mile from the site of the accident and safely turned around in a school parking lot.

The plaintiff was never able to return to her sandwich shop. Throughout the litigation, her main complaint was her inability to return to and manage her restaurant.