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Worker Injured in Auto Accident Wins $1.2 Million

Case name: Confidential
Number: 05 CVS 180
Court: Carteret County
Verdict/settlement: Arbitration panel
Arbitrators: Marshall Gallop, Joe Edwards and Chuck Simpson
Amount: $1.2 million
Special damages: $154,780
Past lost wages: $87,760
Future lost wages: $709,200 (as computed by economist)
Date obtained: March 13, 2007
Demand: $1 million UIM coverage and $100,000 liability coverage
Offer: None
Plaintiff’s attorney: Robert E. Whitley of Whitley Law Firm (Kinston)
Plaintiff’s experts: Dr. Ed Cooper, IME; Gary Albrecht, economist; Dixon Pearsall, vocational
Submitted by: Alicia Delamere

Description: This matter was brought before a panel pursuant to the binding arbitration provision of the underinsurance policy. The panel awarded the plaintiff $1.2 million (medical bills, past lost wages, future lost wages) for injuries suffered from a motor vehicle accident in which the plaintiff sustained injuries to the knee, arm and pelvic areas.

The plaintiff settled a worker’s compensation claim prior to the arbitration of the third-party claim.
The plaintiff was operating a commercial vehicle when the defendant crossed the center line and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle head-on, the plaintiff said. Timely investigation resulted in accident scene photographs being taken and the recording of eyewitness accounts.

The plaintiff was age 42 at the time of the accident. He had worked as a laborer throughout his life and for 19 years had been a roofer for a major construction company in Carteret County. He was the superintendent of all roofing projects for the company, earning $19 per hour and supporting a wife and one child when the accident occurred.

At the arbitration hearing, the main issue was whether the plaintiff was totally and permanently disabled from gainful employment. The plaintiff’s work ethic and determination was a central theme in the presentation of the case. The plaintiff’s employer and family testified that the plaintiff returned to his job more than a year after the accident, and he was unable to perform the tasks that the job required and which he had been previously able to perform.

A vocational expert testified that, at the time of the hearing, the plaintiff was unemployable. However, through proper vocational rehabilitation, he could return to work at a job that paid much less than he was earning at the time of the accident.

The defense relied upon a physical capacity exam conducted by a rehabilitation service on behalf of the workers’ compensation carrier. The test showed the plaintiff could return to medium work. The plaintiff testified he took two Percocets before the exam, and he was determined to do whatever it took to get his job back.