The date of this crash was in February 2014. At the time, my client was employed as a sales representative.
How the Accident Happened
She was driving a car near Orlando, in Orange County, Florida. She lives in Margate, Florida.
Another driver crashed into the back of our client’s car. The diagram of the accident, from the actual crash report, is below:
My client was driving her car. She was stopped in traffic. The car behind her failed to stop.
The front of the Jeep collided with my client’s car. A picture of my client’s car is at the top of this page. The picture shows the damage to the rear of her car.
As you can see, it was a hard impact. It resulted in $7,232.94 of property damage. She claimed that her knee hit the dashboard.
Careless Driver Says Her Brakes Didn’t Work
The driver who caused the crash told the Florida State Trooper that her brakes didn’t work. She told him that she applied the brakes and they did not slow her Jeep.
She told the officer that she pumped the brakes and they still didn’t slow her vehicle. The office checked the master cylinder, which showed a max level of brake fluid.
The trooper also pushed on the brake fluid and brake pedal. The brake pedal felt firm and had good pressure.
Trooper Lists Her Injury as “None”
She wasn’t transported to the hospital
An ambulance did not take her to the hospital. Paramedics advised her to seek medical care as soon as she could.
She waited 4 days to get medical treatment
She did not have x-rays of her knee at that time. Fourteen days after that visit, she had a follow up evaluation due to constant pain since the crash.
She was diagnosed with sprain of her cervical (neck) area, knee, ankle, hip, and shoulder pain, as a result of the collision.
The next day, she had x-rays of her knee and shoulder. Three days later, she went to the doctor.
He noted that she had pain when testing her range of motion (how far her knee could move).
Her doctor referred her to an orthopedic evaluation, which she had five days later.
Doctor Says She has Possible Torn Meniscus
The orthopedic doctor, Dr. Gupta, examined her. He noted that she had knee pain, chondromalacia, indicative of a possible torn medial meniscus.
She was also diagnosed with acute lumbar strain. He recommended therapy to the affected areas, including the use of a TENS unit.
Dr. Gupta also ordered an MRI of her knee to see if she had a tear. She had the MRI. Three weeks later, she returned for her follow up evaluation and review of her MRI.
MRI shows tear of meniscus
Her MRI showed that she had a tear of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus with knee joint effusion and signs of chondromalacia patellae. We sent the MRI report and bill to the USAA.
USAA was the bodily injury (BI) liability insurer for the careless driver. Dr. Gupta indicated that Maria* had been dealing with multiple issues since the collision, but her right knee and back were her main complaints.
He examined her spine for muscle spasms and tenderness to palpation. Dr. Gupta noted that the pain in her spine had “been getting worse since its onset,” that is, since the date of the incident.
Knee Pain is 4 to 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Her knee pain was rated as a 4-6 on a scale from 1-10, with symptoms worsening with increased activity and worse when using stairs. Tenderness was present at the medial joint line (posterior third and mid third).
Compartment testing showed positive findings. Dr. Gupta recommended arthroscopic knee surgery or steroids injections. Maria told her doctor she wanted to take time to carefully think about her options.
She doesn’t want surgery
She considered the risks of surgery, the expense and the time she would have to take off work (for surgery and the necessary therapy). She initially decided to try to manage her pain at home. However, her symptoms did not improve.
We sent Dr. Gupta’s medical records to USAA.
Her Doctor Can’t Say that Car Accident Caused her Meniscus Tear
I asked Maria’s doctor if he would write a short statement giving his opinion as to whether the crash caused her meniscus tear, but only if he believed that her meniscus tear was caused by the crash and is a permanent injury.
I spoke with Dr. Gupta’s staff, who said that Dr. Gupta could not say one way or the other whether the tear was caused by the crash. They said this because Dr. Gupta only saw her twice.
I do not know whether the doctor would have said that the car wreck aggravated a pre-existing condition.
Tip: In order to get compensation for your injury in Florida, the doctor needs to state that the crash caused or aggravated a pre-existing injury.
Maria waits over 5 months to see another orthopedic doctor
Given the severity of her symptoms, Maria decided to seek a second opinion. She sought care with Dr. Simon from National Orthopedics and Neurosurgery.
He noted that she had continued pain on her knee caused by the crash. Her level of pain was noted as a 7-8 on a
scale from 1-10.
She described the pain in her knee as intermittent, “dull and achy.” Intermittent means “comes and goes.”
The doctor examined her knee and noted that she had restricted range of motion and tenderness.
The exam of her spine showed that she had pain in her lumbar spine, which radiated into her right lower extremity laterally from the thigh to the knee.
Dr. Simon discussed with Maria different treatment options, including additional physical therapy, injections, and surgical intervention.
Risks of Surgery
The doctor discussed the risks of the surgery with her again, including “failure to relieve pain, loss of function, damage to nerves and vessels, deformity and scarring, possible infections, prolonged hospitalizations, etc.”
Dr. Simon explained that during surgery two or three incisions to the knee would be made and a camera would be inserted to allow him to correct abnormalities found.
He advised her that there may be some abnormalities he would not be able to correct and/or would have to be treated with another surgery.
Dr. Simon warned her that he could not determine how long she would be in crutches or out of work. Neither could he guarantee how much pain relief, if any, would be obtained from the surgery.
We sent Dr. Simon’s records to USAA with our demand letter.
Past Medical Bills
Maria’s total medical billed charges were $4,763.00. At the time of the crash, State Farm insured her car. They paid part of her medical bills. In Florida, your own car insurance usually pays most of your medical bills.
State Farm PIP paid her medical providers $1,571.03. According to Dr. Simon’s office, their bill was still pending payment from PIP.
Maria had health insurance since the date of the accident. In Florida, you are entitled to recover compensation for the amount that your health insurer pays medical providers. This is only true if your health insurer has a right of subrogation.
In almost every case, a health insurer has a right of subrogation.
Future Medical Treatment
I argued that Maria has a permanent injury because two surgeons, Dr. Gupta and Dr. Simon, recommended surgery.
Her life expectancy is approximately 32 years.
Pain, Suffering and Other Damages
Maria has suffered from ongoing pain, especially on her knee, since the other driver crashed into the back of her vehicle. She experiences discomfort when walking or climbing stairs.
She has trouble wearing heels, or working out. Her ability to enjoy outdoor activities and life in general has been affected due to this incident.
My client was worried about the risks of surgery, but feared the condition of her knee will continue to deteriorate without it.
She wanted to have the surgery, but to do so would mean taking time off from work and incurring additional out of pocket expenses.
She says that this event has not only affected her physically, but will also continue to affect her emotionally and financially.
USAA’s First Offer Was $15,000 for Her Injury Case
USAA offered $15,000. They then increased the offer to $17,000. We decreased our demand below $50,000.
USAA then offered $20,000.
We Settled for $30,000
Through negotiation, we later settled the case for $30,000. Most of the settlement was for her pain and suffering. Here is the settlement check.
This settlement is before deduction for attorney’s fees and costs. Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result.
*Not actual client’s name.
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