It was a difficult case that involved years of appeals, but the case was eventually affirmed.
In 2001, registered nurse, Yuko Yamamoto, was hit by a taxi cab and knocked to the ground. She sustained serious injuries to her neck. Oddly enough, when she filed her lawsuit attempting to recover damages for pain and suffering, a judge said no trial was needed to deal with liability issues because it was obvious the cab driver caused the accident and was therefore at fault.
Since the question of liability was not at issue, the only issue that went to a jury was what amount of damages should she be awarded? “In this instance, as in a great many cases where neck injuries are involved, the jury is not able to “see” the damages and this may often mean a lower settlement because it doesn’t “look” all that bad, indicated Daren Monroe, Litigation Funding Corporation, Southfield, Michigan.
Even with medical records that tracked her injuries and the significant pain that accompanies those injuries, a ride to the hospital in an ambulance, negative x-rays and her release home within a few hours, the jury struggled with an award. “There was proof of follow-up medical care, missed work, extensive chiropractic treatments, the results of a nerve conduction study, and an MRI that showed herniations and bulges at C3 through 7. There was pain and weakness, a 50% loss of extension and no surgery slated by the time of the trial,” outlined Monroe. However, none of this was observable at trial.
Unfortunately, many cases such as this get bounced out of the court room as judges feel the injuries detailed in the plaintiff’s lawsuit don’t meet what is referred to as the serious injury threshold required in car accidents in the state of New York, where this case was filed. Fortunately, even though the defendant asked to have the case dismissed, the judge on appeal held there was indeed enough evidence for a jury to come to the conclusion that the nurse’s injuries did meet the statutory standard.
“At this trial, the jury awarded $175,000 despite a request for $500,000 and despite the jury finding she had a significant limitation of her cervical spine and permanent limitation to the cervical spine. No money was awarded for future pain and suffering,” Monroe explained. On appeal the plaintiff offered evidence that she would need continuing chiropractic care and testing for an unspecified period of time at the cost of roughly $6,000 a year. The Appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision; the original verdict stood, providing nothing for future pain and suffering.
While this may seem like an unusual conclusion – awarding damages for future medical expenses but nothing for pain and suffering – the appellate judge said the jury could have come to the conclusion that offering money for regular chiropractic adjustments would alleviate the nurse’s future pain. Interesting statement, but one that does not make much sense. Future suffering and pain should, absolutely, have been included in the award.
While all of the back and forth, legal wrangling was going on, Ms. Yamamoto had to pay her usual bills, not to mention the out-of-pocket expenses of ongoing chiropractic treatment. Even though she was able to carry on with some of her duties, do some housework and play with her child, her range of motion was significantly limited. “One thing she could have considered was accessing litigation funding. And certainly that option may still be open to her should she consider appealing once again,” Monroe added.
“Contacting a lawsuit financial company with a good reputation and qualifying for funding would make her wait a lot easier. Lawsuit funding removes the pressure to settle early and inexpensively and allows the attorney the time he/she needs to get the litigant the fairest possible result,” said Daren Monroe, Litigation Funding Corporation, Southfield, Michigan.