Doesn’t Take Much to Get Decent Bucks for Aggravation (NY)
Oftentimes we see a plaintiff complaining that harm recently suffered caused exacerbation or aggravation of a prior existing, symptomatic or asymptomatic, condition. Questions relating to the impact of such claims on past and future pain and suffering are left to a jury to decide. Given the subjective nature of such damages, as accustomed, we look to precedent for guidance and enlightenment on what reasonable compensation is. From a Supreme Court, Suffolk County case, the exposure to insurers in such situations and the opinions of the defendants’ experts stand out.
In Iacono v. Martinez, the plaintiff was driving westbound on the Long Island Expressway. Due to police activity, she was forced to stop in the right lane. While she was stopped, the defendant struck the rear panel of her car. With no damage to the defendant’s vehicle and only a partial imprint of the defendant’s license plate on the plaintiff’s vehicle, both parties agreed that the collision produced only a mild impact.
At the scene of the accident, the plaintiff made no complaints of pain and did not seek any medical attention until thirteen days after the accident. The plaintiff claimed to have sustained a neck injury and that the instant accident aggravated a previously dormant condition necessitating cervical fusion surgery at the C5-6 level. The dormant condition related to cervical fusion at C6-7 level and disc herniation at the C5-6 level from a previous automobile accident.
The plaintiff contended she had not treated with any doctors for cervical pain relating to the prior accident for twenty months preceding the accident at issue in this case. The subjective claims made by her included disruption to sleep, having to spend the majority of days in bed, and taking pain medication for life. With these, she sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. The defendants’ own neurologist opined that, if what the plaintiff was saying was accurate, then the instant accident aggravated her prior dormant condition. Given this framework, the matter settled on the cusp of jury selection for $900,000 of a $1,100,000 policy.
Essentially, a huge settlement for what one would argue was a relatively minor accident with a plaintiff who had pre-existing conditions. However, this settlement, and similar past verdicts, make future verdicts of this magnitude sustainable on appeal.
Thanks to John Diffley for his contribution to this post. Please email Georgia Coats with any questions.