For the plaintiff, the evening was a fairly normal one. He met with a client for dinner and then hailed a cab to take him home. Little did he know that he would soon become a car accident victim.
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The cab driver took a route that involved driving on the interstate. When the time came to take an exit, he failed to slow down and took the turn at nearly 70 mph. The cab flew off of the ramp, went across the grass, and struck a concrete barrier at nearly 50 mph.
The plaintiff suffered multiple injuries including a hip fracture and a closed head injury. In order to fix his fractured hip, he required open reduction internal fixation and will most likely need additional revision surgeries in the future. The head injury has left him with slurred speech, double vision, anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia. It has also changed his short-term and long-term memory.
These changes have impacted his ability to do his job. Prior to the accident, the plaintiff worked as a lawyer and had an equity partnership in a successful law firm. He attempted to return to his position but soon found that his injuries kept him from doing his job.
He and his wife made the decision to sue both the driver of the cab as well as the cab company, Yellow Cab.
The plaintiffs alleged that the driver was negligent for exiting the highway at a high speed and then losing control of the vehicle. They also alleged that because the driver was acting as the agent of Yellow Cab, the company was liable as well.
Three eyewitnesses testified that the cab had unexpectedly shot across three lanes of traffic with no turn signal before attempting to exit. Several expert witnesses including a neuropsychologist, forensic psychiatrist, and psychiatrist presented evidence that the plaintiff was unable to return to work.
The defendant's legal team argued that the plaintiff was at fault because he demanded that the driver exit just as they approached the ramp.
The jury determined that the plaintiff was 12% at fault for the accident and that the defendant was 88% at fault. The total amount awarded to the plaintiff was $29.49 million which was reduced to $25.95 million by the percentage that the plaintiff was liable for.
In many personal injury cases, the plaintiff seeks compensation for either lost wages or lost earning capacity, or sometimes both.
Lost wages refer to the amount of money that the plaintiff has actually lost due to an injury that kept them from returning to work. The plaintiff can prove the loss by showing past tax documents, pay stubs, client bills, and more.
Lost earning capacity occurs when the injury is so severe that the plaintiff is unable to return to their job completely. Often, a victim has spent their entire career focused on one kind of work, and it is unreasonable to expect that they could easily start all over again in another field, making the same amount of money. When lost earning capacity is awarded, the intention is to ensure that the plaintiff is provided with the funds that they would have been expected to earn over the course of a successful career.
The plaintiff, in this case, was likely awarded a large amount due to his inability to return to work and the investment he had in his practice prior to the accident.
Car insurance is supposed to help everyone involved in the accident recover. But in cases of extreme injury, the policy limits are often not enough to cover all of the damage that was done. In New York, drivers are required to carry a minimum of $25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident for bodily injury. But injuries to the head, spinal cord, internal organs, or bones can easily require treatments that are much more expensive than these minimum amounts.
The limitations of car insurance are why so many car accident victims seek the help of an attorney following an accident.