Insurer for Trucking Co Pays $500,000 for Brain Injury Crash
Truck Accident Lawyer Case History from Files of William C. Head
Fractured Skull - Brain Injury
September 29, 1988
Hughes was a self-employed bulldozer operator who only had a first- grade education. He was 63 years old at the time of the collision, and made his living running heavy earth-moving equipment. While in his pick-up truck returning from a service station with a full 55-gallon drum of diesel fuel for his bulldozer, an oncoming tractor-trailer driver was speeding along Highway 72 in Elbert County, GA.
The vehicle ahead of the tractor-trailer slowed down to be able to turn left. The driver of the tractor-trailer was traveling too fast, and quickly saw that he did not have time to stop before striking the rear of the small vehicle waiting to turn left. The commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operator had to make a split-second decision to either go off the highway to the right side of the small car (where a slope led to a small water runoff drainage area), or attempt to veer left (across the lane where Mr. Hughes was traveling) to a flat surface that would likely not cause his rig to overturn.
The CMV operator chose to go in the direction that would not flip his tractor-trailer rig, and Mr. Hughes' pick-up was not able to avoid the collision with the set of rear tires of the tractor-trailer rig. Mr. Hughes was knocked unconscious by the impact and suffered a bad scrape and bruising of his upper forehead and scalp. He was awakened by other motorists shortly after the crash but was dazed. He was soaked in diesel fuel, which had slammed into the cab of the pickup truck and erupted. He feared being burned alive, since the doors would not open on the pickup, due to compaction of the front end of the truck.
A precautionary hospital exam by a nearby hospital resulted in his release 4 hours later. The total medical costs were less than $500, and the medical tests revealed no permanent damage. Physicians at the hospital did not limit Mr. Hughes work or recreation activities.
The problem with this case was that every time Mr. Hughes got back on his earth-moving equipment, he became nauseous. The problem persisted, even after two more neurologists declared him to be fine to return to work.
Because Mr. Hughes had never missed work before due to any health issues, and (prior to this visit) had never been in a hospital, the correlation to this collision was obvious. Finally, an Emory specialist in complex head trauma cases found the problem: his skull was cracked longitudinally, running from the center of his nose area straight back across the top of his skull.
This crack was not detected on the routine scans that were done but was picked up by special equipment at Emory University Medical School. At the eve of litigation in Fulton County State Court, the case settled in 1988 for $500,000, despite the relatively low earnings of Mr. Hughes, his first-grade education level and his age of 63 years at the time of the incident. The amount he received, combined with social security, allowed him to retire in good financial shape, if the money was conserved.
Hughes v. National Service Lines of New Jersey, Inc. and Michigan Mutual Insurance Company
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