It was a clear, bright summer day. Carla was driving her husband’s work truck along Bitters Road in North Central San Antonio, when she was suddenly rear-ended by a distracted driver.
The other driver’s car was totaled. Carla’s truck, however, seemed completely undamaged. Her airbags never even deployed. Initially, it seemed like Carla had gotten lucky.
But the optimism didn’t last. Her injuries were far more serious than they first appeared. For the next two years, Carla would be in and out of the hospital for therapy, injections, and even surgery. And despite it all, her stubborn insurance company never made a fair offer.
Fortunately, she had Crosley Law on her side. We had to take her case to trial and spend a lot of time and effort educating the jury about her injuries. But in the end, we got her a great result.
A Rear-Impact Accident Causes Serious, Long-Term Neck and Back Pain
After the crash, Carla suffered from serious neck, shoulder, and back pain. Initially, she avoided seeking medical treatment. Like many crash victims, she was hoping that her symptoms were only temporary.
But over the next few weeks, the pain didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse. “[The pain] just continuously built,” Carla testified during her deposition.
About three weeks after the crash, Carla began working with a chiropractor to address the severe pain she was experiencing. After two months of treatment failed to deliver the results she was hoping for, she began seeing a pain management physician. At this point, her symptoms included:
- Neck pain
- Right shoulder pain
- Pain and numbness radiating into the hands
- Lower back pain
- Shooting pain radiating down the legs from her thighs to her feet
- Muscle spasms
Radiology testing revealed that Carla had suffered acute herniated discs in her neck and lower back.
Over the next two years, Carla underwent several medical procedures to help manage her pain, including medication, physical therapy, nerve blocks, and radiofrequency ablation injections. While these treatments sometimes brought partial or temporary relief, Carla ultimately required neck surgery to replace her damaged cervical disc with an artificial disc.
Carla’s Insurance Company Refuses to Acknowledge The Severity of Her Injuries
The driver who hit Carla was underinsured. Fortunately, Carla had purchased a significant amount of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) from her own auto insurance company. In theory, she had more than enough UM/UIM coverage to provide fair compensation for her injury. But during negotiations, her insurance company was repeatedly unwilling to offer a settlement that was reasonable or fair.
You might think it’s easier to deal with your own insurance company than one representing an at-fault driver. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Once you file a UM/UIM claim, your own insurer becomes your adversary. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a customer or paid your premiums on time. They will do whatever they can to protect their profits, not your health.
Although most car accident cases are eventually settled through negotiation, this one went all the way to trial.
Carla’s Trailer Hitch Protected Her Truck—But Not Her
Liability was clear in Carla’s case. There was no doubt that the other driver caused the accident. So why was the insurance company being so stubborn?
One of the major challenges of Carla’s legal case was proving how an accident that caused no damage to Carla’s truck could have caused such extensive damage to her body.
Crosley Law’s investigation of the crash determined that the at-fault driver had collided with the trailer hitch on Carla’s truck at approximately 35 miles per hour. This had a few significant consequences. In short, while hitch accidents tend to be less likely to physically damage the vehicle, they are actually more likely to cause severe injuries to passengers.
Because fixed hitches are made of solid metal and are connected directly to the vehicle frame, car accidents that feature the trailer hitch as the principal point of contact often do little to no physical damage to the vehicle itself. These parts of the truck can withstand significant impact forces without deforming.
However, because hitches are also relatively small and have no “give,” impact forces don’t dissipate as much before reaching the passenger cabin. If a trailing car rear-ends a trailer hitch, the car or truck in front will accelerate faster and be thrown further forward in the crash than if the trailing car had hit a bumper or other crumple zone. From Carla’s perspective, the jolt from being rear-ended at 35 miles per hour might have been as strong as a collision at twice that speed—or more.
Crosley Law Shuts Down the Defense’s Delay Tactics
After realizing Carla wouldn’t settle, the insurance company decided to switch to a different attorney (from an outside firm, rather than one of their own in-house attorneys) and attempt to delay the trial date. The argument would be that they wouldn’t have enough time to finish interviews with their chosen expert witnesses.
We’d seen this tactic before, particularly with this insurance company, and were prepared for it. Our argument was that simply switching attorneys does not constitute a valid reason to delay. We filed a motion to compel the expert witnesses to be available for deposition by two weeks before the original trial date, which was accepted.
In fact, this not only kept the trial date on track, but also resulted in the insurance company being unable to use any testimony from their preferred biomechanical expert (who, in our opinion, was using “junk science” to defend the insurance company’s position).
Crosley Law Holds the Insurance Company Accountable at Trial
When a case centers around highly technical science or engineering principles, preparation is critical. Most obviously, the personal injury attorney must be able to explain these concepts to the jury in a clear and understandable way. But they also need to counter the defense’s attempts to create confusion and question the reasonableness of the care provided.
In Carla’s case, the defense had hired their own hand-picked (and paid) doctors—a pain specialist and an orthopedic surgeon. These “hired guns” were there to support the insurance company’s argument that our calculations for Carla’s past and future treatment needs were unreasonable.
Again, Crosley Law came prepared.
During pre-trial deposition, we got the defense’s orthopedic specialist to admit that he was unfamiliar with many of the basic details of Carla’s accident or injuries—and that he couldn’t even pick her out of lineup. He also admitted that his medical opinion (that Carla was not seriously injured) was based on a generalization of most people—not Carla specifically. This severely damaged his credibility in the eyes of the jury.
The defense’s pain management specialist hadn’t examined Carla either, and he agreed that if a person was still symptomatic after a year (as Carla was), they were likely to be symptomatic for the foreseeable future.
Further, we brought in a number of our own experts, including members of Carla’s medical team, a biomechanical engineer, and a life care planner. We also conducted depositions with several people who knew Carla personally and could provide moving, specific observations and stories about how her injuries changed her life and affected her physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Thanks to our hard work and persistence, the jury ultimately awarded Carla $1.95 million in damages—almost three times what the insurance company had offered before trial.
Contact Crosley Law For Sophisticated, Determined Legal Representation
Carla’s case teaches us two important lessons.
The first is the importance of purchasing as much uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) as you can reasonably afford. In Texas, drivers are only legally required to carry $30,000 in personal injury liability coverage per person. That means if they cause an accident that injures you, and have no other assets to pay you with, you can only get $30,000 from them. Without her UM/UIM coverage, Carla would have had no legal case to recover the compensation she desperately needed.
The second is the importance of preparation, dedication, and expert witnesses in complex car accident cases. Insurance companies defend complex claims aggressively. Often, the size of the settlement—or whether you win one at all—depends on who brings the better “experts” to the case. An experienced attorney who knows how to assemble the right team and can communicate complex information effectively can level the playing field and give you the best chance at a fair recovery.
If you or someone you love have been in a car crash, don’t trust the insurance company to treat you fairly. Instead, call Crosley Law for a free consultation. Our firm has been recognized as one of San Antonio’s best by Super Lawyers, U.S. News & World Report, Texas Lawyer Magazine, and other publications. We aren’t afraid to take complex cases to trial and hold at-fault parties accountable. You can reach us at (210) LAW-3000 | (210) 985-8472 or complete the simple contact form on our website to get started.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
Do you or a family member
need legal advice?
Crosley Law Firm, PC is a professional corporation of trial lawyers focused on representing individuals and families who have suffered serious personal injuries or wrongful death.