Stocki v. Nunn – Establishing Damages in Car Accident Lawsuit

Often in car accident lawsuits, the critical point of contention is liability. That is, whether the defendant driver(s) indeed caused the accident that resulted in injury.
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However, there are a fair amount of cases when that is not the issue, but rather the question of damages is the primary focus. Defendant(s) may even admit liability, but will contest the amount of damages by directly challenging the extent of plaintiff’s injuries resulting from the crash.

That was the case recently in Stocki v. Nunn before the Wyoming Supreme Court.

According to court records, plaintiff was injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by his supervisor. The supervisor’s sister was also in the vehicle. Another man was driving behind plaintiff’s vehicle, with his wife and children in a truck.

There was apparently some road rage. The defendant driver of the truck began tailgating and flashing his lights behind defendant supervisor’s vehicle. The pair exchanged words. Defendant supervisor slammed on the brakes. Then defendant driver of the truck “piled-drived us” off to the shoulder.

At the scene, no one complained of injuries. It was not until later plaintiff sought medical attention for pain in his right shoulder and back. Plaintiff was given medication and referred to physical therapy. No fractures or disc herniation was reported, and doctors diagnosed him with soft tissue injury to the muscles.

He later reported experiencing numbness and tingling in his hand. He was diagnosed with mild carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptoms worsened and he ultimately had to have his hand in a splint, and tests would later show a significant loss of grip strength in that hand.

Plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the supervisor and the truck driver. He alleged both had been negligent and sought compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost past and future wages and earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of life enjoyment. He sought between $164,000 and $184,000 in damages.

Defendants both conceded liability, and the insurance company (both defendants had the same) even agreed to cover the entire cost of judgment, even if it exceeded policy limits.

However, defendants then sought to challenge plaintiff’s assertion of damages. A number of pre-trial motions limited the kind of evidence plaintiff could present.

Jurors sided with plaintiff and awarded him $80,000. However, this was far less than he originally sought, and he appealed, arguing the defense pre-trial motions granted by the court were an abuse of discretion.

However, the Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed, finding no error.

There is no hard-and-fast rule about how damages are calculated in a personal injury case. Sure, there are medical bills that can be taken at face value. However, that assumes plaintiff has proven all of those expenses were reasonable and necessary given the extent of injuries suffered directly as a result of a defendant’s negligence.

But when it comes to more subjective injuries, such as pain and suffering and loss of life enjoyment, judges and juries are given a great deal of discretion. Having an experienced lawyer to help present your case is the best way to maximize your chance of full recovery of damages.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Stocki v. Nunn, May 27, 2015, Wyoming Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal North Carolina Car Wreck, May 30, 2015, Winston-Salem Car Accident Attorney Blog

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