Jurors in Illinois awarded $4 million to a drunk driving victim who happens to be the aunt of Olympic gymnastics star Shawn Johnson East. The Olympian testified for about 20 minutes of the trial in reference to how her aunt’s quality of life had been altered by the crash. That was a central issue in this case, which focused on damages, rather than fault or causation.
The defendant drunk driver (who had already pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated) and his father (whose vehicle was being driven at the time of the crash) did not deny liability. They didn’t deny that the 25-year-old son had been drinking, got behind the wheel, and drove negligently, causing a crash in January 2005, which resulted in injuries to the 58-year-old plaintiff. However, what was in dispute was the extent of the plaintiff’s damages.
Damages are a central part of any injury lawsuit, and it’s a portion of the case in which it truly pays to have a skilled injury attorney.
Injury lawyers must be meticulous in making a strong case for the maximum amount of compensation. The appropriate level of damages in the case will depend on a myriad of factors, including the specifics of the claim, the exact circumstances of the crash, the extent of the victim’s injuries, the impact of the victim’s injuries, and the laws of that jurisdiction.
In proving the extent of the victim’s injuries and the impact of those injuries, East’s testimony was important. She testified that after the crash, her “tough” aunt, who was “invincible” in the minds of many family members, had to constantly ask for assistance. The woman who once took care of everyone else must now turn to others for help with everyday tasks. At Easton’s wedding several months ago, she recalled that her aunt was unable to dance, as she had always loved to do. Instead, she walked with a limp and had to use a golf cart to help her get around.
Such testimony in this car accident case underscores the negative effect on the plaintiff’s quality of life and relationships. Defense lawyers were quick to say that East isn’t around much these days, since she often travels for work. However, her observations of her aunt at her own wedding were compelling.
Damages in personal injury lawsuits can include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Emotional distress/mental anguish
The plaintiff in this case sought $25 million in damages, which included punitive damages, intended to punish the defendant as much as to make whole the plaintiff.
The defendant driver allegedly was on a break from college and borrowed his father’s vehicle to meet up with some friends at a bar. After consuming alcohol, he got behind the wheel of his vehicle and crashed into the plaintiff.
The defendants sought to settle the case for $220,000, although they later offered $450,000. The defense had argued the plaintiff’s injuries were not as severe as she claimed and that she failed to attend a number of the physical therapy sessions that had been prescribed. This failure to follow reasonable medical advice can be used against a plaintiff when damages are concerned.
Jurors awarded $4 million, which included $3.5 million in compensatory damages and $425,000 in punitive damages. The injured plaintiff had suffered from broken bones and damage to her knee that will never completely heal, despite ongoing courses of physical therapy.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
More Blog Entries:
Should Cell Phone Companies Be Liable for Driver Distractions? Oct. 5, 2016, Rock Hill Car Accident Lawyer Blog