Plaintiff was a 44-year-old husband and father of four who was a plant
manager in Richmond at the time of the accident. He was severely injured
on an Interstate highway when a tractor-trailer with a 34-foot dump body
hit an overpass, causing the dump body to be ripped from the tractor-trailer
and hurled through the air into the plaintiff’s vehicle.
The riding height of the dump body was 10 feet. The overpass was 16 feet.
Based on the damage to the dump body and the bridge, the dump body hit
the overpass so hard that it bent steel I-beams four inches inward on
The defendant driver claimed that the dump body rose on its own just before
he went under the bridge, but the truck inspection revealed that it took
35 seconds to raise the dump body to the height necessary to hit the bridge,
during which time the truck driver should have been aware of the problem.
In addition, the dump body could only be raised by a hydraulic system
controlled by the Power Take-Off (PTO) assembly in the truck. If the PTO
engaged while the truck was in motion, it would damage the internal mechanism
of the PTO. Inspection of the PTO revealed no such damage.
It was dark at the time of the accident, and the plaintiff could not see
the dump body until after it had hit the bridge and was hurtling through
the air. At the last second attempted to turn left to avoid collision,
but was unable to do so.
The high-impact crash resulted in severe injuries which included multiple
comminuted fractures of his right patella. The trauma also caused cartilage
damage in his right knee and right hip and aggravation of pre-existing
arthritis in his right knee and right hip. The femur fractures were surgically
repaired with an intramedullary nail implanted in his right femur and
fixed in place with surgical screws.
After four days of hospitalization, the plaintiff was non-weight bearing
and essentially immobile for two months. He then began extensive physical
therapy. As he began to walk again, he had extensive pain in his right
femur, right knee and right hip. He walked with a significant limp with
the use of a cane. In addition, he had to put most of his weight on his
left leg, which began to cause pain in his left knee, left hip and low
back. It took one year for his femur fractures to reach maximum medical
improvement. A functional capacity exam revealed a 41 percent permanent
impairment of his right leg, and a 15 percent permanent impairment of
his left leg.
The plaintiff had pre-existing arthritis in both knees and his right hip.
However, prior to the accident, he had no chronic pain and had been able
to play basketball and softball, hunt and fish, work on his knees at work,
and lift material and machinery at work, all without difficulty.
Prior to the accident, the plaintiff had worked 25 years in the store fixture
business. He was earning $90,000 a year at the time of his accident. As
a result of his injuries, he lost his job as general manager and was unable
to find new employment. His former company eventually gave him an “accommodated”
job making $45,000 a year. His permanent impairment limited any further
advancement in the company.
After he returned to work, the strain on his injuries caused a substantial
increase in pain. He began taking heavy doses of narcotics to deal with
the pain. Steroid injections and pain management measures were ineffective,
and approximately two years after his initial surgery, he underwent right
knee replacement. This caused him to miss another three months of work.
Plaintiff’s doctors opined that he will need right knee replacement
and pain management for his lower back. Because of his age, these orthotic
replacements would wear out in approximately 10-15 years, and he would
need additional knee and hip replacements. Overall, the plaintiff will
require a total of nine surgeries, two of which have already been done.
The defense contested liability and damages. Medication was initially unsuccessful,
but the case subsequently resolved approximately three months prior to trial.
Type of Action: Personal injury - trucking accident
Injuries alleged: Two comminuted fractures of the right femur; a comminuted fracture of
the right patella; cartilage damage to the right knee and right hip; aggravation
of pre-existing arthritis in right knee and right hip; 41 percent impairment
of right leg; impaired gait and posture resulting in additional adverse
effects to left knee, left hip and low back
Court: Louisa County Circuit Court
Mediator: Robert L. Harris
Special damages: $121,266 in current medical bills; $615,667 in future medical bills; $391,250
in lost wages; $900,000 in future lost wages and loss of earning capacity;
total special damages of $2,028,183
Verdict or Settlement: Settlement
Plaintiff’s experts: Two treating orthopedists; one expert orthopedist; two vocational rehabilitation
experts; one life care planner; one accident reconstructionist; and one