Driver runs stop sign

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Case in Point

October 23, 2012

Driver runs stop sign 

The defendant admitted liability for the resulting collision, which caused the plaintiff to suffer herniated disks necessitating spinal fusion surgery. After the jury awarded about $3.42 million, the parties settled for about $2.5 million. South v. Vasquez.

Carol Vasquez ran a stop sign and collided with Daniel South’s pickup truck. South, 29, suffered low-back pain and was diagnosed with herniated disks at S1-L4. When conservative treatment failed to alleviate his pain, he underwent spinal fusion. His past medical expenses were about $400,000, and his future medical expenses are estimated at about $80,000.

At the time of the incident, South was working in construction, installing fire sprinklers. He returned to work several days after the incident, but persistent pain and the need for surgery forced him to stop working after about one year, and he is no longer able to work in any job demanding physical labor. He is in the process of retraining for work in a different field. His future lost earnings are estimated at between $250,000 and $350,000.

Vasquez admitted liability, and the case proceeded on damages.

The defendant argued that South’s injuries were primarily soft-tissue injuries that should have resolved within six to eight weeks after the incident and that the surgery was unnecessary. The defense also argued that the plaintiff could return to work at the same or similar pay and that his lost future earnings would total no more than $25,000.

The day of trial, the plaintiff offered to settle for $500,000. The defense offered $415,000, which the plaintiff refused.

The jury awarded about $3.42 million.

While a defense motion for a new trial was pending, the parties settled for about $2.5 million.

Citation: South v. Vasquez, No. BC 420 371 (Cal., Los Angeles Co. Super. Aug. 20, 2012).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Douglas D. Shaffer, Santa Monica, Calif.

Plaintiff experts: Fardad Mobin, neurosurgery, Marina Del Rey, Calif.; and Sandra Schneider, vocational rehabilitation, and Ted Vavoulis, economics, both of Los Angeles.

Defense experts: Tony Feuerman, neurosurgery, Encino, Calif.; and Edward Workman, vocational rehabilitation, Mission Viejo, Calif.

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