Baton Rouge Auto Accidents Attorneys
Auto Accident: Closed Head Injury — $500,000
Michael Scott Jordan v. Howard K. Sweeney, 467 So.2d 569:
Our client was a high school senior who was a passenger in a vehicle that had to leave the roadway to avoid a drunk driver. The vehicle in which he was riding hit a telephone pole and his head hit the dashboard. There was no skull fracture and no loss of consciousness.
After six months our client’s treating neurosurgeon and neurologist, based on negative EEG (electro-encephalograph) and MRI and CAT-scan studies, concluded that there was no brain injury and since significant headaches and dizziness that our client had experienced had gone away, that our client was well. Even our client stated that he felt “okay.” However, our client’s parents insisted that their son was markedly different than he was before the accident, going from happy-go-lucky to an anti-social personality, and that he had become very forgetful and his grades in school had fallen.
The insurance company for the drunk driver treated the case as the usual post-concussion syndrome case, offering medical expenses and compensation for the six months the neurosurgeon testified that it took for our client to recover.
We hired a neuropsychologist who used sophisticated new cognitive tests of brain dysfunction that produced results that he proved could not be faked. These tests could isolate the specific area of the brain that was dysfunctional and those tests demonstrated that the specific area of our client’s brain that was showing dysfunction was at exactly the spot on his head that had hit the dashboard. These brain deficits also accounted uniquely and specifically for the changes noticed by our client’s parents.
Bolstered by the testimony of neighbors and friends who knew our client well both before and after the accident, the jury awarded $500,000 in damages. This award was 10 times the last pre-trial settlement offer by the drunk driver’s insurance company.
What is important about this case is that the insurance company objected to the use of anyone other than a neurosurgeon or a neurologist to prove brain injury, and appealed the case for that reason. On appeal we became the first law firm to establish the right of a neuropsychologist to testify regarding brain injury even when other traditional medical specialties could find no such injury. This ended the era of severe closed head injury cases receiving only modest compensation as routine post-concussion syndrome cases.
Finally, the drunk driver did not have much liability insurance on his vehicle. The vehicle in which our client was riding had uninsured/underinsured motorist protection. We successfully argued on appeal and established the rule in Louisiana insurance law that automobile insurers cannot enforce a policy clause that allows it to deduct from underinsured motorist coverage protection what also has to be paid under medical payments coverage — when damages exceed the amount of uninsured motorist protection.