Patience and Expertise Results in a $3.25 Million Jury Award
Patricia Knox∗ had risen to the top of the nursing profession. A Charge Nurse for the Cardiac Surgical Transplant Unit at the most prestigious and well-known hospital in Philadelphia, Mrs. Knox also served as the Lead Scrub Nurse on the most serious of cardiac surgical procedures, including heart transplants. A recognized leader of a top-rated surgical team, Mrs. Knox earned a national reputation for her skills and nursing abilities. Her nursing career ended, however, when a cement truck crashed into her car on a highway near her home.
A wife and the mother of two young children, Patricia was driving the family car on the highway when she saw a trash truck stopped in front of her. The truck stopped to collect some trash that it had dropped earlier and partially blocked the outside lane of travel. Mrs. Knox was unable to safely pass the truck, so she slowed her car and stopped a few car lengths behind the trash truck to wait until it was safe to change lanes. Before that could happen, however, Patricia’s car was struck from behind at full force by a loaded cement truck. The force of the impact crushed the rear of her car up to the back seat and shot Patricia’s car across the highway into a concrete barrier, where it came to rest.
It was a miracle Patricia Knox survived, but her injuries were extensive. In addition to very serious bruising, neck, and back injuries, Patricia also suffered a traumatic brain injury. The brain injury left her, most significantly, with headaches, dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, disorientation, fatigue, mood swings, decreased learning ability and attention, memory problems, fears, anxiety, and depression.
Not surprisingly, Patricia was never able to return to work, and she has been declared totally disabled by the Social Security Administration.
Sadly, the trucking company’s offer to compensate Mrs. Knox for her injuries, pain, and wage loss was zero, forcing her to go to trial. The insurance companies for the two trucking companies contended the accident was not the fault of either of their drivers.
At trial, the defense further argued that Patricia was not injured as badly as she claimed. They introduced surveillance video showing Patricia performing common tasks like walking out of a store, driving to the post office, and eating lunch in the park without difficulty. Patricia’s attorney, Michael van der Veen studied the videos over and over again and discovered subtle nuances that in fact showed Patricia leaving the store and forgetting where she parked, pulling over to the side of the road to search her trunk and realizing that she forgot her mail, and forgetting where she placed her picnic blanket at the park. Rather than prove the absence of an injury, Mr. van der Veen was able to turn the defense’s videos against the insurance companies to prove the full extent of the injuries Patricia was claiming. This had a major importance in the result of the trial.
After making no offer to compensate Patricia Knox all throughout trial, the defense finally offered her $1.5 million after the first day of jury deliberation. An experienced trial attorney, Mr. van der Veen knew this amount was not enough to compensate Patricia for all of her injuries, wage loss, and future medical needs. The offer was rejected, and the jury resumed deliberations the next day. This proved to be a wise decision, as the jury returned a $3.25 million award to Patricia Knox, well in excess of the offer the prior evening. The patience and steady hand of a veteran trial attorney delivered a result that Patricia Knox and her family could truly live with satisfactorily.
* Not her real name.