Emmy Pasternak, LRIS Outreach and Case Development Manager
Anyone who walks, drives, or rides a bike in San Francisco knows that the streets can be a dangerous place where hundreds of “near misses” happen on a daily basis. Whether it be a person darting across the street against the light, a car making a right turn without checking for a bicyclist riding the shoulder, or a bicyclist flying through a stop sign and hitting a pedestrian with the right of way, accidents are a frequent occurrence and the injuries, both physical and psychological, are severe and long term.
In late August 2013, the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) received a call from “Mary” a bicyclist who had been struck by an automobile.
At the time of the impact, Mary was walking her bicycle through a crosswalk. She was thrown several feet and was transported by ambulance to the hospital. Diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, post-concussive syndrome, and treated for various cuts and abrasions, Mary continued to experience cognitive impairment nearly three weeks later when she contacted LRIS for help.
Luckily for Mary, LRIS Personal Injury attorney Andrew Neilson was able to represent her in a negligence lawsuit against the driver.
Pre-litigation, the defendant’s insurance company proposed a very modest sum to settle the case. During litigation and prior to expert discovery, the insurance company increased the offer only slightly. As the case evolved and negotiations with the defendant’s insurance sputtered, Neilson enlisted the assistance of several medical and economic experts to testify to the severity of Mary’s injuries. During expert discovery the neurologist described the mechanics of a concussion, the symptoms Mary continued to experience, and that the brain injury appeared more significant than originally diagnosed. A neuropsychological assessment determined Mary’s processing speed and memory were affected and her ability to acquire new skills and obtain and maintain a career significantly diminished.
To recover damages for the loss of future employment and salary Neilson retained a vocational consultant and a vocational economist. At the time of the accident Mary was in her final semester of college, in the middle of a fellowship with the Center for Disease Control, and planned for a career in public health. The economist took those facts and through a series of analyses and was able to put a dollar value to Mary’s potential economic losses. These factors, along with Mary’s extreme likeability, provided Neilson with a very strong case should the defense force a trial.
The insurance company settled on the eve of trial for more than eighteen times the amount originally offered.
For information on how to join LRIS, visit www.sfbar.org/lawyerreferrals/att.aspx. Read about our program, download panel applications, and view attorney testimonials. Or, contact LRIS Membership Coordinator, Yvonne Ng, at 415-782-8951 or firstname.lastname@example.org. LRIS is a revenue generating program, the proceeds of which help to support the Justice & Diversity Center programs.