Pedestrian, Respiratory Therapist Struck In Crosswalk

The plaintiff, a 56-year-old female pedestrian, was struck by a motor vehicle operated by the defendant. The brunt of the impact was absorbed by each of the plaintiff's hands as she attempted to brace herself for the impending collision. The plaintiff alleged she was in the crosswalk at the time of impact and the defendant's negligent operation of his motor vehicle resulted in the accident. At all times, the defendant disputed liability, stating that the plaintiff was not in the crosswalk upon impact and that she was comparatively negligent.

At the ER, the attending physician diagnosed the plaintiff with a coccyx fracture as well as contusions of both hands. She initially attempted conservative treatment and cortisone injections to her hands. However, the plaintiff's hand injuries persisted. Her hand specialist diagnosed her with right and left carpal tunnel syndrome. The plaintiff eventually underwent a minimally invasive carpal tunnel release on both hands. Despite further conservative treatment, she continued to suffer from her injuries, particularly on her right hand. The plaintiff then underwent a second right carpal tunnel release with median nerve neurolysis and nerve graft. The defendant contested the plaintiff's injuries, claiming that the carpal tunnel syndrome in each hand was a pre-existing condition, linked to the repetitive use of her hands as a respiratory therapist for the past 21 years.

Plaintiff's counsel argued that she was unable to return to her employment as a respiratory therapist due to her injuries. The plaintiff's Vocational Rehabilitation Expert was expected to testify that her post-incident earning capacity had been completely diminished as a result of functional limitations and chronic pain from the accident. Assuming a best-case scenario, she would be limited to modified sedentary work and light work that allowed her to sit and stand at will and did not require bimanual dexterity. The combination of her functional restrictions and limited transferable skills would limit her to unskilled entry level work at $8-$10 per hour. The plaintiff's Economic Consultant, relying on the Vocational Rehabilitation Expert's conclusions, was then expected to testify that she had a significant net loss of earning capacity as a result of the injuries sustained. Moreover, even if the plaintiff was able to re-employ, her post-injury residual earning capacity was considerably less than her pre-accident earning capacity. The defendant argued that the conclusions of the plaintiff's experts were flawed, claiming that she could return to gainful employment.

At the outset of negotiations, the defendant's primary insurer disputed the extent of the plaintiff's injuries and her impairment rating. Thus, they insisted on having the plaintiff evaluated by an independent medical examiner, who, for all intent and purposes, confirmed the plaintiff's expert's impairment rating; at that point, the full policy limit of $250,000 was offered. Thereafter, the plaintiff settled with the defendant's umbrella insurer for an additional $500,000.