Case Study: Personal Injury - Car Accident

Two Overlapping Collisions | $800,000 Settlement

Case Facts

On August 20, 2018, our client was driving her 2018 Honda Pilot SUV southbound on Interstate 5 near Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. She was in stop-and-go traffic at a location approximately one mile north of Exit 302A. At the same time, the driver of a 2007 Mazda 3 sedan followed behind our client at some distance. Traffic slowed to a near stop ahead, and our client slowly reduced her speed in response. While she was near a full stop, the Mazda sedan failed to stop or slow behind her, colliding into the rear of her SUV.

This car crash caused personal physical injuries to our client, including:
• Damage to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and other soft tissue of her neck, back, left wrist, left thumb, and left hip;
• Lumbago with sciatica involving the left hip and left leg;
• Cervical sprains/strains with numbness and tingling into the left hand;
• Thoracic sprains/strains;
• Lumbar sprains/strains;
• Hip sprains/strains;
• Headaches with associated photophobia, dizziness, and nausea;
• Pain, discomfort, and suffering; and
• Inconvenience and interference with usual and everyday activities, apart from gainful employment.

On August 21, 2019, and before she was healed from the 2018 car collision, our client was driving the same 2018 Honda Pilot SUV southbound on Interstate 5 in or near Woodburn, Oregon. She was again in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway. At the same time, the driver of a 2015 Lexus IS250 sedan followed behind her. While our client had slowed with traffic to approximately 10 miles per hour, the driver of the Lexus failed to stop or slow behind her, colliding into the rear of our client's SUV at high speed.

This collision caused our client additional personal injuries, including:
• Damage to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and other soft tissue of her head, neck, back, shoulders, abdomen, and hips;
• Exacerbation of cervical, lumbar, and hip injuries sustained in the August 20, 2018 collision;
• Severe lumbar radiculopathy at L5-S1, resulting in significant foraminal stenosis on the left with associated radiation of pain, numbness, and weakness down the left leg, requiring surgery;
• Herniated disk at C5-6, or in the alternative, symptomatic exacerbation of a herniated disk at that level, requiring surgery;
• Torn labrum of the left hip, requiring surgery;
• Cervical sprains/strains;
• Thoracic sprains/strains;
• Lumbar sprains/strains;
• Bilateral trapezius sprains/strains;
• Headaches with associated vision disturbance and photophobia;
• Anxiety;
• Depression;
• Pain, discomfort, and suffering; and
• Inconvenience and interference with usual and everyday activities, apart from gainful employment.

Unfortunately, our client required extensive medical treatment for her injuries, some of which were permanent. That treatment included two lumbar surgeries and a left hip surgery.

DWC Actions

Our client initially hired a different Portland, Oregon law firm to represent her. Once it became clear that that firm could not amicably resolve her claims, they reached out to Tim Williams at our firm to take over the lead role in the matter and move the case through litigation. Tim quickly analyzed the medical records, wage loss documents, and future care plan, and filed suit against both drivers. He then moved the case through litigation as quickly as the process would allow, including propounding requests for production of documents, responding to similar requests on the part of the defendants, undertaking depositions of both adverse drivers, defending our client at her deposition, and ultimately drafting a lengthy mediation memorandum.

Our client's wage history was somewhat challenging, as she had changed career paths just prior to the 2019 crash, leaving her with little proof of earning potential in that field. Thus, our team had her evaluated by a seasoned vocational expert, who undertook a detailed analysis and created a very compelling conclusion based on our client's physical abilities pre- and post-crash, her education, her training, her experience, and the Portland job market in her chosen field.

Additionally, the defendants' insurance carriers attempted to make hay of the fact that our client had previously injured her lower back, even though that injury was resolved prior to the car crashes. To that end, in the mediation memorandum that Tim Williams drafted, he wrote:

In any event, should a jury feel she was predisposed to injury at the time of either collision due to her age, body habitus, or pre-existing bodily conditions, she is nonetheless entitled to full compensation for her injuries. Oregon’s UCJI 70.06 states:


If you find that Plaintiff had a bodily condition that predisposed her to be more subject to injury than a person in normal health, Defendants would nevertheless be liable for any and all injuries and damage that may have been suffered by Plaintiff as the result of Defendants’ negligence, even though those injuries, due to the prior condition, may have been greater than those that would have been suffered by another person under the same circumstances.

Thus, any prior condition of [our client] does not excuse Defendants from their obligation to her in this case. Further, even if a jury finds that [our client] was in any way similarly symptomatic prior to either collision – though there is nothing in her medical record to support such a finding relative to the first collision, and also considering the night-and-day difference of her symptoms immediately prior to the second collision as compared to immediately after – she is nonetheless entitled to compensation for any worsening of that condition. Oregon’s UCJI 70.07 states:


In the present case, Plaintiff has alleged that the injury which she sustained as the result of the negligence of the Defendants aggravated a preexisting injury or disability of hers.

In determining the amount of damages, if any, to be awarded to Plaintiff in this case, you will allow her reasonable compensation for the consequences of any such aggravation that you find to have taken place as the result of the Defendants’ negligence.

The recovery should not include damages for the earlier injury or disability but only those that are due to its enhancement or aggravation.

This rule naturally extends to the situation where the underlying condition requires treatment as a result of acute injury, as opposed to remaining static and not in need of treatment.

Further, regarding any portion of her treatment performed to address any pre-existing condition, the collisions are still legal cause of that treatment, particularly concerning the new symptoms.

Concerning [our client's] injuries and damages incurred after either of these collisions, UCJI 23.01 (Causation) explains:


The Defendants’ conduct is a cause of the Plaintiff’s [harm / injury] if the [harm / injury] would not have occurred but for that conduct; conversely, the Defendants’ conduct is not a cause of the Plaintiff’s [harm / injury] if that [harm / injury] would have occurred without that conduct.

When coupled with UCJI 70.06 (previous infirm condition) and UCJI 70.07 (aggravation of preexisting injury or disability), it becomes clear that both collisions were a “but-for” cause of [our client's] injuries (i.e., they wouldn’t have presented had the collisions not occurred) and, as such, necessitated her medical treatment and related expenses. The fact that she had degeneration of her spine that was not unusual for her age does not allow Defendants to escape liability – particularly where [our client's] surgeon, Dr. Tatsumi, has clearly indicated that the cause for his care and treatment and resulting moderate permanent disability is the August 21, 2019, car crash.

Even if a jury were to conclude that [our client] would have needed similar surgeries in the future, a position for which there is no expert opinion to support, she is still entitled to recover for her injuries and damages claimed in this matter. On that topic, UCJI 23.02 is helpful:


Many factors [or things] may operate either independently or together to cause [harm / injury]. In such a case, each may be a cause of the [harm / injury] even though the others by themselves would have been sufficient to cause the same [harm / injury].

If you find that the Defendants’ act or omission was a substantial factor in causing the [harm / injury] to the Plaintiff, you may find that the Defendants’ conduct caused the [harm / injury] even though it was not the only cause. [A substantial factor is an important factor and not one that is insignificant.]

When coupled with UCJI 70.06 (previous infirm condition) and UCJI 70.07 (aggravation of preexisting injury or disability), it becomes clear that both collisions were the proximate cause (i.e., it was a substantial factor) of [our client's] need for surgery after the collisions and, as such, necessitated her medical treatment and related expenses. Under Oregon law, she is entitled to recover from Defendants for those injuries.

In sum, [our client's] prior medical condition is not relevant to her ability to fully recover her full measure of damages, apart from showing she was fragile, and therefore required less physical force to become injured. She suffered acute injury, including injuries to her neck and back, involving radiation of numbness, pain, and weakness into her left arm and left leg which caused significant symptomology and required a lumbar laminotomy, a left hip labral repair, and a subsequent lumbar fusion to alleviate.

The law clearly dictates that [our client] is entitled to compensation relating to any symptomatic activation or aggravation of any prior infirm condition. As such, she should be compensated for her treatment and for the interference with her life caused by her injuries.

Of course, the law also says that each Defendant should only pay the portion of damages caused by that Defendant’s own fault. Frankly, given [our client's] near resolution of her symptoms shortly before the second collision, we feel a jury would place most, if not all, of the responsibility onto [the second collision] for her symptoms and treatment following that date. To the extent [the second adverse driver] argues otherwise, it is important to note that the substantial factor causation jury instruction makes clear that if both collisions were a substantial factor in causing her symptoms and need for treatment, both are liable for the same, irrespective of the other’s proportionate share of causation.

Key Successes

At mediation, the insurance company's attorneys played the usual games - pointing fingers at each other as the cause of our client's symptoms, as well as trying to argue that some of her symptoms were unrelated. However, the mediation was not fooled, nor were we. After a lengthy day of hard-nosed mediation, the respective insurance carriers relented and ultimately agreed to settle our client's claim for $775,000 in addition to handling the appropriate reimbursement to our client's auto insurance carrier for the $64,882.18 in personal injury protection benefits it had previously paid. Thus, we were able to procure for our client a total recovery of $839,882.18.


"Tim and his staff were very efficient and professional. Tim was extremely thorough and carried the ball across the finish line in all details and areas of our claim. We are so thankful for his help!"
- Client

"This was one of my favorite clients I've had the privilege of representing during the last two-plus decades of practicing law. She was a great person inside and out who had lifted herself up from great adversity earlier in life only to be dealt a bum hand by these two drivers. I'm pleased that the outside firm brought me in, handed over the reigns, and both they and my client followed my advice and recommendations. We were up against two massive insurance companies and two very skilled insurance attorneys, but still came out on top. Only through our client's perseverance and patience were we able to get her such a great result. I couldn't be happier for our client, her family, and the future we were able to secure for her."
- Tim Williams

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