Arbitration is a procedure in which a dispute is submitted, by agreement of the parties, to one or more arbitrators who make a binding decision on the dispute. In choosing arbitration, the parties opt for a more private dispute resolution procedure instead of going to trial. The decision of an arbitrator is final. Derek Spada was recently awarded a favorable decision for a young female client who was involved in a car crash.
Derek’s client was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light in Kingston. He won summary judgment on the issue of liability against the defendants. In other words, the person who rear-ended his client caused the accident. However, the defense disputed whether his client’s injuries met the Serious Injury threshold. The court found that questions of fact existed as to whether the plaintiff sustained a “significant limitation of use” and/or “permanent consequential limitation of use.” Because these questions could not be answered in court, this matter was brought to arbitration to resolve.
Speaking to her health history prior to the car crash, Derek’s client testified that she had experienced low back pain in the form of a strain once or twice, but otherwise had no significant injuries to her back. At the time of the accident, she was working 40 – 50 hours per week, hiked often with friends, maintained her home, and rode a motorcycle. She was seemingly young, healthy, and active before the accident.
On the day of the accident, Derek’s client was stopped on Washington Avenue in Kingston with her foot on the brake. She described the impact by the defendant’s vehicle as “hard” and she then experienced low back in the center of her back, describing it as being “sharp,” just after the collision. She went from the accident scene to a nearby urgent care, where the examination disclosed a reduced range of motion in her lower spine. She was prescribed medication and sent home.
Three days later she went to an Orthopedic doctor as the medication was not helping with the pain. She started physical therapy and continued pain medication. As time went on, her condition worsened. A few months later, she was diagnosed with a herniated disc in her lower back that required surgery. The surgery helped initially, but several months later her symptoms recurred.She went to the emergency room with severe back pain, as well as difficulty controlling her bowels and bladder. An MRI showed the disc re-herniated. Due to the severity of her symptoms, she needed surgery again.
Derek’s client testified in the arbitration hearing that following the second surgery she had less low back pain, but her right foot drop was still present. Following the second surgery, she underwent physical therapy and progressed from a walker to cane to ambulate. She still currently needs to use a cane standing for greater than three to four minutes, and while walking.
In addition to the physical ailments from the car crash, Derek’s client testified that the injury has had an impact on her psychological and mental health. She was told not to bear children, and has experienced depression, sadness and anger since the crash.
The defense claimed that our client’s low back symptoms and disc herniation were not due to the accident and developed months afterwards due to a preexisting condition. The arbitrator weighed all the medical records, medical experts from plaintiff and defense, and testimony from all parties. The arbitrator concluded that prior to the accident Derek’s client “was working on a full-time basis in a somewhat physically demanding position, owned a motorcycle that she rode, took long walks and hikes in the Catskill Mountains and otherwise led a relatively pain free life. The accident more likely than not produced symptoms for a period of a few months based upon an injury to plaintiff’s lumbar spine.” The arbitrator found “that plaintiff sustained a Serious Injury under Insurance Law Section 5102(d).”
Derek’s client was awarded a total of $828,000. Although this will not take away the pain and suffering she physically and mentally experienced due to the negligence of the defendant, we hope she can find peace in the justice awarded.