In June 2015, Colman Law Group earned a noteworthy success in an Orange County binding arbitration. The firm represented a driver who rear-ended a family’s car, causing injury to several of the five occupants. The plaintiffs were seeking a seven-figure recovery, but the defense limited the award for all plaintiffs to $137,853.
The plaintiff parents and three minor children were stopped on Interstate 5 when they were rear-ended by the defendant driver, who was later arrested for driving under the influence. The family alleged significant orthopedic injuries to their necks and backs, which required substantial treatment.
Most importantly, the mother claimed she would eventually need both cervical and low back surgery because of the injuries sustained in the accident. It was maintained that the teenage daughter, a violin prodigy, suffered a traumatic injury to her bony spinal processes which hampered her sophisticated violin studies.
Plaintiffs sought more than $1 million
The plaintiffs ultimately asked the arbitrator for $320,000 to cover past and future medical expenses alone, plus a sizable general award for past and future pain and suffering.
According to the plaintiff’s team, each of the five family members sustained considerable neck and back injuries. They claimed the injuries required an involved medical work-up including emergency care, continuing orthopedic evaluation, epidural injections, surgical recommendations and chiropractic care.
The Colman team demonstrated to the arbitrator that the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries were not as significant as contended, and the plaintiffs were overtreated for their alleged conditions. Clearly, some injuries were sustained in the accident and some initial treatment was reasonable. But the defense showed that much of the subsequent treatment (including repeated orthopedic evaluations, multiple MRIs) was neither reasonable nor necessary.
A whittled-down award
The mother—the most significantly injured, and demanding nearly $300,000 just for medical specials—was awarded only $18,213 in medical specials with another $65,000 for pain and suffering.
The father was granted $27,000 in a combined award. Deciding the alleged trauma to the bony spinal process of the 17-year-old violin prodigy was not caused by the accident, the arbitrator assigned her a combined award of $21,975.
The arbitrator found that the 13-year-old son’s alleged injuries were not convincing and his treatment and MRIs were neither reasonable nor necessary. The boy was allocated a combined award of $5,345. With no credible evidence that the seven-year-old daughter was injured, the arbitrator awarded her a nominal $500.
In all, the arbitrator returned an award of $137,853, a fraction of the plaintiff’s seven-figure request. This was a significant victory all around, including the defendant driver, as it was an admitted liability case with a DUI component.