call us: 1-800-LAWYERS 888-484-9881 / 312-332-1400

fax : 908-253-9339

$1.2 Million Award in Lake County Car Accident Arbitration

GET HELP NOW

  • Please enter the code shown in the box below so we know you aren’t a robot.

  • captcha

Lane & Lane Attorneys Discover Client’s Spinal Hardware Fractures That Her Physicians Had Overlooked

Attorney Raymond C. Steadmon and Partner Mark A. Brown secured a $1.2 million arbitration award on behalf of their 59-year-old client who was rear-ended while stopped at a stop sign as she exited a service drive for a Wal-Mart in Lake County, Illinois in October 2011. The client fractured pre-existing spinal hardware in her lower back, requiring multiple surgeries and significantly affecting her life.

Ray and Mark first made a claim with American Family Insurance, the company that insured the at-fault driver, and demanded the entire $50,000 policy limit available. American Family paid the full $50,000 demand right away. Unfortunately, this amount of money was not nearly enough to cover the extensive damages the client suffered in the accident.

As such, Ray and Mark made a claim with State Farm Insurance Company pursuant to the client’s own underinsured motorist coverage to compensate her for the remaining damages. The underinsured motorist claim was denied in total, and the resulting case that ensued was strongly fought and resisted by State Farm every step of the way. In fact, over the course of two years, Ray and Mark made four settlement demands, and each demand was met by State Farm’s refusal to offer even a penny.

State Farm’s overriding basis for denying the claim was its belief that the car accident did not cause the client’s injuries and that the client’s medical condition and functional status was unchanged by the collision. However, our attorneys’ hard work, preparation, knowledge, and persistence paid off. In the end, they were able to persuade the three-person arbitration panel that the client’s fractured hardware, need for the eventual surgeries, and all of the resulting functional limitations were caused, at least in part, by the motor vehicle collision—resulting in the $1.2 million award on behalf of their client.

Was the Impact of the Collision Hard Enough to Cause Spinal Hardware Fractures? Proving This Was Not a Low-Impact Collision

In Illinois, in order to be compensated for an injury, the injured party must prove that the negligent conduct contributed to cause the claimed injury. The negligent conduct need not be the first cause or the last cause, and it is acceptable if the negligent conduct combines with other causes to produce the ultimate injury.

In denying the client’s claim, State Farm argued that the car accident could not have contributed to cause the client’s fractured spinal hardware because it was a low impact collision incapable of producing such harm. However, the attorneys were able to show that State Farm’s position was baseless.

Despite there being no evidence of how fast the other driver was going and no photographs of the damage to the vehicles, the evidence showed that the collision was a significant impact. There was no evidence of screeching tires or locked up brakes, meaning that the at-fault driver did not slow down before she hit the client. From that, Ray and Mark argued that it must have been a high-impact collision because the client’s car was pushed 30-50 feet into the intersection despite the client having her foot on the brake at the time of impact. The client’s vehicle was pushed so far out into the intersection that an oncoming car was forced to swerve to avoid colliding with the client, and in doing so, the other driver collided with another vehicle causing a separate accident. In the end, it became clear that the collision was a significant impact.

The Other Driver was at Fault, But What Injuries and Harm Did the Accident Cause? Sorting Through a Medically Challenging and Complex Case

Sadly, Ray and Mark’s client had numerous severe and complex pre-existing medical conditions that she had been dealing with for nearly 10 years before the collision occurred. The client had severe degenerative disc disease with significant spinal stenosis and five prior back surgeries, including a five-level fusion of her lumbar spine with metal instrumentation to hold that portion of her spine together. She also suffered from “flat back syndrome,” meaning she walked bent over at the waist at a nearly 90-degree angle. The client was legally disabled and was forced to retire from her lifelong career as a nurse many years prior to the collision.

While the client’s pre-existing spinal issues certainly caused severe pain and significantly limited her activity level, she was mostly independent and actively engaged in her life the best she could be. She was able to walk (albeit slowly and carefully); drive; teach nursing part time at a local university; and help care for her elderly father, her sick husband, and disabled son. Ray had this to say about his client:

“She is an amazing woman. Many people with her unfortunate medical situation would have given up long ago. She never quit. She never felt sorry for herself. Instead, she battled and fought. She accepted her challenges and lived each day to its full potential without any pity or regret.”

Just when her medical condition seemingly could not get any worse, the accident changed her life forever. However, being able to prove that the accident changed her life was a difficult task. Our attorneys were up to the challenge.

State Farm argued that since the client did not have any major low back complaints immediately after the accident, and because she suffered from such severe pre-existing spinal conditions well before the accident, no physician could say, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the accident caused her injuries and resulting functional limitations. State Farm went so far as to hire David Fardon, M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, to review the client’s entire medical history and case file. Dr. Fardon provided a 21-page single-spaced medical report supporting State Farm’s arguments to help them try and win the case.

One major medical hurdle the attorneys had to overcome was the fact that, at the scene of the accident, the client did not report any injuries whatsoever to the paramedics or police officers, and she refused medical treatment. State Farm argued that if the client really hurt her lower back and fractured her spinal hardware in the accident, she would have been in severe pain immediately. However, right after the collision, the client was in a lot pain, but she just didn’t tell anyone. The client was always in a lot of pain, so it was difficult for her, at that moment, to tell how severely she was actually injured by the collision. There was no need for her to report being injured until she actually knew that she was injured in the accident as opposed to simply feeling the same pain she had for quite some time in the past.

The next major hurdle was that fact that the client did not seek any medical treatment for three weeks after the accident. State Farm argued that if she was really injured, she would have gone to the emergency room right away. However, rather than going to the emergency room, the client chose to wait and see her longtime orthopedic spine surgeon who knew her spinal condition best. Unfortunately, the first available appointment to see the spine surgeon was three weeks after the collision. The attorneys were able to show that the client’s decision to wait and see her surgeon instead of going to the ER was not unreasonable because the emergency room personnel did not know her medically complex spinal condition best, and they would have likely suggested that she follow up with her surgeon anyway.

At the first visit with her spinal surgeon three weeks after the accident, the attorneys were met with another hurdle. At that visit, the medical record indicated that the client’s complaint was “primarily pain in her neck,” not her lower back. State Farm argued that if the client really hurt her lower back in the accident, she would have reported that to the surgeon at her first visit.  However, Ray and Mark were able to show that she did complain of lower back pain, but that the surgeon did not note it in the record. First, the doctor wrote “primarily pain in the neck,” not “only pain in the neck,” so she must have complained of pain somewhere other than her neck. Second, every time the client has gone to that surgeon, she had lower back pain, so it was reasonable that the surgeon did not note her lower back pain every time she was there. Third, the doctor ordered a lower back x-ray at that visit, which he would not have done unless the client mentioned pain in her lower back to him. In any event, the orthopedic spine surgeon only diagnosed her with whiplash and ordered physical therapy for her neck at that visit. No diagnosis was made with respect to her lower back.

Over the next two months, the client’s lower back pain became increasingly severe. In January 2012, she returned to her orthopedic spine surgeon. The surgeon ordered a CT scan of her spine because of concerns that she may have damaged her spinal hardware. Damage to spinal hardware can be dangerous because the spine is unstable. Interestingly, the client was told that the CT scan did not reveal any abnormalities that she did not have prior to the accident. As a result, the client was sent home.

Over the next year, the client continued to experience excruciating pain in her back, much worse than it had been before the collision. She saw numerous doctors during that time, none of which found any additional complications.

More than one year later, in March 2013, the client’s orthopedic spine surgeon ordered another CT scan of her spine. This scan revealed that she had fractured her spinal hardware. Significant medical treatment immediately ensued due to the instability of her spine. The client ultimately underwent three surgeries to repair the fractured hardware and to extend her fusion from 5 levels to 11 levels. However, the question remained: did the October 2011 car accident contribute to cause the spinal hardware fractures that were discovered 1.5 years later in March of 2013?

The Turning Point in the Case: Lane & Lane Attorneys Discover the Hardware Fractures Doctors Missed on the CT Scan Performed Soon After the Accident

In Illinois, in order to be compensated for an injury, a qualified physician must opine that the negligent conduct (in this case the car accident) contributed to cause the injury (in this case the spinal hardware fractures). As such, our attorneys reached out to the client’s orthopedic spine surgeon to obtain his opinion of whether the car accident in any way contributed to cause the client’s spinal hardware fractures. This spine surgeon did not believe that the car accident could have caused the spinal hardware fractures. He believed the spinal hardware fractures occurred approximately 1.5 years after the accident—as shown by the March 2013 CT scan. He believed that if the hardware fractures occurred in the car accident, the fractures would have been discovered within a few months of the accident and would have been seen in the January 2012 CT Scan. Since he did not see the hardware fractures, he would not support the case. The case was heading in the wrong direction.

Our attorneys, however, kept fighting. Something did not add up. The client had been in excruciating pain since the car accident, but why? How were the attorneys going to prove that the spinal hardware fractured in the car accident and not 1.5 years later? Ray and Mark began to dig deep into the thousands and thousands of pages of the client’s medical records in search for an answer. What they found turned the entire case around.

As the attorneys were studying and pondering CT scans and reports, they made a shocking discovery. They compared the March 2012 CT scan from a few months after the accident to the March 2013 CT scan taken 1.5 years after the accident. The comparison showed the same hardware fractures on both CT scans. In other words, the same fractures that were first seen in March 2013 were also present in March 2012, but the physicians had missed them all along!

The attorneys immediately called the client’s spine surgeon and pointed out their discovery. To the surgeon’s amazement, the attorneys were correct; the CT scan from after the car accident actually did show the spinal hardware fractures. Based on this new finding, the spine surgeon changed his opinion. He now believed that the car accident did contribute to cause the client’s spinal hardware fractures because, as he would expect, there was evidence that the fractures were present within a few months of the accident. The tide had turned.

One Battle Was Won, But the War Was Not Over Yet. Proving Accident Losses for Victims With Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Is a Difficult Task

Now that the attorneys were able to prove that the accident was caused by the other driver and that the spinal hardware was fractured in that accident, the question became: given how bad her spinal condition was to begin with, what did our client really lose?

It is difficult to articulate what someone “lost” in a legal sense when pre-accident medical conditions are so severe. In this case, however, the attorneys were able to provide persuasive evidence that the crash worsened the client’s already debilitating condition and changed her life forever. While previously independent with most activities, the accident marked the start of a clear loss of function. The client is largely bedbound now. It takes 30 minutes for her to walk, with assistance, the 10 or 15 feet from her bedroom to the bathroom and back in her home. She is no longer teaching or driving. She is no longer able to care for her elderly father or disabled son as she had grown accustomed to. Instead, she is now the one who requires the around-the-clock care. During closing arguments, Ray analogized the client’s situation to the following:

“When a person has two eyes, and that person loses one of those eyes, there is no doubt that the injury is severe, but that person can still see. On the other hand, when a person only has one eye to begin with, and that person loses that remaining eye, the loss is so much worse even though the injury is the same…because that person can no longer see.”

It made sense. That was the situation the client was in. There is no doubt that her pre-existing back conditions and daily pain were horrific long before the accident, but she could still function independently and do the things she enjoyed. In other words, “her injury was severe, but she could still see.” After the accident, her back condition and pain became so much worse, so much more severe, and she lost her ability to function independently. She can no longer do the things she used to enjoy. “The accident caused an injury to her already injured back, but this injury was so much worse because she can no longer see.”

The three-person arbitration panel agreed and awarded the client $1.2 million for the injuries she sustained the car accident. Mark had these kind words to say about the efforts that were made and a job well done:

“Putting together the puzzle that made up this case was extremely complex. Ray did an exemplary job of piecing together the client’s many years of medical issues and distinguishing those issues from the injury suffered in crash in order to provide a clear picture to the arbitrators that led to this great result. Ray was able to figure out the cause of the client’s hardware failure before her doctors did.”

If you or a loved one has been through a similar experience, or if you are struggling with a complex accident claim, don’t hesitate to contact our Chicago car accident attorneys at 312-332-1400.

Awarded: $1,200,000.00

Testimonials

  • “I would like to thank Mark Brown for standing up to my insurance company and fighting for me and my family. My case involved a traumatic brain injury and an underinsured motorist claim followed by a bad faith claim. The …

    NA
  • Joi & Reggie
  • “Stephen is one of the most-knowledgeable and client-friendly attorneys I know. He is a fantastic trial lawyer who goes beyond the basics to assure he is providing the best service for his clients. He tailors his services to those client …

    Tt
  • “Steve Lane is an accomplished trial attorney and advocate for individuals and families who have sustained injury or suffered death. He is tireless and extremely committed and I am happy to endorse him for his professional service and dedication.”…

    Rt
  • “Steve is an exceptional plaintiff’s trial attorney. He is kind, compassionate, highly intellectual and a master at the art of trail. I highly recommend him.”…

    Tk
  • “Steve Lane is an exceptional human being and extremely talented professional, one who I have the highest respect for in both work and life. For the past 25+ years, I’ve been an executive in the global human resources industry, working …

    Pk
  • “Steve is a talented and creative lawyer who works hard to achieve extraordinary results for his clients. He is also an active and respected leader in the legal profession.”…

    Jg
  • “Steve and I are colleagues, not strictly in the same company but both members of the Illinois Plaintiffs’ bar representing victims of medical negligence. He is an compassionate, zealous, outstanding lawyer, and a strong advocate and supporter of people in …

    Ps
  • “Stephen is an excellent attorney with a tremendous reputation for doing everything he can for his clients. I would recommend Stephen without reservation.”…

    Th
  • “Stephen is a well-known and experienced trial lawyer. He has represented persons in the area of catastrophic injury for many years. Additionally Steve has been elected or appointed to leadership positions in multiple bar associations.”…

    Wl
  • “Steve and I went to law school together and worked hard to learn the law. Like all good lawyers, Steve never stopped learning, because when you want to excel you need to continually test yourself. He is also active in …

    Db
  • “Steve Lane is an outstanding attorney. He is hard working, detail oriented, and does an excellent job for his clients. I highly recommend Steve.”…

    Jr
  • “Steve and I have known each other for nearly eight years and have worked together on volunteer boards. I have come to trust Steve’s judgment on both business and technical matters, and know that his heart is in the right …

    Ri
  • “I have known Stephen Lane for over 25 years through my work as an attorney on personal injury cases and through presenting seminars with the Illinois State Bar Association. Stephen is an excellent attorney and has always been generous with …

    Rh
  • “Stephen is a highly reputable attorney with vast experience and knowledge.”…

    JH
  • “Stephen is an excellent attorney who has a great grasp of the complicated medical issues of the cases in which he is litigating. He is extremely technologically impressive and incorporates it nicely in his practice. What a wonderful advocate for …

    Ml
  • “Steve knows personal injury law as well as anyone. He knows what it will take to win a case, and when it is best to step away. He is honest and of the highest integrity.”…

    Af
  • “I’ve known Steve Lane for many years and have recommended many people (including my own clients) to him relative to personal injury and medical malpractice matters. He is an excellent and seasoned attorney in that field.”…

    Jk
  • “I highly recommend Stephen. He is an experienced and highly competent trial lawyer who has devoted his career to representing those wrongfully injured. He has successfully handled a variety of highly complex cases.”…

    Lh
  • “Steve is an excellent personal injury attorney of 30 plus years of experience. It is without reservation that I fully endorse him.”…

    Jm
  • “Stephen and I work together on the Leadership Council of Primerus, where I have been impressed by his practical and measured approach to the challenges of management of this ‘virtual global law firm’. It is a pleasure to work with …

    Ac
  • “Steve is best in the business. He brings his A GAME every day/all the time. If you seeking a professional legal advisor who will represent you like a family member – Steve Lane is the man to bring to the …

    Bl
  • “I have had the opportunity a number of years ago to work with Steve Lane in my professional capacity as a court reporter. He is conscientious, professional and most of all extremely competent in the field of law he practices.”…

    Fr
  • “Steve is one of the hardest working attorney’s I know. He has a tremendous amount of compassion for the people he is working with and for. He has a never give up attitude and will go to great lengths for …

    Sg
  • “Stephen has a compassion to help victims and injured people, and he is very effective because of his knowledge and experience. He puts the best interests of his clients above all other considerations. Other lawyers consider Stephen to be a …

    Gb
  • “In a typical year, I advise hundreds of attorneys on how their practice can be made more efficient and how the firm can better serve their client. Having done so for more than six years, I have seen attorneys of …

    Ra
  • “Steve is dedicated to helping those who have been injured through the negligent or intentional acts of others. He is compassionate, detail-oriented and will leave no stone unturned. Steve is also highly regarded in his field by colleagues, clients and …

    Sl
  • “There is a uniqueness about Stephen Lane. Stephen Lane is highly skillful, detailed oriented, dedicated, and takes his commitment to his clients seriously. Stephen Lane is a professional. He’s reliable and responsible. He has integrity, and goes the extra mile. …

    Mh
  • “I have known Stephen since our time at University of Illinois (1976). I also know him as a very skilled lawyer. He is also a quality human being. You cannot go wrong with Stephen Lane.”…

    Sg
  • “I have known Steve for nearly six years. His firm is a member of my organization, Primerus. In that time I have gotten well acquainted with Steve’s reputation as a lawyer and tireless advocate for justice. He is highly regarded …

    Sr
  • “Stephen Lane is a detailed-oriented, hard-working professional attorney with many, many talents. His greatest gift of all that I’ve admired over the eleven years I’ve known him is his kind & genuine spirit, work ethics, dedication, and love for people. …

    Mh
  • “Steve is knowledgeable, honest and easy to talk to. I would recommend him without hesitation.”…

    As
  • “Steve is a highly respected and successful injury trial lawyer. He is very knowledgeable and an extremely effective advocate for his clients. Steve is highly recommended.”…

    Mf
  • “I have known Steve Lane as a “friendly adversary” for many years – we used to office in the same building, and I have had many cases where Steve’s firm was on the opposite side. Steve and his firm are …

    Ms
  • “I am delighted and honored to recommend Steve. I can hardly think of any personal injury attorney and trial lawyer more respectable than Steve. His reputation is excellent amongst all Chicago lawyers and attorneys and amongst the victims of injuries …

    Nt
  • Steve and Scott…
    As I sit behind the desk working on closing out 2012, I was thinking about you and just thought I’d take a moment to tell you how much I’ve valued working together over these years. I took …

    Pam, legal nurse consultant
  • Your firm Lane & Lane, LLC is among a very distinctive group of law practices represented in the 2013 Martindale-Hubbell® Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers™. The history and influence of the Bar Register have made it the most definitive guide …

    Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory
  • Dear Steve,
    On behalf of The Chicago Bar Association College of Trial Advocacy, Judge Thomas More Donnelly and myself, thank you for your participation in the Jury Selection Law & Technique training program last month. We appreciate the time and …

    Megan Healy McClung, CBA College of Trial Advocacy
  • Scott-
    As a litigation consultant, I work with many law firms around the country in evaluating and assisting on product liability and personal injury cases. Over the past 20 years, I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with you, …

    Tony D
  • I was fortunate to have been referred and introduced to Ray Steadmon from Lane and Lane, LLC when I had an auto accident. Ray, along with Scott Lane, worked on my case. Ray and Scott are courteous, patient, organized, efficient …

    B. Abrams
  • Attorney Scott Lane, partner with Lane & Lane, gave a talk on distracted driving at the Deerfield Public Library on Monday, November 3rd, that addressed the dangers of distracted driving. The talk, “Ready to Hand Over the Keys?”, featured several …

    Lori & Felicia, Deerfield Parent Network committee
  • After a successful presentation of his “Hand Over the Keys” talk to an audience of parents and teens at the Deerfield Public Library on November 3rd, Attorney Scott Lane received a special thank-you from one of his fellow presenters.Alex addressed …

    Alex
  • “I would like to thank Scott Lane for his extraordinary efforts in my case. Scott went above and beyond to explain things to me and help me understand everything he was doing. I was amazed at how personal he took …

    Mr. Rick Joan
  • Partner Mark Brown was instrumental in settling a substantial medical malpractice and wrongful death case for the surviving family members of a man who died from an undiagnosed aortic dissection. After finally coming to the end of their long and …

    Ck
  • Scott,
    Thanks for taking the case: good work and great results.
    You helped me with your advice and encouragement, and the final result speaks for itself. Should there be any need in the future, I’ll know who to ask for …

    Alex P
  • Partner Scott Lane was instrumental in helping a man who was seriously injured in a car accident with a teen driver obtain the financial resources he needed for his treatment. After reading in the Lane & Lane newsletterthat Scott …

    testimonial8
  • We just wanted “Thank you”, for a job well done and for the hard work that you have put into settling our mom’s case. You really have put your whole self into our ease and we really and truly appreciate …

    The C**** family
  • I would like to start by saying thank you for your compassion and dedication during our case. I don’t think there is anyone more loyal or experienced as an attorney in all of the world. You made dealing and coping …

    Jb
  • Dear Scott:I was looking through some papers on my desk and buried under some files was my copy of “The Trusted Advisor” by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert M. Galford. It reminded me to send you this …

    Kr
  • Steve is an extremely knowledgeable and thorough attorney. In addition, he does everything possible to help his clients because he cares about them. Steve believes in the right to trial by jury and helping the little guy.…

    Th
  • “Our firm retained Stephen in a personal injury matter for our client The matter was in certain respects a little bit more complicated than your usual case. Nevertheless, the results were great. Stephen handled the matter to everyone’s satisfaction.”…

    Jt
  • “Steve was great. He helped me avoid numerous situations which were going to develop into major problems, and effectively took care of other instances / brought them to conclusion in my favor. Superb professional. I also place great value in …

    Sf
  • “We retained Steve after our mother was injured in a fall. We had known Steve for years and knew he was a person of the highest integrity. Steve was painstaking and detail-oriented in his approach, and fully explained developments and …

    Ls
  • “My sincere thanks to you and your staff for everything you accomplished on my behalf. Every member of your team is astoundingly attentive and friendly, and it was so reassuring to trust that I was in good hands. The settlement …

    Sj
  • Dearly beloved attorney Stephen Lane,With pleasure, love and gratitude I am responding to your letter. I am very thankful in having met you and having talked to you. Your words filled with love and comfort made me change my way …

    Gr
  • You were extremely helpful and very knowledgable and informative.…

    M.m.
  • Dear Staff at Lane and Lane LLC,I just wanted to say how helpful and thoughtful all of you have been through this difficult time.My family can’t thank you enough.You have exceeded all expectations with your service.Every member of your staff …

    PCH and family
  • Recommendation for Mark A. Brown and Lane & Lane, LLC

    Mark Brown and his team did an excellent job of representing me in my personal injury lawsuit. I contacted Mark just before the statute of limitation was due to expire. …

    DC 12/21/2012
  • “Dear Steve and Staff, We would like to thank everyone for the amazing job you all have done for us. It was really nice to work, and always a pleasure to hear from you all. With the warmest wishes, have …

    The K_________ Family
  • Dear Mark,

    I write to applaud you for your legal experience and expertise in the field of personal injury litigation, insurance issues as they relate to such litigation, your organization and assertiveness in quickly reaching a settlement in a very …

    J. c.
  • Scott:

    Nobody wants to retain an attorney, however an attorney friend recommended Lane & Lane, and Scott Lane in particular. Now several years after the case was resolved, I am more than pleased with the recommendation, council, and result from …

    P. m.
  • While in college, I was hit by a vehicle while walking home. I was initially wary of pursuing a lawsuit because I’d heard many stories of protracted litigation with unsatisfactory results, but I gained the confidence to proceed after meeting …

    Zy
  • Dear Ray and Scott,

    Thank you for taking us on as a client and for seeing us through a very trying time in our lives. The quality of service your firm extended far exceeded our expectations. From the start, you …

    The Buchanan Family
  • Hey there Mark!

    I don’t have a clever way of saying “Thank You” for all the hard work and determination you put into getting me the best resolution to my case. You and your staff were always there to keep …

    Pat
  • It’s been a few years. It was a January when my mom was still able to winter in Florida. It was an unfortunate day when she was chatting with friends after a tennis game when her accident happened. She was …

    Janice Barr, daughter of Trudi Altman
  • I was in a car accident and needed a personal injury lawyer, but didn’t know how to find a good honest lawyer. One of my friends told me to find the best lawyers go to the web-site www.martindale.com and that’s …

    testimonial1
VIEW ALL TESTIMONIALS
WordPress Video Lightbox