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Amanda Graham obtains a defense verdict in a disputed liability and causation motor vehicle accident case, arising out of a two-vehicle accident that occurred on February 23, 2018 in Pickens County, Alabama at the intersection of U.S. 82 and County Road 75.  According to the accident report, the defendant was stopped at the stop sign on County Road 75 facing southbound.  His lane of travel was governed by a stop sign.  The vehicle the plaintiff  was operating was traveling east on U.S. 82 in the right lane.  She had the right of way.  Defendant began to cross the intersection and failed to yield the right of way to the plaintiff’s vehicle. As a result, the plaintiff’s vehicle struck the defendant’s vehicle. The Defendant told the officer that the plaintiff did not have on her headlights on and he did not see her vehicle. Both vehicles sustained major damage.

During trial, the Defendant testified that he looked both ways before crossing U.S. 82 and did not see any traffic. He testified it was “dusky dark” outside and the plaintiff did not have her headlights on. The plaintiff denied that the defendant stopped before crossing 82, and denied that it was dark enough for her headlights to be needed.

The Court took judicial notice that the sun set at 5:45 pm on the night of the accident, and that twilight, the time after sunset but before complete darkness, lasted until 6:10 pm that day. The defendant testified that the accident occurred at 5:45 pm. The plaintiff testified that the accident occurred closer to 5 pm, although she could not recall the exact time. There were records admitted that the 911 call was dispatched at 5:54 pm (as testified to by the officer that received the call to respond), and the ambulance was dispatched at 5:55 pm. There was obviously a dispute as to how dark it was outside, and whether headlights were needed.

The plaintiff testified that as she traveled straight down highway 82, she witnessed the defendant’s vehicle run through the stop sign before entering the highway, then cross two lanes of traffic, cross the median without stopping, and then cross the next two lanes of traffic, before she collided with his vehicle. Despite all of this travel (and time), she testified that the accident happened very quickly and she was unable to stop or apply her brakes or take any evasive maneuvers before the accident occurred. There was a dispute as to how fast she was traveling at the time of the accident – she testified on the stand she was traveling 65 MPH on cruise control (the speed limit) but two different portions of her medical records, from two different providers, indicated that she was traveling 70 MPH. Defense counsel argued in close that the plaintiff might have contributed to the accident by not decelerating her speed, or taking any evasive maneuvers prior to the accident occurring, based on her testimony that she witnessed the defendant cross four lanes of traffic, run a stop sign, and run through a median without stopping, before the accident occurred.  Defense counsel also argued that the defendant did not act negligently, as he testified that he stopped, looked both ways, and did not see any traffic before proceeding across the interstate.

The plaintiff claimed a carpal tunnel injury, soft tissue injuries to her arm, elbow, shoulder, hips, back, and neck, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Multiple doctors testified – a chiropractor, a counselor, and the orthopedic doctor that performed the carpal tunnel surgery. For the chiropractic care, the plaintiff was treating with the same chiropractor prior to this accident occurring. While her pain ratings immediately after the accident were a little higher than they were before the accident occurred, they were not higher than when she first started going to the chiropractor. Further, within a couple of months, she was voicing less pain than when she first started treating with that chiropractor before the accident occurred. Despite having less pain, according to her records, the plaintiff still quit her job and testified she was unable to go back to work.

For the counselor, the plaintiff had been treating with the same counselor before this accident as well, and it was obvious within her records that she had been dealing with a lot of mental health issues that were affecting her life. Defense counsel argued that the motor vehicle accident was not specifically mentioned in her records, and it appeared that the plaintiff continued to complain of, or speak about, the same things she had been speaking of before the accident occurred, after the accident occurred.

For the orthopedic doctor, the plaintiff had gone to physical therapy for her wrist immediately after the accident occurred, and was eventually discharged, stating she had zero pain. Then, a few months later, she returned, attributing her new onset of pain to working out. Defense counsel argued that this was a causal break in claiming that the accident was the cause of her carpal tunnel surgery, which did not occur until after the plaintiff returned to treatment (again, where she attributed her new onset of pain to working out).

No special damages were entered regarding medical bills during the trial of this case. Instead, the plaintiff simply entered her pay stub from the last year she worked, equaling $67,000. During closing arguments, plaintiff’s counsel requested the jury return a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and award damages of $190,000, equaling $130,000 in lost wages ($67,000 for two years – when the plaintiff testified she felt she could have been able to go back to work, but was involved in another motor vehicle accident where she broke her back), and $60,000, equaling $100/day for 600 days of treatment.

The jury deliberated for about two hours before returning a verdict in favor of the Defendant.

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