$800,000: College Student Suffers Skull Fracture In Auto Collision

CASE DESCRIPTION:  Plaintiff was a belted passenger in a vehicle driven by the Defendant.  Defendant made an illegal U-turn trying to reach a parking spot.  The vehicle was struck broadside on the passenger side by a vehicle traveling in the other direction.  Plaintiff brought suit to recover for medical expenses, personal injury and loss income.  The Defense disputed the calculation of damages.

RESULT:  $800,000.00 total settlement

As noted in the case description, the Plaintiff was injured as a passenger in a car while it made an illegal U-turn.  As a result of the broadside impact, Plaintiff received a depressed skull fracture.  Although surgery was deemed unnecessary, she was hospitalized for 5 days and withdrew from school that semester (the second semester of her sophomore years).  When Plaintiff returned to school the following semester, she was plagued by headaches after any session of prolonged reading.  In addition, she had trouble with spelling, word choice and experienced lapses in both short term and long term memory.  Plaintiff also had trouble concentrating and sleeping.  As a result of these problems, Plaintiff’s GPA dropped from approximately a 3.50 in the honors program to a 3.10 in regular courses.

Approximately one year following the accident, Plaintiff began to receive neuropsychological care.  She was diagnosed as a disabled student and began to receive academic accommodations such as increased testing time.

Plaintiff contended that this injury resulted in acquired learning disabilities which will have the effect of reducing Plaintiff’s lifetime earning potential.  Through the testimony of the economist and the vocational rehabilitation counselor, Plaintiff’s counsel quantified the loss between Plaintiff’s pre-injury goal of becoming an attorney with the earnings of a teacher.  These estimates ranged from $400,000.00 to $1,800,000.00.  Plaintiff’s medical specials totaled $50,000.00.

The Defendant argued that, other than the skull fracture itself, Plaintiff did not suffer any serious or permanent injury.  Therefore, her earning capacity was unchanged.  Defendant’s doctors argued that none of the radiographic studies (MRIs, CT Scans) of other medical diagnostic studies showed any objective signs of brain injury.  Defendant also argued that the drop in Plaintiff’s grades were the result of emotional problems and other factors unrelated to this incident, including Plaintiff’s pre-existing condition of cross-dominance (diagnosed at age 8), which affected Plaintiff’s reading skills.  Therefore, Plaintiff suffered no wage loss, or at most the loss of one year attributable to the delay in her graduation date.

TYPE OF CASE:  Automobile broadside collision

INJURIES:  Plaintiff received a depressed skull fracture.  Consequently Plaintiff began experiencing headaches after reading, lapses in both short and long term memory, trouble concentrating and trouble sleeping.  Ultimately Plaintiff was diagnosed as a disabled student.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT:  On 3/31/95 in San Diego, California.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE:  20 at time of incident.

OCCUPATION:  Student at San Diego State University.

Wylie A. Aitken & Darren O. Aitken
For Plaintiff – Megan M.

Steven J. Banner
For Defendant – Brett M.