Personal Injury Protection

Issues At Trial In Impairment of Earning Capacity Claim

This post is part two in a three-part trial report.  The judge in our case was the recently retired Honorable Stephen N. Tiktin from Bend. He was excellent, as usual.

The Defense Counsel was Barry Goehler, head of Nationwide Insurance’s in-house firm. He did a fine job and was very easy to work with.

The main issues in this case were as follows:

  1. My client was charged with felony methamphetamine possession and hindering prosecution in 2007. The judgment of conviction was entered only ten days prior to this collision.
  2. He did not come off as the most credible person on the stand, having changed portions of his testimony from his deposition.
  3. Of the four “before and after” witnesses my client could provide, one had only seen him once a year since 2002, two had significant felony convictions as well as crime of dishonesty convictions, and one didn’t remember much. I went with the one who didn’t remember much, and he showed up in court unshaven and in dirty blue jeans.
  4. My client is 30 years old and still lives at home with his father. The father, who is 71, did a decent job testifying but lacked a good memory.
  5. My client had a prior shoulder dislocation involving the same shoulder when he was a kid.
  6. The pain and symptoms my client was reporting was more consistent with a labral tear than exacerbation of prior AC joint arthritis (and he had an extensive amount of that). Labral tears come from shoulder dislocations, which did not happen in this collision.
  7. My client waited a full 31 days before seeking treatment, working full time while waiting. Thus, the onset of symptoms boiled down to his credibility, which could appear questionable.
  8. My client continued to work as a line cook for nearly four months after the collision, without help or alteration of his job duties. He later quit his job because he didn’t get along with management.

Experts testified on both sides.

We called Blake Nonweiler, MD, my client’s surgeon. He opined that the collision caused the AC joint symptoms but that there was no evidence of labral injury upon his examinations.  The Defense had Dr. Steven Brenneke of Clackamas testify. Dr. Brenneke admitted many facts that were helpful to me, including the fact that he had never seen the MRI that claimed to show a Hills-Sachs lesion (which can only come from a dislocation), but gave the opinion that the symptoms were more consistent with a labral tear which must have been present prior to the collision based on the lesion.  Our doctor testified that the MRI did not confirm such a lesion, and showed no signs of labral tearing.  Dr. Brenneke also testified that the mechanism of injury was wrong for an AC joint injury, and that there should have been immediate and intense symptoms if the AC joint was, in fact, injured.

The Defendant then hired DME doctor Holm Neumann just ten days prior to trial. Dr. Neumann, interestingly, agreed with Dr. Nonwiler regarding the lack of a Hills-Sachs lesion. However, he also opined that the mechanism of injury was all wrong for an AC joint injury. He also testified that there should have been immediate and significant symptoms if it had been injured. I pointed out also that he was not provided with all of the records, including any of the chiropractic records. He then added that he was not given all of the pre-surgery imaging records, either! Both defense doctors agreed, however, that there was no evidence presented to them confirming or even mentioning any left shoulder pain or symptoms prior to the injury, that all evidence (by client history) was that the left shoulder was symptomatic within days of the collision, and that the surgery was appropriate for symptomatic AC joint arthritis. Again, given this testimony, all opinions turned on the credibility of my client in giving his history.

My next post will detail the results of the trial.

Lawyer Timothy Williams | Top Attorney Personal Injury | Tim Williams Attorney Profile

New Car Accident Case Resolved in Arbitration

It’s every car buyer’s worst nightmare – being involved in a car wreck in your new car before it’s added to your insurance policy. That’s exactly what happened to our Portland, Oregon client. Oregon Auto Car Accident Attorneys, Accident Attorney Oregon | Dwyer Williams Dretke PC | Oregon Personal Injury Attorneys He had purchased a new vehicle and had owned it for three days when he was injured in an accident before he had added it to his insurance coverage. After receiving treatment for his injuries, he added the car to his insurance policy the evening of the accident and was told that he would have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for reasonable and necessary medical benefits up to $25,000.

He continued to receive treatment for the injury he had suffered in the auto accident. Six months later, when his treatment was complete, he had $7,000 in medical expenses. When he submitted the claim to his insurance company, they denied it. Their reason, of course, centered on the fact that the accident had happened before the newly purchased vehicle was added to his policy. This was counter to the information our client had gotten on the phone, but he couldn’t get the insurance company to budge, so he called an experienced auto accident attorney.

After I took the case, I attempted to negotiate with the insurance company but was unable to get them to make a fair offer for our client. Because we do everything possible to get our clients’ claims paid, I took the next reasonable step and filed a lawsuit to recover our client’s medical expenses and attorney fees. The lawsuit forced the insurance company to deal with our client’s claim, and they agreed to arbitration – arbitration being a alternate method of resolving legal disputes without the lengthy, costly process of a full trial. Just like a trial, clients need an experienced attorney to represent them in arbitration.

After arbitration, the insurance company agreed to pay all his medical bills and attorney fees. Our client was very pleased with the result and satisfied with his choice to have a Personal Injury Attorney help him fight his case.

Lost Wages Central Issue in PIP Case

Once an active mother with two small children, our client’s life changed dramatically when she was injured in a Portland, Oregon auto accident. Oregon Auto Car Accident Attorneys, Accident Attorney Oregon | Dwyer Williams Dretke PC | Oregon Personal Injury Attorneys Her extensive medical care nearly exhausted the $15,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits she had available. Despite her efforts to recover, the demands of the job she had always enjoyed became too much. She was forced to seek alternate employment, but her new job paid less than the old one, leaving her in a financial bind. She applied for wage loss through her PIP benefits to cover the gap.

Her PIP carrier refused to reimburse the difference in pay, arguing that our client had been dissatisfied with her old job and had chosen to pursue a new career. The PIP carrier also insisted she repay the medical benefits out of her liability settlement. A previous attorney had pursued these issues vigorously but with no success, so she transferred the case to an auto accident attorney in our office.

I convinced the PIP carrier that it had no right to reimbursement of paid medical expenses, because ORS 742.544 provides for repayment only when the recovery is greater than the financial losses. Because our client had to take a job that paid less, we were able to show that her lost earning capacity exceeded her liability settlement. We also provided documentation from our client’s doctors to prove that the change in jobs was due to an inability to perform her old job duties – not simply because she wanted a change in careers. When the PIP carrier still refused to pay the wage loss, we filed a lawsuit for the lost earnings and attorney fees.

The case settled shortly after it was referred to a defense attorney, based on the understanding that attorney fee exposure would be far greater than the amount of lost wages. Our client was able to keep the entire $25,000 liability settlement without repaying the medical expenses, and she received the lost wages from her PIP carrier to which she was entitled. She was very happy that she had transferred the case to Dwyer Williams Dretke.

If you have been in an auto accident and have medical expenses and have lost wages as a result, we can help you get the financial reimbursement you deserve. Even if you’ve already consulted with another attorney, we often get results where others have failed, as in this case. One of our expert Personal Injury Attorneys will be happy to discuss your Oregon Personal Injury case with you. Call us now: 541-617-0555

Auto Accident Attorney Secures Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage for Client

Our client was slowing for a stop light in Eugene, Oregon, when she was rear ended by another driver. Oregon Auto Car Accident Attorneys, Accident Attorney Oregon | Dwyer Williams Dretke PC | Oregon Personal Injury Attorneys The other driver was going slow, and the impact of the crash was low, with less than $600 in property damage. In spite of the low speed and minimal property damage, our client still suffered a back injury that required medical treatment and caused her to miss work.

Because she had numerous pre-existing conditions as a result of workers’ compensation claims and auto accident claims within the last couple of years, her insurance company balked at paying her medical bills or wage loss. At the same time, the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier attributed all of her injuries to prior accidents and did not offer a settlement. Unable to pay her medical expenses or to afford losing wages from missed work, she called us, experienced auto accident attorneys.

As soon as I took the case, I began working on her Personal Injury Protection (PIP) carrier so she could get her medical expenses and wage loss covered. My argument was rooted in the language of the PIP statute and the statements by her medical providers that the treatments she was receiving were related to the accident in question, not her previous accidents or injuries. After listening to my arguments, the PIP carrier reconsidered and agreed to pay her medical bills and wage loss. This enabled her to get the treatment she required for recovery.

When she completed her treatment, I obtained all of her medical records, including prior ones, and demonstrated to the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier how her medical treatment was related to the current accident, caused by the negligence of their insured driver. After negotiations, the insurance company offered a fair settlement that reimbursed her medical providers and compensated her for her pain and suffering.

This case is an excellent example of how an experienced auto accident attorney can help you navigate the rough waters of complicated insurance claims. If you have pre-existing injuries or previously claimed accidents, you will almost certainly need the help of an Oregon auto accident attorney to help you win the settlement you deserve. If you have been injured in an auto accident and have pre-existing injuries or prior claims, we can still help. One of our expert Personal Injury Attorneys will be happy to discuss your Oregon Personal Injury case with you. Call us now: 541-617-0555

Auto Accident Attorney Convinces PIP Carrier to Honor Coverage

It was a gorgeous June day, and our client was driving north on I-5 near Eugene, Oregon with her 4 year old son in the back seat in his car seat. She saw a white Chevy Impala entering the Interstate from an upcoming on-ramp, so she signaled and moved to the left lane. The driver of the Impala merged onto I-5, then immediately made an unsignaled lane change, almost crashing into our client. She swerved to avoid him and lost control of her vehicle on the shoulder of the highway median. She then crossed back over both lanes of northbound traffic, eventually hitting a cement barrier and rolling. Oregon Auto Car Accident Attorneys, Accident Attorney Oregon | Dwyer Williams Dretke PC | Oregon Personal Injury Attorneys The other driver, aware that he had caused an accident, continued to drive for two more miles before pulling over and calling his dad, who had the good sense to tell him to call the police. An Oregon State Trooper cited him for unlawful or unsignaled lane change. Our client and her son, meanwhile, were attended to by emergency medical responders. She had suffered bruising and other injuries but was relieved to find that her son was OK.

About two months after the accident occurred, our client, who is in the US Navy Reserve, was called up for a month of active duty. After her duty was complete, she returned home and continued with the medical treatment prescribed for her accident-related injuries. Her Personal Insurance Protection (PIP) carrier ordered a physician review because of the break in her treatment, and the carrier’s physician deemed the physical therapy treatment she was receiving medically unnecessary, leaving her with the outstanding medical bills. The bills were too much for her to pay, and she was sure the physician was wrong, so she contacted an auto accident attorney for help.

Upon taking the case and hearing her story, I sent a letter to her PIP carrier, reminding them that they themselves claimed to be “committed to serving our military and veterans who have honorably served and their families,” a statement contradicted by their treatment of our client. Our client’s husband was active duty US Navy, and he had purchased the policy for his wife. She had only continued her physical therapy because her orthopedic specialist had recommended it, making it a medical necessity in our view. To support my letter, I also sent along her medical records. After receiving my letter and some negotiation, the PIP carrier agreed to pay all of her medical expenses. Then, I also negotiated a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for her pain and suffering and reimbursement of her medical expenses. This auto accident had been a horrific experience for our client, but she was pleased with the results of our work on her behalf.

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident and are getting denied coverage by your PIP carrier, we can help. One of our expert Personal Injury Attorneys will be happy to discuss your Oregon Personal Injury case with you. Call us now: 541-617-0555