While many childhood injuries fade into memory, others persist. Such was the case for the plaintiff “Liz.” Injured in a car accident at age nine, Liz struggled for the rest of her childhood to find treatment for her rib pain and to engage in her passion, horseback riding.
Liz’s family struggled at first to find a lawyer. When they found attorneys Jess Cash and Keith Fuicelli, however, the tide turned in their favor.
Liz grew up around horses at her family’s home and a local barn. She enjoyed taking care of horses and loved horseback riding.
Everything changed when Liz was nine. That year, she was injured in a car accident, suffering permanent damage to her ribs. Over the years, Liz received medical treatment several times for flare-ups of the rib injury, including physical therapy. None of these treatments cured the problem; rather, they simply managed the symptoms. The injury cost Liz the challenging horseback riding she loved, a fact she was forced to face every time she entered the barn.
After several years, Liz’s family sought legal advice about a personal injury claim. However, the first lawyer they hired turned out to be a poor fit. The attorney insisted the case was worth no more than $20,000 before a jury and certainly should not go to trial. Instead, the attorney proposed a settlement of $58,000. Liz and her family looked for a second opinion and turned to Fuicelli & Lee, who agreed to take on her case.
Events and Strategies at Trial
The defense’s key argument relied on Liz’s imaging over the years. Various x-rays, MRI images, and bone scans all returned negative findings. The defense combined these findings with evidence of Liz’s active life to argue that she wasn’t permanently injured in the car accident.
The plaintiff’s attorneys countered this argument at trial in several ways. First, they pointed out that a lack of findings on certain imaging tests doesn’t mean that there is no injury. Rather, a lack of findings on an X-ray, MRI, or bone scan merely means that there is no problem with what these tests can detect.
Second, Liz’s attorneys pointed out that Liz remained active because she chose to make the best of a bad situation. The fact that Liz was injured was not Liz’s fault. She should not be penalized for building a life as best she could with an ongoing injury. The legal team pointed out that Liz’s “buck up” approach shouldn’t translate into a free pass for the person who harmed her.
How an Unexpected Jury Worked in the Plaintiff’s Favor
The plaintiff’s attorneys were somewhat surprised by the jury they received. From experience, they knew to expect a Boulder, Colorado jury to be more generous. The jurors in this case met that expectation. However, they offered a class and education background the attorneys found unusual for the area.
The jurors were all middle-class, educated, hardworking types who respected Liz’s drive to “buck up” rather than give up. One worked with horses and understood firsthand the challenges Liz faced.
Ultimately, the jury awarded Liz $1.5 million. Colorado law also provides for interest accruing from the date of the accident to the date of the verdict, nearly doubling Liz’s award. Liz’s legal team arranged a settlement with insurance that forestalled an appeal and led to a final award of $3,055,000—over $3 million more than Liz’s first attorney claimed the case was worth.
Key Takeaways for Attorneys
In addition to an unexpected jury experience, a strong plaintiff and Colorado’s statute of limitations exceptions for minors provided key opportunities for Liz’s legal team.
Liz herself proved an asset to her attorneys as a credible, hardworking, and motivated young woman. Liz had chosen to make the best of her life rather than give up the horses she loved. Despite her injuries, she found ways to continue caring for horses, working with horses and riders, and even doing some riding herself, although she was unable to do the most challenging types of riding she enjoyed before the injury.
Colorado’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims involving children also worked in Liz’s favor. In Colorado, the statute of limitations for cases involving injured minors does not begin to run until the minor turns 18. In Liz’s case, this law provided time for Liz, her family, and her doctors to understand the full impact of her rib injuries, as Liz sought treatment several times during her childhood.
Finally, Liz’s case exemplifies the importance of thinking carefully through an injury case and its impacts on the injured person. No injury exists in a vacuum; every injury has effects on real human life. In this case, Liz’s legal team communicated that impact well—and won a better result for their client.