Passenger Claimed Head-On Crash Caused Neck Injury


On July 26, 2008, the plaintiff, a 50-year-old interior decorator, was a seat-belted rear passenger in a vehicle operated by her plaintiff husband and traveling west on Oakville Cross Road, a two-lane road in Napa. At approximately 2 p.m., an 81-year-old driver fell asleep at the wheel of her vehicle, crossed over the double-yellow line of Oakville Cross Road and broadsided the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The force of impact moved the plaintiffs’ car approximately one foot sideways and to the edge of an embankment. The plaintiff passenger claimed injuries to her neck.

Plaintiff Allegations

The passenger and her husband sued the driver, alleging that she was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. They claimed that the 81-year-old driver was negligent for driving in such a state that she fell asleep at the wheel, which caused her to cross over the double-yellow line and broadside their vehicle. The plaintiff driver claimed that he attempted evasive maneuvers when he saw the other driver cross the center line, but could not avoid the impact.

Defendant Allegations

The 81-year-old driver conceded liability for the accident.

Defense counsel contested the nature and extent of the plaintiff passenger’s physical injuries, attributing most of her pain and limitation to an incident that occurred 20 years earlier, when a garage door fell and hit her on the head. Counsel also pointed to an emergency room visit that preceded the subject accident by seven months, where the plaintiff reported numbness and tingling in her right arm, similar to the symptoms she reported after the accident. Thus, defense counsel concluded that the plaintiff had pre-existing problems unrelated to the collision.


The plaintiff passenger went to a hospital several days after the accident. She claimed that the force of the impact resulted in cervical flexion and extension at the C5-6 level. She also claimed she suffered from subsequent headaches and neck pain, and was diagnosed with an aggravation of disc disease and cervical dystonia. The plaintiff’s treating doctor recommended disc replacement surgery, which she contended she would undergo. She has since treated her injuries with physical therapy and chiropractic care.

The plaintiff passenger claimed she suffered neuralgia, hand sensitivity and neuropathic pain, as a result of a trigger point injection she received while treating for her cervical injuries. She alleged that this was also a compensable injury related to the subject accident, for which she treated sporadically with a neurologist since 2009. She further claimed that she still experiences pain in her neck, as well as numbness and tingling in her right hand.

Thus, the plaintiff passenger claimed $38,671 in past medical costs and $79,000 for possible future disc replacement surgery. She also sought recovery of an unspecified amount of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Her husband presented a derivative claim, seeking recovery of damages for his loss of consortium.


The parties negotiated a $1,250,000 settlement, which was established via the assistance of a mediator.

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