When our client suffered life-changing neck and back injuries in a rear-end accident, she faced an uphill battle getting the compensation she deserved. The at-fault driver’s insurance company, New Jersey Manufacturers (NJM), is known for being a difficult insurer to settle these types of cases voluntarily. Our client’s case was subject to New Jersey’s verbal threshold, meaning that she would have to prove she had sustained serious a permanent injury as a result of the accident. The case went to trial in Somerset County, an extremely conservative county where a plaintiff hadn’t won a similar case in two and a half years.
The odds may not have been in our client’s favor, but with our firm on her side and our own attorney Michael E. Ellery leading the fight for her rights, she got the six-figure jury award she deserved.
On the morning of the 2009 collision, Julie Robinson was driving on Route 182 in Hackettstown, NJ. She stopped at a red traffic light. The car behind her didn’t stop – instead; it collided with her stopped the vehicle. Robinson, 39, suffered a lumbar disc herniation and multiple herniated discs in the cervical region of her spine. To this day, she continues to need ongoing medical treatment for her back injuries, and doctors have recommended spinal surgery. She also missed months of work, costing her thousands of dollars in lost wages.
Despite the severity of Robinson’s injuries, NJM refused to offer her the settlement she deserved. The vehicles involved in the crash weren’t heavily damaged, a point which NJM tried to use against the victim. NJM also tried to argue that Robinson’s neck and back injuries were degenerative, even though she had never complained of back problems before the accident. The case went to arbitration, but NJM quickly appealed the arbitration award. That’s when we took the case to court.
Over a three-day trial in Somerset County, the jury heard the case in its entirety. During the trial, the insurance adjuster from NJM never once left the courtroom. On day one, NJM offered to settle for just $25,000 – for less than Robinson deserved. On day two, the insurer upped its offer to $50,000. Knowing that accepting such a settlement would hardly cover her unpaid medical expenses, lost wages, and the costs of pursuing the claim and bringing it to trial, she chose to let the jury decide the case. In the end, the jury awarded her $20,000 compensation for her lost income and her unpaid medical expenses, along with $90,000 for the pain and suffering she went through because of the collision. With pre-judgment interest, the final jury award was more than $117,000. Though her life will never be the same as it was before the accident, she won’t have to worry every day that the actions of one careless driver will lead to financial disaster.