Partner Allan M. Siegel recently tried a case in the District of Columbia Superior Court arising out of a District of Columbia car accident. Our client was a driver of a vehicle which was proceeding down Independence Avenue, when the other driver pulled from a stop sign and struck her vehicle. Our client had a preexisting arthritis in her neck, but had not had any significant symptoms before the accident. After the accident she had continuous and unrelenting neck pain. While she was able to continue to work, and perform most of her daily activities she has constant neck pain. The wrongdoer was insured with State Farm Insurance Company. The Insurance company hired a doctor to testify that the injury was not caused by the accident, but rather the client’s neck pain was a result of her pre-existing arthritis. Mr. Siegel was able to prove that this doctor was frequently hired by State Farm Insurance company. In fact, he had earned over $170,000 in 2010 alone evaluating claimants and testifying for State Farm. The jury did not believe this “bought” testimony, and relied on the Plaintiff’s treating doctors who explained that many people have pre-existing arthritis in their neck or back, but do not know it because it is asymptomatic. The Plaintiff’s doctor explained that the accident caused the asymptomatic arthritis to become symptomatic. In the District of Columbia (and most jurisdictions) a Defendant takes the Plaintiff as they find her. In other words, if the Plaintiff was more likely to be injured because of a pre-existing condition, then someone else, the Defendant is still responsible for the harm that he caused. The Defendant cannot argue that someone else would not have been hurt, and therefore he should not be held responsible.
The client had approximately $20,000 in past medical expenses. The jury awarded her $55,000 for pain and suffering.