Minami Tamaki LLP represented a 50-year-old IT worker whose car was rear-ended by a Dr. Pepper salesman who was on his way home after making his last delivery for the day. After answering paramedics’ questions at the scene, our client suddenly fell unconscious and required mechanical assistance to breathe. He recovered after a brief hospitalization, but was left with cognitive deficits, including memory problems, loss of focus and attention, and disordered thinking.
He had suffered a brain injury seven years before the crash, and imaging studies were unable to identify any new brain injury from this crash. We argued that he had indeed suffered a traumatic brain injury from the crash, based on his symptoms of short-term memory loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, and inability to work..
Our first hurdle was to prove that Dr. Pepper’s auto insurance policy should cover its salesman for the crash. Although the crash occurred while he was off the clock, we proved that our client’s situation fell within an exception to the general rule that an employer is not liable for accidents during its employees’ commute to and from work. We showed that he had to travel for work and was reimbursed for mileage during his commute. Dr. Pepper’s insurance company was forced to compensate our client for his injuries.
Our second hurdle was to overcome the argument that our client’s cognitive deficits were due to his prior brain injury, which admittedly had left him with residual cognitive problems. To counter this, we deposed our client’s former employers, friends, and family to show he was functioning well after his prior brain injury but had deteriorated significantly after the subject crash. We also hired experts in the fields of neurology, psychiatry, neuropsychology, and vocational rehabilitation,who stated our client would be unable to continue working as a result of his cognitive limitations. Although our client returned to work after the crash, we argued Dr. Pepper should pay for his potential future loss of earnings.
Shortly after mediation, Mark Fong and Seema Bhatt settled the case for $1.5 million for the client and his wife, who sued for loss of his companionship.