Yesterday, I told the story of a young ballplayer who fought his way back from a serious, traumatic brain injury. He has made almost a full recovery and has returned to school and sports activities. I suggested that he was very lucky and that these injuries can often have devastating consequences. Today, when perusing legal stories, I came across this one out of California: On Monday, a jury in Santa Clara, CA awarded a college student who suffered traumatic brain injuries, $49 million in damages. The cause? Two trucks collided and struck the car that 21 year old Drew Bianchi was riding in.
The verdict is reported to be the largest single-plaintiff personal injury jury verdict in California in over ten years, but that is not the point. Out of pocket expenses in this case are enormous; there are and will be an estimated $31 million in past and future medical expenses for the care and treatment of this unfortunate young man, who did nothing wrong and was, simply, in the wrong place at the wrong time. His condition will require 24-7 medical care for the rest of his life.
His principal trial attorney, Randell Scarlett of the Scarlett Law Group in San Francisco, said:
"The numbers are certainly significant, but I think they only represent the staggering cost of care to individuals sustaining traumatic brain injury," Scarlett said. "This jury got it. In closing, I indicated to the jury that one can lose a leg, one can lose an arm, and there’s a prosthesis that medical scientists have come up with. There is no prosthetic device when one loses the ability to use one’s brain, one’s sense of self and one’s ability to have cognition."
I have highlighted and quoted Randell Scarlett’s words. I cannot emphasize them enough, "the staggering cost of care to individuals sustaining a traumatic brain injury… when one loses the ability to use one’s brain…" People who scream "lawsuit abuse" and "jackpot justice" are, seemingly, ignorant of the serious cost, in medical care and in quality of life, that serious injuries cause to innocent people. This jury, according to Mr. Scarlett, "got it". For the sake of Drew Bianchi and his family, thank God they "got it". Otherwise, his care would be substandard and the burden would fall on the family and the taxpayers. Would that be justice in this case?
I usually congratulate the victorious attorneys when I report a verdict; then I move on. However, in this case, I was very impressed and I spent some time on the Scarlett Law Group website (I have never done business with this firm and I was, previously, unfamiliar with its work). The firm specializes in traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, automobile accidents, big rig trucking accidents, medical malpractice, professional negligence, birth injuries, mass torts, environmental disasters, wrongful death and catastrophic personal injuries. In other words, this firm takes on serious cases involving serious injuries. The firm site suggests that some lawfirms are "hesitant" to try serious cases and will settle for a "less than adequate compensation" offer. This firm claims that it prepares every case for trial.
I cannot speak to the firm’s accusation that other firms are "hesitant" to seek the ultimate justice, a huge jury verdict. I believe that experienced personal injury attorneys seek, always, to achieve ultimate justice. I do agree with Mr. Scarlett’s premise that all cases should be prepared to go to trial. Showing the defense that you are ready, willing, and very able to pursue the case to a large verdict should result in a substantial increase in any and all offers of settlement.
Serious injuries often result in serious financial consequences while awaiting justice. Drew Bianchi’s accident occurred in May 2007. Trial was just conducted, some 2 and 1/2 years later. If the verdict is appealed and/or no interim settlement is achieved, it could be years before justice is done in this case. In cases like this, one might ask: How are the medical bills being paid? If the victim is responsible for supporting the family, how are the family bills being paid? Are there other extraordinary expenses? How have these impacted other bills and expenses?
Lawsuit funding is a service that seeks to assist in paying interim bills and expenses while a serious injury accident case is pending. Most people or companies that cause vehicle accidents are represented by powerful, well financed, insurance companies. The financial inequities between plaintiffs and insurance companies are enormous, and insurance companies almost always delay resolution for the purpose of making plaintiffs financially desperate to resolve their cases for a lower-than-full value offer. Thus, a company like Lawsuit Financial can be a vital asset to achieving Mr. Scarlett’s goal of ultimate justice. Lawyer’s who seek ultimate justice, but are prevented from doing so by their clients’ financial situation, should keep this valuable strategic tool in mind and use it, when it is necessary to prevent an early and under value resolution.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.