A man who suffered severe neck and back injuries after being rear-ended by a County of Los Angeles van has been awarded 950,000 dollars days before his case was due to be heard at the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Felipe Medina (53) of Los Angeles County, California, was driving his Saturn Vue west-bound on the 105 freeway in Lynwood, California, in December 2007, when he slowed to a stop due to a traffic jam ahead of him.
The van behind, driven by County of Los Angeles employee Wille Duckworth, drove into the back of Felipe´s car, causing Felipe to sustain severe neck, back and shoulder injuries. Police investigating the post-accident scene established that Duckworth had been travelling at excessive speed and was unable to stop in time to avoid the collision.
Felipe underwent several operations to his back and left shoulder to relieve the pain caused by his injuries. He was also given epidural injections, painkilling tablets and wore a back brace in an attempt to restore his health to its pre-accident condition, but his doctors fear that his pain will prevent him from ever continuing his job as a maintenance supervisor.
Under Californian law, employers are held responsible for their negligent acts and, after seeking legal advice, Felipe sued the County of Los Angeles for personal injury compensation and loss of earnings – both present and future. However, days before the opening arguments were due to be heard, a settlement was reached between Felipe´s legal representatives and those of the County of Los Angeles for 950,000 dollars.
A 22 year old handyman, whose life was shattered when the car in which he was a back seat passenger was struck from behind by a drunk driver, has been awarded 15.4 million dollars in the Supreme Court of Florida.
Dwight Grant of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was seated in a friend´s stationery car, when it was struck from behind at speed by a car driven by Matthew Lyons of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Dwight sustained multiple skull fractures, frontal lobe brain damage and facial injuries in the collision and spent two weeks in intensive care having reconstructive surgery.
Following his discharge from hospital, Dwight developed a seizure disorder that could not be controlled by medication and Judge Mily Rodriguez-Powell at the Supreme Court of Florida heard that the damage that had been done to Dwight´s brain affected his decision making ability and short-term memory. It was testified that Dwight will never be able to work again.
The claim for personal injury compensation was brought against Matthew Lyons when it was discovered that Lyons was nearly four times over the legal alcohol limit when the accident happened, and it took a six person jury panel very little time to find in favour of the plaintiff.
Their award of 15.4 million dollars compensates Dwight for past and future pain and suffering (6 million dollars), past and future medical care (6.7 million dollars) and past and future loss of earnings (2.7 million dollars).
Claims for whiplash injury compensation are the highest in Europe claims James Dalton – Assistant Director of Motor and Liability for the Association of British Insurers.
Speaking in Leeds at the 2011 Whiplash Conference, Mr. Dalton stated that three-quarters of personal injury claims in the UK are for whiplash injury, and insurers are paying out nearly two billion pounds each year for whiplash claims.
According to figures revealed by the Association of British Insurers, approximately 1,200 claims for whiplash injury compensation are made every day in the UK – six times more than the claims received in a year from people claiming workplace injury compensation.
The Association of British Insurers estimate that the volume of whiplash compensation claims adds an average of 74.00 pounds to British motorist´s insurance premiums and, in his speech, Mr. Dalton called on the government to quickly implement their proposals on civil justice reform.
The changes, claimed Mr. Dalton, would ensure that genuine claimants received fair compensation and access to rehabilitation services more quickly, while the potential for fraudulent claims would be decreased.
In a ruling that will have important implications worldwide for compensation cases, the US government has proposed a civil penalty of $16.4 million on Toyota because the company “knowingly hid a dangerous defect” that caused its vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly. Toyota was initially praised by US authorities for the way it handled recalls to repair faulty accelerator pedals on more than 8 million cars globally (including 2.3 million cars and trucks in the USA).
However, it later emerged that Toyota waited at least four months before reporting the faulty accelerator pedals to US regulators, in contravention to safety regulations that require safety defects to be reported in five business days.
Toyota is facing at least 177 consumer and shareholder lawsuits seeking class-action status and at least 56 suits claiming personal injuries or deaths caused by sudden acceleration incidents. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that 52 people have died in Toyota accelerator-related crashes. A much higher number of people have escaped death but been injured. On April 9th, 2010, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered all federal lawsuits related to the Toyota recall should be heard together at the Central District of California before Judge James Selna.
There is also an unusual case of a Toyota Camry driver who claimed he tried to stop his car but crashed into the back of another car, killing three people. The driver in the read end car accident was sentenced to eight years in prison. The conviction was unusual because the car was clearly out of control having dodged cars at an intersection prior to finally crashing, and the driver had family members in the car. The investigation at the time focussed on the brakes, which were found to be working correctly, rather than investigating the accelerator.
Toyota car owners in the USA are also suing for the reduced resale value of the cards due to the recalls. The claim is supported by various industry guides to the resale value of cars, such as Kelley Blue Book, which lowered the resale value of recalled Toyota cars by an average of 3.5 percent. The price reduction was up to $750 for a Toyota Sequoia. The lawsuits related to lost resale value are considered a much greater financial liability than the lawsuits related to crashes because there are millions of Toyota car owners that may be entitled to compensation. In a previous recall in the USA, Ford Explorer owners were given vouchers worth between $300 and $500 towards the cost of a new Ford car.
Toyota Recalls in Ireland
Toyota Ireland announced in February that it was recalling 26,000 cars in Ireland, although this number was later reduced to just over 18,000. There was immediate speculation that drivers whose car was subject to the recall but ignored the recall and any potential problems with their vehicles could be potentially liable in the case of an accident and even face charges related to negligence. Toyota Ireland issued a statement on the issue of legal liability: “A driver of a potentially affected vehicle could only be the subject of a charge under the Road Traffic Act if involved in an accident if he or she is aware that their vehicle is the subject of this recall campaign and that he or she is aware of the signs of wear and tear, symptomatic of the defect in the accelerator mechanism and they have become apparent, namely the accelerator sticking or becoming slow to return to idle, and they continue to drive the vehicle in this condition.”
Toyota is clearly exposed to product liability claims due to its faulty accelerators, and will no doubt be involved in many road traffic accident claims, as well as pedestrian accident claims, claims from passengers in car accidents, and most of all, claims for rear-end car accidents where the rear driver is driving a Toyota car.