Jessica Girard sustained serious back injuries after a Chevrolet Silverado K1500 LT driven by Eric Plourde hit the back of a car driven by Lizette Guzman. The Guzman vehicle then struck the back of this red Kia Sportage driven by Girard. Jessica Girard sustained serious back injuries after Eric Plourde’s Chevrolet Silverado K1500 LT hit the back of Lizette Guzman’s car, which then struck the back of this red Kia Sportage that Girard was driving. Courtesy photo.

A 44-year-old New Britain woman who sustained back injuries from a 2016 rear-end collision has settled her case for $3.2 million.

A chain-reaction crash on South and Fulton Streets in New Britain culminated with Jessica Girard undergoing five back surgeries in less than two years. The back pain, her attorney said, is so severe that Girard can’t sit for more than an hour at a time and can’t walk for more than 30 minutes at a time. She underwent her first back surgery one week after the crash, and had a fifth—a lumbar fusion of the spine—in July 2018. She incurred $540,000 in medical expenses, and was forced to leave her job as a data entry worker for a medical records company, according to her court pleadings.

“Her back is ruined,” said Girard’s attorney, Robert Adelman of Adelman Hirsch & Connors. “She has pain on a daily basis. It will get better in the short term, but the long-term prognosis is not good.”

According to the third amended lawsuit filed in September 2018 in New Britain Superior Court, defendant Eric Plourde’s Chevrolet Silverado K1500 LT rear-ended motorist Lizette Guzman’s Honda Accord, which then struck Girard’s vehicle from behind.

At first glance, Girard’s red Kia Sportage did not appear to be heavily damaged, and the adjuster offered to pay $34,500 to settle the case based on the photos, Adelman said.

But the photos were deceiving, Adelman told the Connecticut Law Tribune.

“The Honda hit directly on my client’s car’s tow hitch, which is used to tow boats and trailers. The car had a tow hitch on the back with a 1/4 inch of steel,” he said. “The hitch was bent when the Honda hit my client’s car and transmitted the force of the impact of the tow hitch directly to the driver, rather than being absorbed by the car.”

Adelman said Plourde admitted to investigators that he was looking down at his radio and adjusting it when the crash occurred, and officers issued Plourde an infraction for failure to keep a proper lookout.

The defendants argued that Plourde had taken responsibility for the accident, making it unlikely a jury would return a verdict with high punitive damages. They conceded that Plourde was negligent for failing to keep a proper lookout, but left Girard to prove that the defendant’s actions had caused her injuries. Defendants also questioned Girard’s medical expenses, and claimed she had a future earning capacity.

The case was mediated on Feb. 21 between Adelman, adjuster Greg McGregor, and Plourde’s and CNA Insurance’s attorney James Mooney, who declined to comment.

The seven-hour mediation was held in front of recently retired Judge Terry Zemetis, who recommended settling for $3.2 million.

Both sides agreed to resolve the matter Feb. 26. If the case had not settled, trial would have begun March 19.

“I wouldn’t characterize this as a high settlement considering the condition of her back,” Adelman said. “She is only 44 years old. This is not a home run by any means.”

Adelman’s colleague, Michael Burrell, also worked on the case.

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