Vincent Yaccarino v. Jarett Matlock, et al.: A North Haven salesman who was injured in a car accident on Interstate 95 was recently awarded $162,000 in damages by a judge.

Vincent Yaccarino, 57, was traveling northbound on I-95 in West Haven, in the left lane, on Oct. 23, 2007 at about 11:30 a.m. when he was forced to stop in traffic due to construction work on the highway.

According to his lawyer, Jerome A. “Jerry” Lacobelle Jr., of West Haven, Trinity College student Jarett Matlock smashed into the rear end of Yaccarino’s car. Yaccarino was taken by an ambulance to Saint Raphael Hospital in New Haven where he was treated for neck, low back and knee pain. He also suffered from headaches and dizziness for a time after the crash.

Matlock, meanwhile, was ticketed by police at the scene for following too closely and not having insurance. Matlock’s father, Michael Matlock, of Ohio, owned the vehicle.

Lacobelle said Yaccarino was a salesman who often traveled. He missed a few days of work that week, but his salary losses were covered by workers’ compensation. His medical bills totaled nearly $12,000.

Lacobelle said his client’s injuries were all linked to pre-existing problems exacerbated by the crash. However, his doctor, Michael Luchimi of New Haven, opined that because of the crash Yaccarino would need a total left knee replacement in the future. Yaccarino had been plagued by arthritis in that knee prior to the crash. The surgery is expected to cost $50,000, said Lacobelle.

Lacobelle filed a negligence lawsuit on his client’s behalf against both Matlock and his father. The Matlocks never responded to the lawsuit.

Lacobelle said the elder Matlock is a former attorney in Ohio. The son, he said, is presumably back in Ohio. “I tried to reach the father early on in the case and he ignored” the letters and voice mail messages, said Lacobelle. “He never returned my calls.”

Since the defendants defaulted for failing to respond to the lawsuit, Yaccarino’s case went to a hearing on damages in New Haven Superior Court before Judge Trial Referee William L. Hadden Jr.

At the hearing, Yaccarino testified and all of his medical records were entered into evidence. Hadden later issued a written opinion awarding total damages of $162,000. Of that amount, $100,000 was for non-economic damages, $50,000 for the future knee replacement surgery and $12,000 for past medical bills.

Now the tough part for Lacobelle will be collecting the money from the no-show defendants. “I’ll probably get an Ohio lawyer to try to collect on the judgment,” said Lacobelle.

Lacobelle said he would wait four months from the date of Hadden’s summertime ruling before he goes after the damages in Ohio. By law, the defendants have four months from the ruling date to attempt to re-open the case by claiming they did not have notice of the lawsuit. “To avoid that, I’ll just wait the four months and try to collect in Ohio,” said Lacobelle.

Lacobelle said he would probably have to register the judgment with an Ohio court and then get another judgment from a judge there to go after the Matlocks’ assets.

Lacobelle recalled having to go through a similar process for a client once by collecting damages in Florida. “It wasn’t too easy,” he said. •