Ron Etemi
Ron Etemi (Courtesy photo)

A 64-year-old Waterbury woman who was severely injured by an underinsured driver has been awarded $54,000 by a jury.

Rozalyn Ralph was a passenger in a car driven by her fiancee in Cromwell in July 2014 when she was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Amy Struzinski. Ralph, who suffered neck and severe back pain, had earlier received $20,000 from Geico, Struzinski’s insurer. Since Struzinski’s policy limit was $20,000, Ralph sued her insurer, Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Co., to recoup monetary damages the court thought appropriate.

Ralph, according to her attorney, Ron Etemi, did have underinsured motorist coverage through Travelers.

Etemi, with the Waterbury offices of Trantolo & Trantolo, said his client “suffered sprains of the neck and the back, more so of the back. She was limping in pain from both legs because of the injury. … She also suffers from sleep disturbance from the pain.”

Etemi called the Jan. 25 decision by the six-person jury “a good verdict. I thought the jury was very attentive and paid careful attention to the chiropractor’s [Dr. Steven Rosa] testimony. There were two other witnesses [who took the stand], but Dr. Rosa gave clear and concise testimony about the nature of her injury and the affects of the [back] injury over her lifetime.”

According to Etemi, Travelers first offer was $3,500. “Travelers made low offers throughout,” Etemi told the Connecticut Law Tribune. Travelers, Etemi said, didn’t dispute the reasons for the accident, but rather “disputed the extent of the damages.”

The $54,000 verdict, Etemi said, will be reduced to $34,000 because Ralph already received $20,000 from Geico. “Travelers is entitled to a reduction in the money from what was recovered earlier,” he said.

Talaiya Buffaloe, with the Hamden-based Law Offices of Cynthia Garraty, declined to comment Monday. Buffaloe represented Travelers.

Judge Rupal Shah presided over the two-day trial.