An arbitrator awarded $518,543 to a Seymour woman who underwent neck surgery after her 2002 Ford Explorer was T-boned by a vehicle that had run through a red light in New Haven in 2013.
Defense argued Christine Jackson’s neck pain was attributable to two prior car accidents but Jackson’s attorney, Brian Altieri, was successful in attributing the 49-year-old’s injuries directly to the July 2013 crash. The award was finalized this month.
Jackson’s Ford Explorer was struck by a 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL450 driven by Samantha Boettcher, 30, of New Hampshire. The incident caused Jackson to be thrown inside the car, according to a September 2015 lawsuit filed in New Haven Superior Court.
Jackson suffered injuries to her neck, back and right shoulder, according to her Altieri.
Jackson underwent surgery in May 2015 and continues to suffer pain, said Altieri, an associate with Balzano & Tropiano in New Haven.
“Even when she smiles, it causes her to feel discomfort in her neck. She also has a large scar on her neck,” Altieri said.
Jackson was wearing her seatbelt when her vehicle was struck, counsel noted.
The accident occurred in a residential neighborhood where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour, Altieri said. The speed of Boettcher’s vehicle was not reported, but she was cited for failure to obey a traffic signal.
Jackson reported inability to move her right shoulder at the time of the neck surgery, Altieri said. Surgery alleviated the right shoulder pain, but Jackson will reportedly have limited motion permanently.
Altieri said the defense offered to settle for about $120,000, while his offer of compromise was $650,000. Arbitrator Larry Lewis ultimately decided on $400,000 for noneconomic damages and $118,543 for economic damages, for a total of $518,543, on Nov. 14.
The defense, Altieri said, tried to argue Jackson’s neck injuries resulted from previous falls and car accidents. The plaintiff acknowledged she had three falls and two car accidents prior to her accident with Boettcher. Her most recent car accident was several months prior to the collision with Boettcher, Altieri said.
“The defense hired their own doctor who reviewed my client’s medical records,” Altieri said. “Their experts said her injury could have been from the previous incidents. There were dueling experts.”
“We had experts who said otherwise,” Altieri said. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gary Richo of Valley Orthopedic in Shelton testified in support of Jackson, saying her neck surgery was the result of the accident with Boettcher, Altieri said.
The arbitration award will be paid via Progressive Insurance, Boettcher’s carrier. The arbitrator’s decision is binding and may not be appealed.
Attorney John Hanks Jr. of Aldrich, Hanks & Sheehan in Meriden represented Progressive. Hanks did not respond to a request for comment Monday.