verdicts-and-settlements-article

Hahn v. Travelers Property Casualty

$565,000 Settlement

Date of Settlement: March 22.

Court and Case No.: Matter not filed.

Type of Action: Motor vehicle.

Injuries: Brain injury.

Plaintiffs Counsel: Anthony J. Baratta, Baratta, Russell & Baratta, Huntingdon Valley.

Plaintiffs Experts: Gary Young, vocational rehabilitation, West Trenton, New Jersey; Dr. Thomas Watanabe, brain injury/trauma, Elkins Park.

Defense Counsel: Francis R. Gartner, William J. Ferren & Associates, Blue Bell.

Comment:

On Dec. 15, 2015, plaintiff Kathleen Hahn, 56, was driving on County Line Road in Chalfont. When she was near Britain Wood Circle, a car approached in the opposite direction, crossed the center line and entered Hahn’s lane. Hahn swerved, but the passenger’s side of her sedan was sideswiped. She claimed a traumatic brain injury.

Hahn settled with the driver for the driver’s insurance policy limit of $25,000.

Prior to filing suit, Hahn and her insurer, Travelers Property Casualty Corp., entered settlement negotiations regarding recovery of her underinsured motorist policy of $600,000.

Hahn claimed that she did not remember losing consciousness, but she had a memory lapse regarding details of the collision. Hahn, who did not strike her head during the collision, suffered a whiplash injury. She was taken by ambulance to an emergency room, where she was examined and released.

Following the collision, she said she began experiencing dizziness, headaches, sensitivity to light and visual disturbances. She presented to a number of concussion specialists and was put on physical, occupational and speech therapies.

An ophthalmologist restricted her right to drive, prescribed yellow-tinted glasses for glare symptoms and advised against using a computer or cell phone or watching television. She also had psychological treatment for anxiety, flashbacks and dreams about the accident. She had difficulty performing tasks and completing her sentences.

Hahn had suffered two previous concussions. In 1990, she fell and lost consciousness followed by a constant headache that lasted for two months.

In 2010, she was hit on the head with a camera during a whitewater rafting trip, after which she suffered dizziness and fogginess for several months. According to Hahn, she also had some psychological strain in her past, including a divorce in 2007 and the sudden death of her mother in 2008.

Hahn’s brain-injury physician causally related her injuries and treatment to the accident. According to the physician, Hahn’s pre-existing head injuries and psychosocial stressors played a cumulative effect in worsening her potential for cognitive recovery following the accident. The doctor determined that Hahn was incapable of returning to work and that she was permanently disabled.

Hahn’s expert in vocational rehabilitation determined that her lifetime loss of earning capacity was $438,142, if she were to have worked to age 65.

Hahn is restricted in driving and said she continues to have regular headaches, dizziness, cognitive dysfunction, visual disturbance, anxiety and depression. She sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

Travelers Property Casualty disputed Hahn’s injuries and was prepared to argue that her symptoms were related to her pre-existing head trauma. The case settled before Hahn was evaluated by the insurer’s expert in neuropsychology.

The parties negotiated a pre-trial settlement. Travelers Property Casualty agreed to pay $565,000 of Hahn’s $600,000 underinsured-motorist policy.

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs and defense counsel.

—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication