Case details

Car mirror struck bicyclist who fell and injured head




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, collarbone, double vision, fracture, sensory, shoulder, speech, subarachnoid hemorrhage, traumatic brain injury
On Sunday, April 19, 2009, at 5:35 pm, plaintiff Ashley Jackson, 24, a student, was riding her bicycle in the bike lane on State Route 9/Saratoga Los Gatos Road, with her fiancé, plaintiff David Nelson, 41, an engineer, on his bicycle a short distance ahead of her in the bike lane. The road is a divided roadway with two lanes in each direction and a clearly marked bicycle lane. A sedan proceeding in the same direction, struck Jackson in the bicycle lane, causing her to fall and become unconscious. The force of the impact caused the right side passenger rear view mirror to dangle, as it was held by a few wires. After the mirror struck Jackson, the driver continued driving partially in the bicycle lane and the dangling mirror then struck Nelson in the arm, but he did not fall. The driver briefly slowed his vehicle down while still in the bicycle lane and then suddenly sped away. There were no witnesses to the collision and Jackson had no memory of the incident. The driver’s identity was unknown for 9.5 months. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office received a tip, about one month post-accident, that Robert P. Schiro asked his mechanic to repair his vehicle in Schiro’s garage and order parts for a damaged passenger’s side rear view mirror from Nevada, outside of the Bay Area. The Sheriff’s Department then obtained a search warrant and impounded Schiro’s vehicle. There was no right side passenger rear view mirror on the vehicle. No arrests were made at that time, as the Sheriff’s Department knew they had the vehicle involved in the hit and run, but did not have enough evidence to establish Schiro as the driver. Plaintiffs’ counsel found a witness, a former employee of Schiro, verified that Schiro told her that he struck a girl with his right mirror and knocked her down and then left the scene. Counsel then sent a representation letter to Schiro, who admitted in a telephone conversation that he struck a female bicyclist. An employee of Schiro’s overheard the telephone conversation and reported it to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. The police then arrested Schiro, but due to his elevated blood pressure, he was taken to the emergency room, where he also told a nurse that he hit a girl on a bicycle. The plaintiffs sued Schiro for motor vehicle negligence. The plaintiffs’ accident reconstruction and biomechanical experts testified that there was evidence of physical contact to Jackson’s hip by the broken right side mirror of Schiro’s vehicle. Although FBI inspection of the vehicle, bicycle and clothing did not find any evidence of physical contact between the bicycle, car and clothing, the passenger mirror was not inspected because Schiro had detached the mirror for over a year after the accident and it had been wiped clean of all evidence and contact. The plaintiffs noted that Jackson had a badly bruised hip, which confirmed the impact. Schiro contended that there was no contact of Jackson by Schiro’s vehicle. Schiro contended that Jackson fell because she was riding too close to Nelson, causing her front wheel to hit his back wheel. Defense counsel argued that there was insufficient force to break the mirror and it had been broken when Schiro was backing out of his garage. The FBI investigation demonstrated no physical contact between Schiro’s vehicle, the bike and clothing. The defense argued that the witnesses that claimed that Schiro admitted fault were unhappy former employees who were lying. The defense also argued that the admissions Schiro made on the phone and at the hospital were not admissions, but were a result of of Schiro, 70, suffering from dementia. , Jackson was taken by ambulance to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center where she was hospitalized for nine days. Jackson hit the pavement, striking her head, causing a traumatic brain injury. She sustained a subarachnoid hemorrhage, fractures of her right clavicle and ribs and a third cranial nerve palsy, which caused permanent double vision and eye misalignment. Neurological testing showed deficits with attention, concentration, processing speed, executive functioning and multi-tasking, that would require living assistance of 25 hours per week. The plaintiffs contended that Jackson could not become competitively employed and could not finish her college education because of her . Jackson claimed a hospital lien of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center of $163,319. The plaintiffs’ life care plan expert testified to future medical and life care costs of $1,746,000 to $2,052,152 and a loss of earnings and benefits of $871,764, all present discounted values. Nelson did not receive any serious physical . Nelson and Jackson later married. Defense medical experts said Jackson sustained a mild to moderate brain injury that did not impact her daily activities and that she needed little assistance. The defense contended that she could be employed competitively part-time after her children entered school. The defense contended that since Jackson married Nelson after the accident and they then had two babies, that Jackson would not have finished college and would not have seriously pursued employment also. Defense experts testified that Jackson’s life care plan at most was $125,000 with a loss of earnings of $50,000 to $86,000.
Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, CA

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