Case details

Head-on collision caused lumbar injuries, plaintiff claimed





Result type

Not present

back, herniated disc, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On the afternoon of Jan. 14, 2010, plaintiff Karen Gonzalez, 32, a property manager, was driving her sport utility vehicle on southbound Brainard Avenue in Lake View Terrace, along with her two children, ages 2 and 8, seated in the rear of the vehicle. While Gonzalez was crossing the intersection with Foothill Boulevard at approximately 2:25 p.m., an SUV operated by Abillo Cardenas made a wide turn from westbound Foothill Boulevard. As a result, Cardenas was facing north in a southbound lane of Brainard Avenue, causing Gonzalez to collided head-on with his vehicle. Gonzalez claimed to her neck and lower back, but her two children were not injured in the accident. Gonzalez sued Cardenas. She alleged the defendant was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Gonzalez claimed that Cardenas was speeding through the intersection and made a wide, swerving turn onto southbound Brainard Avenue, but facing in the opposite direction, directly in her lane of travel. She claimed that Cardenas’ own actions caused him to swerve left and then make a wide right turn as he approached the subject intersection, and that the defendant’s account of the accident was inaccurate and contradictory. Gonzalez’ counsel called an eyewitness who claimed she saw Cardenas speeding down westbound Foothill Boulevard as he approached the intersection. Furthermore, the responding police officers testified at trial that while Cardenas claimed he made his wide turn from the right lane, his SUV left visible yaw marks in the left lane, which plaintiff’s counsel argued further disproved Cardenas’ account of the accident. Cardenas contended that he was not negligent under the phantom vehicle defense. He claimed that prior to the accident with Gonzalez, he was following a white van that previously struck him so that he could copy down the license plate number. Cardenas claimed that while following the van on westbound Foothill Boulevard, the van made a sudden maneuver that caused him to swerve left and then make a wide right turn into the intersection. He alleged that as a result of the wide right turn, he collided head-on with Gonzalez, but that when he tried to explain the accident sequence to the reporting police officers, they couldn’t understand him. However, plaintiff’s counsel argued that one of the officers at the scene spoke fluent Spanish, Cardenas’ primary language., Gonzalez claimed neck and chest pain at the scene of the accident, and then went to a chiropractor the following day after complaining of lower back pain. She subsequently received sporadic chiropractic treatment through March 2010, resulting in 11 total visits. In May 2010, Gonzalez presented to an orthopedist and claimed radicular pain to her right side, as well as continuing neck and lower back pain. She then continued treating conservatively with physical therapy. In September 2010, Gonzalez underwent an MRI of her lower back that ultimately revealed lumbar disc herniations at L3-4 and L5-S1. She subsequently received two epidural injections at L5-S1 in October 2010 and January 2011, and continued to treat sporadically with her orthopedist. In July 2012, an orthopedic surgeon recommended Gonzalez undergo an artificial disc replacement at L5-S1. Gonzalez claimed that she opted for the surgery, but could not get a loan worked out for payment. Gonzalez claimed she still experiences residual pain and discomfort in her lower back, for which she requires the disc replacement surgery. She alleged that she is limited in all physical activity, from hiking to house cleaning to even walking. Thus, Gonzalez sought recovery of nearly $35,000 in damages for her past medical costs, nearly $205,000 in damages for her future medical costs, $50,000 to $100,000 in damages for her past pain and suffering, and $50,000 to $100,000 in damages for her future pain and suffering. Gonzalez missed some work, but did not make a lost earnings claim. Defense counsel argued that Gonzalez did not sustain any herniations from the accident and that her MRI showed degenerative disc disease. Counsel also argued that any herniations present were due to Gonzalez’s pre-existing condition and that, if anything, the plaintiff suffered soft-tissue strains and sprains from the collision. Defense counsel contended that Gonzalez never complained of lower back pain at the accident scene, did not require an ambulance to an emergency room, and had gaps in chiropractic treatment. Counsel further contended that no radicular complaints were made to the chiropractor and that Gonzalez’s first radicular complaint was in May 2010. In addition, defense counsel contended that Gonzalez is not a surgical candidate, and that her and damages were worked up by plaintiff’s counsel.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Glendale, CA

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