Case details

Intersection crash caused facial trauma and brain injury: bicyclist





Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, concussion, face, fracture, head, hip, knee, leg, lip, meniscus, neurological, nose, occiput, tear, traumatic brain injury
On Feb. 8, 2010, at approximately 5 p.m., plaintiff Gabriel Varela, 42, a commander in the U.S. Navy, was riding his bicycle on northbound Catalina Boulevard in San Diego when he entered the intersection with Orchard Avenue and collided with the driver-side door of a Hertz rental vehicle, which was being operated by Moninder Birdi on westbound Orchard Avenue. Varela claimed he suffered a brain injury in the accident, as well as suffered to his right hip, leg and knee. Varela sued Birdi; his employer, Birdi & Associates Inc.; and the vehicle owner, Hertz Vehicles LLC. Varela alleged that Birdi was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Birdi & Associates was vicariously liable for Birdi’s actions, since he was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. He also initially alleged that Hertz was vicariously liable for Birdi’s actions, but Hertz was ultimately dismissed from the action. Varela claimed that he had the right of way at the subject intersection since the road he was on was uncontrolled, while the road Birdi was on had a stop sign. He also claimed that Birdi failed to yield the right of way and drove into his path of travel, causing the collision. In addition, Varela’s counsel noted that the police report for the accident placed fault on Birdi for failing to yield. One week prior to trial, Birdi stipulated that he acted negligently in connection with the collision, but argued that Varela was comparatively at fault for riding his bicycle too fast and not paying attention., Varela sustained facial trauma, including through-and-through lacerations to both of his lips, and blunt force trauma to his head, resulting in a mild traumatic brain injury. He was also diagnosed with an intertrochanteric fracture of the right hip, a comminuted fracture of the right femoral shaft, and a torn meniscus of the right knee. Varela was subsequently taken from the scene of the accident by ambulance and brought to an emergency room, where he underwent surgery on his hip and femur, during which hardware was implanted, on Feb. 9, 2010, and Feb. 18, 2010. He remained hospitalized for approximately one month during his initial treatment, and then followed up with daily out-patient physical therapy. On Nov. 24, 2010, Varela underwent partial hardware removal surgery and on May 8, 2012, he underwent arthroscopic right knee surgery. He also underwent multiple surgical procedures on his lips to repair the damage and for scar revision. Varela claimed cognitive deficits, occipital neuralgia, chronic pain, and sleep disturbances as a result of his head injury. He also claimed ongoing chronic pain in his right hip, leg and knee; ongoing occipital neuralgia; upper and lower lip pain and numbness; and cognitive impairments consisting of difficulties with memory and concentration. Varela claimed that as a result, his future medical treatment would include further hardware removal surgery, nerve blocks, radio frequency ablation, nerve stimulator surgeries, scar revision surgeries, dental implant surgery, hip and knee replacements, and ongoing pain medication. While Varela was able to report to pre-collision assignments as Executive Officer and, later, Commanding Officer of the USS Kidd, he claimed he will be required to retire early due to his . Thus, Varela sought recovery of approximately $1.8 million for future medical expenses, $479,000 for future lost earnings, and $5 million for past and future pain and suffering. His wife, Bernice Varela, presented a derivative claim, seeking recovery of damages for her loss of consortium. Defense counsel argued that Mr. Varela made a good recovery from his and noted that Mr. Varela was able to return to work as a naval commander. Counsel also disputed Mr. Varela’s alleged cognitive impairments. In addition, defense counsel argued that Mr. Varela should be awarded no damages for his alleged future lost earnings, and only minimal damages for his alleged future medical costs and pain and suffering.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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