Case details

Pedestrian claimed accident caused injury to cervical spine





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, degenerative disc condition, exacerbation of, exacerbation of elbow, fusion, neck, neurological, radiculopathy
On Nov. 2, 2011, at 6 p.m., plaintiff Aracely Munoz, 42, a nanny, was crossing Olympic Boulevard at its intersection with Colby Avenue in West Los Angeles when she was struck by the driver side front fender of a sport utility vehicle operated by David Prall. As a result, Munoz fell on her bottom and she claimed to her neck, left arm/elbow, and left hip. Munoz sued Prall, alleging the defendant was negligent in the operation of his SUV. Munoz claimed that, prior to impact, she did not see Prall’s SUV in the dark, congested intersection she was crossing. Prall admitted fault for the accident., Munoz was taken from the scene of the accident by ambulance and was brought to an emergency room, where she was diagnosed with left elbow and hip contusions. As a result, her left arm was placed in a sling. Munoz had no medical insurance and was referred to a chiropractor, whom she subsequently treated with 27 times over four months for complaints of neck pain. However, Munoz claimed she received no benefit from the chiropractic treatment and was referred for an MRI, which revealed significant pre-existing bony degeneration. She was then referred to a pain management specialist, who administered cervical epidural and facet block injections on three occasions. However, Munoz testified that the injections were also of no benefit. As a result, she was referred to a neurosurgeon for treatment of her neck pain and left arm radiculopathy. On April 18, 2013, the neurosurgeon ultimately performed a cervical discectomy and interbody fusion at C5-6 on Munoz. Munoz claimed her radiculopathy was resolved by the surgery, but she continues to experience manageable neck pain. She claimed she had medical liens totaling $191,231.87. However, the plaintiff’s billing expert testified that Munoz should have been more reasonably billed at $149,883.66. In addition, the plaintiff’s treating surgeon testified that in about 15 years, Munoz would require another neck surgery at a cost of $140,000. The defense’s medical forensic expert testified that most medical providers would have accepted a total of $38,500 as payment in full from medical insurers, when one excludes unnecessary services from the bills. The expert opined that it had been unnecessary to provide chiropractic treatment beyond three weeks, if it was doing Munoz no good, and that the second and third epidural injections were also unnecessary, if the first provided no benefit. The defense’s expert further opined that Munoz’s pre-existing cervical degeneration was significant enough that it was likely that Munoz was symptomatic yet functional prior to the accident, so that the surgery would have been required even in the absence of the accident. However, the expert admitted that the accident could have also lit up Munoz’s condition, creating the need for surgery.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, CA

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