Case details

Plaintiff claimed multiple vehicle rear-ender caused neck injury





Result type

Not present

cervical, fusion, neck
On Dec. 15, 2005, plaintiff Lisa Karaeff, 42, a sales representative, stopped for a red light on Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek when she was rear-ended by a cargo van operated by James Hamon. The impact pushed Karaeff’s car into the vehicle ahead of her at the intersection. Karaeff claimed to her neck. Karaeff sued Hamon in Civil Court and the parties settled. She then sought further recovery via the supplementary-underinsured-motorist provision of her own insurance policy, which was administered by General Insurance Company of America. The matter proceeded to binding arbitration before Michael Ornstil. The parties stipulated to liability, leaving causation and damages to be argued at arbitration., Karaeff was taken to an emergency room by her mother. Karaeff claimed she sustained tearing of the posterior ligaments surrounding the C4-5 facet joint of her cervical spine, resulting in increased subluxation over time and cervicogenic headaches. In June 2010, she underwent a cervical fusion, and followed-up with a pain management physician and an orthopedic surgeon, both of whom she continues to follow-up with as of the date of the arbitration. Karaeff claimed she continues to suffer from chronic neck pain, forcing her to leave her job in 2008. She also claimed she is now limited in activities, such as cooking, water skiing, boating, swimming, and spending time with her family and friends. Karaeff alleged that as a result of her continued pain, she may require injections and a possible fusion surgery. Thus, Karaeff requested $5.1 million in total damages for her past and future medical costs, past and future loss of earnings, past and future loss of household services, and past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel disputed the nature and extent of Karaeff’s and damages. He argued that the force of the accident wasn’t enough to cause the claimed by Karaeff and that, at worst, the plaintiff suffered cervical strains/sprains with up to four months of symptoms. He further argued that Karaeff’s headaches predated the accident, and that any neck pain claimed beyond four months was from age- and work-related degenerative symptoms, rather than acute trauma-related pathology. Defense counsel also argued that Karaeff had a 15-month gap in treatment and that she left work in 2008 due to a subsequent knee injury, not because of her short-lived neck pain. Furthermore, counsel contended that the accident had no long-term residual impact on Karaeff and that her wage loss claim was overstated since she was able to return to work. Thus, defense counsel asked the arbitrator to award $40,000 in total damages.
Matter not filed, CA

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