Case details

Tractor-trailer’s unsafe lane change caused crash: family




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

bruise, chest, dislocation, elbow, head, headaches, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis, sciatica
On the evening of April 7, 2009, plaintiff Ervin Urbano Gonzalez, a pressman in his 30s, was driving east on Imperial Highway in Norwalk, along with his wife, plaintiff Shannen Gonzalez, 28, a homemaker, in the front, passenger seat and their daughter, plaintiff Katherine Gonzalez, a 7-month-old child, seated in the rear. At approximately 6:22 p.m., while traveling in the far left lane, the Gonzalez vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer truck operated by Clifford Lee McGowan, who was making a lane change from the center lane into the left lane. The Gonzalez vehicle spun around counterclockwise from the force of the impact and then was struck again by McGowan’s truck. The vehicle subsequently continued to spin before sustaining a third impact when it struck the center median. The occupants of the Gonzalez vehicle each claimed numerous from the accident. Ervin Gonzalez and Shannen Gonzalez, acting individually and as the guardian ad litem for Katherine, sued McGowan and the owner of the tractor-trailer, Western Star Transportation LLC, which was also McGowan’s employer. They alleged that McGowan was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Western Star was vicariously liable for his actions. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that McGowan, who was in the course and scope of his employment, was the direct and proximate cause of the accident by making an unsafe lane change in violation of California Vehicle Code § 21658(a). Counsel noted that this was corroborated by the police report. Plaintiffs’ counsel further contended that the force of the impact was so strong that it caused Mr. Gonzalez’s head to hit the side of the driver’s door, shattering the glass. The defendants did not dispute liability for the accident., The Gonzalez family was taken by a relative to an emergency room on the date of the accident. Mr. Gonzalez underwent X-rays, was placed in a neck brace and prescribed pain medication. On April 9, 2009, two days after the accident, he presented to a chiropractor due to continued, severe pain in his neck, back and right, dominant shoulder. He was diagnosed with acute headaches; cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacroiliac strains and sprains; a lumbar myospasm; a chest contusion; and bilateral arm, elbow, wrist, hand, knee and ankle contusions. Mr. Gonzalez subsequently treated with the chiropractor for five months, during which he received electrical muscle stimulation, intersegmental traction, hot packs and manipulation targeting five segments of the spine. He also continued to treat with an orthopedist from Sept. 30, 2009, to Feb. 17, 2010, for diagnosed degenerative joint disease, lumbago, lumbar enthesopathy, lumbar myalgia, lumbar myopasm, left sciatica, L5 radiculitis, and L4-5 and L5-S1 facet joint arthropathy. Mr. Gonzalez was on disability leave for one year prior to the accident, but claimed he was fired from his job approximately one month after the accident because he was unable to work. He also claimed he has had difficulty finding a new job because he has to disclose his back injury and employers are wary of liability. He further claimed that he was advised by his orthopedist that he could require future back surgery. In addition, Mr. Gonzalez claimed that he is now unable to play with his daughter. Thus, he sought recovery of $69,000 in total damages at mediation, including $17,663.34 (plus Kaiser Lien) for his past medical costs. Mrs. Gonzalez did not treat at the emergency room on the date of accident, but did consult with the chiropractor on April 9, 2009, to treat severe lower back pain. She was diagnosed with strains and sprains to her thoracic and lumbar spine and right, non-dominant arm, as well as lumbar myospasm and upper extremity myospasms. She subsequently underwent three months of chiropractic care, and received electrical muscle stimulation, manipulation targeting three to four segments of the spine, intersegmental traction and hot packs. Mrs. Gonzalez claimed she cannot play with her daughter due to her and is limited in taking care of her home. She also claimed she suffers from emotional distress, particularly when driving near any big trucks. Thus, Mrs. Gonzalez sought recovery of $25,000 in total damages at mediation, including $2,966.25 for her past medical costs. Katherine sustained a dislocated elbow and underwent X-rays at the emergency room on the date of the accident. The dislocation was ultimately put back into place, and she healed within two months. Katherine claimed emotional distress from the accident, alleging that she now has a fear of riding in cars. She claimed that as a result, she may require future psychological counseling. Thus, her family sought recovery of $5,000 in damages for Katherine’s medical specials and $55,000 in general damages as a result of their daughter’s . Defense counsel disputed the nature and extent of each of the three plaintiffs’ damages.
Judicate West, CA

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