A recent court decision from the Court of Common Pleas, in Hall v. Irving, held that plaintiff Elsie Hall, who had suffered severe soft tissue injury to her back and neck, including herniated and bulging discs in her spine, had sustained serious injuries at the fault of an uninsured driver to warrant a $100,000 verdict for pain and suffering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, yearly there are more than 1,700 fatalities and over 840,000 injuries caused by vehicle crashes off of public highways, as was the case in Hall v. Irving, a car accident that occurred on Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA. This case and resulting verdict is particularly interesting as it shows that even if you do carry an uninsured motorist policy, insurance companies can still be hesitant to pay. Car accidents can result in long term injures as occupants in a car crash can be violently jostled, most commonly causing whiplash, traumatic brain injury, lacerations, spinal cord injury, and other soft tissue damage.
In Hall v. Irving, plaintiff Elsie Hall, was a passenger at the time of impact, when she and her husband were driving on Broad Street in Philadelphia, back in September 2011. Hayden Hall, the plaintiff's husband was driving, when they allege that a second vehicle, owned and operated by Bernard Irving, collided with their car as the vehicle was exiting a gas station at the same time as the Hall's were attempting to make a left hand turn. Defendant Irving's vehicle collided with the front passenger side of the plaintiff's car that was carrying the Halls. As we know, car accidents can have long-term effects on the injured party. Here, the plaintiff allegedly sustained back and neck injuries causing her to undergo physical therapy, electric stimulation, massage therapy, traction, and an MRI, which further revealed that Mrs. Hall had disc desiccation, as well as, multiple herniated discs. Following the car accident the Halls attempted to sue Irving for just compensation caused by the accident. Irving was found to be uninsured; therefore the Halls sought limited tort recovery from their insurance company State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., as they had carried an uninsured motorist policy. Uninsured motorist policies are often seen as a way to plan for the unexpected injury to person and property caused by an uninsured motorist. The driver trying to make a claim under the policy must prove that the uninsured motorist was in fact at fault for the accident caused.
In Hall v. Irving, State Farm, the court found discrepancies as to the cause and the extent of the damages resulting from the car accident. According to State Farm's memorandum, State Farm found both drivers to be comparatively liable for the collision on Broad Street. State Farm sought to prove that the second driver, Irving, had already established himself in the left lane at the time of the accident, and that the Halls had not seen the defendant in time to avoid the crash. Pennsylvania has an affirmative defense to negligence actions called comparative fault. If driver Hayden Hall's own negligence contributed to the Hall's injuries, then the Halls would be barred from recovering the full amount of damages up to the percentage of their own liability in causing Mrs. Hall's injuries. After a three day trial and two hours of jury deliberation, they found Hayden Hall was not liable for any part of the accident, and awarded Elsie Hall $100,000 in pain and suffering.