Traditional wisdom says personal injury cases involving clients with pre-existing conditions are difficult—if not impossible—to win. However, we don’t back away from a challenge at The Mottley Law Firm. We firmly believe everyone—including men and women who already have significant disabilities—deserves to be fully compensated when they’ve been harmed by another party’s negligence.
Attorney Kevin Mottley is pleased to announce the successful resolution of a difficult case involving a disabled client whose wheelchair flipped over in a van because it had not been secured properly. This case was referred to our firm by a solo practitioner lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, who doesn’t handle personal injury cases. He was looking for a firm with the skills, dedication, and compassion needed to navigate a case with such challenging circumstances. We were happy to help.
A Loving Family Bands Together to Help a Young Man With Profound Disabilities
The client in this case was a 29-year-old young man who had suffered from profound physical and mental disabilities since birth. Specifically, he had cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder.
The young man lived with his parents, who lovingly took care of him at their Henrico, Virginia home. The young man’s mother was his full-time caretaker while his father worked in the family grocery store in Richmond’s West End.
The family was originally from Bangladesh and had immigrated to the United States in the 1990s. Because their culture places great value on family coming together to care for each other, the young man’s parents had decided long ago not to place their son in a group home or any sort of assisted living facility. The young man’s siblings planned to take him in once their parents were unable to continue caring for him in their home.
On a daily basis, our client faced many challenges. He was unable to speak. He required the assistance of one person with virtually all his activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, toileting, eating, and dressing.
The young man’s ability to walk and stand without assistance was impaired. Although he could stand on his own and walk in the house without assistance, he required minimal handheld assistance in other environments. He was a fall risk due to his poor gait.
As he got older, our client used a wheelchair more frequently. The wheelchair was particularly important for safety when he was traveling or out in the community.
A Moment of Carelessness Has Devastating Consequences
On the date of the incident in question, our client was traveling from an adult daycare in Henrico County, Virginia, to his home. The van was equipped for people with special needs and operated by a company that was in the business of transporting people with physical disabilities. The young man and his parents had no reason to believe it was not safe for him to be in this vehicle.
Unfortunately, the driver neglected to properly secure the young man’s wheelchair in the van before departing the daycare facility. When the van made a U-Turn on Staples Mill Road, our client’s wheelchair flipped over.
When the wheelchair flipped, the young man’s head and neck violently slammed into the metal wheelchair lift in the van. The entire incident was captured on the van's interior video recorder—providing evidence that would prove crucial in our quest for a fair recovery.
Coping With Additional Challenges
Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury in the fall. Doctors performed a complete laminectomy on his cervical spine to decompress the injured spinal cord in his neck. He spent several weeks recovering at Henrico Doctors Hospital.
After being released from the hospital, our client spent three months in a Richmond, Virginia rehabilitation facility. At that time, he couldn’t walk at all, and he was showing very little improvement. His parents became convinced that, if he stayed in the rehab facility, he would never walk again. They took him home, and through sheer determination and hard work, got him to the point that he could stand and walk short distances.
Despite the progress they were able to make, the young man’s parents realized his injuries would require dramatic changes in the family’s daily routine. Our client could no longer walk as far as he used to. His left hand was in a permanent state of being cupped. He could previously use his left hand to grasp items or balance himself, but now his left hand was useless.
The biggest change for our client and his family was that he now required two-person assistance with transferring from sit to stand and many ADLs. Before the incident, the young man’s mother could handle much of his care on her own. Now, he required the help of two people throughout the day.
After much deliberation, the young man’s family decided to sell the grocery store they had worked so hard to build. This allowed our client’s father to be home to assist with his son’s care but created a substantial financial hardship for the entire family.
Taking Legal Action
Kevin Mottley and Ben Kyber of The Mottley Law Firm filed suit for the client in Virginia circuit court. In preparing the case, our firm hired experts in the fields of physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, neurosurgery, and life care planning.
As expected, the biggest challenge for the experts was separating our client’s previous disabilities from those that were caused, aggravated, or exacerbated by the incident. This required careful review of our client’s past medical records and education records, medical examinations by the experts, and many interviews with family members who could testify to our client’s condition over time, and how it changed after the incident. We sent two of the experts to our client’s home to more fully understand his day-to-day needs.
The defendant, who admitted liability in the case, focused on attacking our client’s expert witnesses and damages. Like us, they hired experts in the fields of neurology, neurosurgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and life care planning, including several from Virginia, one from Duke University, and one from Tampa, Florida. Our client underwent several medical examinations by the doctors hired by the defense.
The defense experts contended the incident didn’t materially alter or worsen our client’s previous life care needs. They assessed his future damages from the incident as being only $12,000—the cost of therapeutic treatments for his left hand.
The defendant also sent a private investigator to the client’s home. On one occasion, the investigator filmed our client walking with the assistance of his father from the front door of their home to the family minivan. However, the surveillance also recorded that it took three people to get our client from a standing position into the van—a key fact supporting our experts’ position that our client required two-person assistance with transfers.
The parties agreed to mediate the case in November 2019. At the mediation, the defendant agreed to pay our client $6.5 million. As of the publication of this report, this result is the fourth highest settlement or verdict achieved by a lawyer in Virginia in 2019, according to Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
If You or Your Loved One Have Suffered a Serious Injury, We Can Help
At The Mottley Law Firm, we take great pride in advocating for Virginia results who’ve suffered life-altering injuries. We believe you shouldn’t be forced to bear a financial burden due to someone else’s negligence. Request our free report to learn about the basic issues that arise in any personal injury claim within the state, then schedule a consultation by filling out our contact form or calling our Richmond office at 804.930.1022.