22 MARCH 2017 Claims Magazine
AND THE VERDICT IS…
By Patricia L. Harman
Richard Harris, 44, was stopped at an intersection in West Philadelphia when the car he was driving was struck from
behind on March 28, 2013. Following the
accident, Harris claimed that he had suffered back injuries and a specific bodily
function was impaired.
Harris was examined and released
from the emergency room following the
accident. On April 3rd, Harris went to
a rehabilitation facility complaining of
lower back pain. An MRI and an EMG
showed that he had a bulge at the L4-5
and L5-S1 discs. He was diagnosed with
lumbar strain and sprain, as well as myo-fasciitis (widespread pain). He was treated with physical and massage therapy,
as well a series of facet injections to help
manage the pain.
The driver of the car that hit Harris
had a $15,000 policy limit and the parties agreed to settle for that amount. Harris also sued his insurer, Government
Employees Insurance Co., for an underinsured motorist claim since he had a
$30,000 policy limit.
After the accident, Harris drove indi-
viduals to medical appointments and said
he was unable to get a better job due to an
inability to lift items. In court he testified
that he was unable to physically play with
his grandchildren, perform housework,
or fulfill his responsibilities as a com-
munity block leader, which required him
to pull weeds, move heavy recycling bins
and check on neighbors. His wife con-
firmed his limitations in her testimony.
Harris wanted to recover damages for
past and future pain and suffering.
The expert for Government Employees
Insurance who examined Harris found
the bulging to be degenerative and not
related to his accident. He indicated that
any soft tissue damage would heal within
six to 12 months, and that Harris suffered
from pre-existing back issues. In addi-
tion, the expert found that Harris’ MRI
was negative for herniations and protru-
sions, and that his EMG was negative
for any problems as well. Government
Employee’s Insurance Co. believed that
Harris had not sustained any significant
bodily damage because of the minor na-
ture of the accident.
The jury found that the other driver
did contribute to the serious impair-
ment of bodily function that Harris
sustained and awarded him $40,000.
The $15,000 Harris had already re-
ceived from the other driver’s insur-
ance company was credited to the
award and Government Employees
Insurance Co. was responsible for the
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