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ARTICLE ID 162103

$________ - MOTOR VEHICLE NEGLIGENCE - SINGLE VEHICLE COLLISION - DEFENDANT DRIVER/HOCKEY COACH FAILS TO ENSURE 9-YEAR-OLD PLAINTIFF IS WEARING SEATBELT - EXCESSIVE DRIVING SPEED DESPITE RAIN AND POOR VISIBILITY - PLAINTIFF EJECTED FROM VEHICLE, HITS GUARDRAIL HEADFIRST - OPEN DEPRESSED SKULL FRACTURE - TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY - CRANIOPLASTY WITH INSTALLATION OF SURGICAL HARDWARE PLATE - BRAIN DAMAGE - COGNITIVE DEFICITS - ADDITIONAL SURGERY FOR ELBOW FRACTURE AND KNEE OSTEOCHONDRITIS - PUNITIVE DAMAGES DEMANDED.

Middlesex County, NJ

This was an action involving a single vehicle collision that occurred in ________. The male plaintiff, a 9-year-old at the time, was a passenger in a vehicle traveling southbound on I-________. The defendant was the driver of a ________ Chevrolet Suburban, who was the plaintiff’s ice hockey coach. The plaintiff alleged that defendant was traveling at an excessive rate of speed despite rainy conditions and low visibility. The vehicle hydroplaned and began skidding out of control before eventually colliding into the guardrail. The plaintiff further contended that the defendant permitted at least two of the children, including the plaintiff, to travel without seatbelts on. The plaintiff was ejected from the back seat, impacting the guardrail headfirst. The plaintiff suffered an open depressed skull fracture and brain injury which required surgical hardware plating and cranioplasty. The plaintiff contended that the actions of the defendant were willful and wanton and the plaintiff demanded punitive damages.

The evidence disclosed that plaintiff’s hockey coach had members of the team sleep over the night before and was transporting them to a tournament in New York which began early in the morning. The plaintiff contended that defendant left past his intended departure time. The plaintiff would have testified that defendant was traveling in excess of 90 miles per hour to recover lost time and that the driving conditions were especially dangerous, as it was before dawn and raining. The plaintiff contended that just prior to the accident, the defendant’s suburban was traveling in the left lane and began to hydroplane. The vehicle spun clockwise across into the right lane, striking the guardrail, and the plaintiff and another passenger were ejected from the vehicle.

The defendant denied that he was speeding or driving erratically. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert contended that such a heavy vehicle as a Chevrolet Suburban would not hydroplane unless the defendant was traveling at a very high rate of speed. The expert further concluded that if the plaintiff had been wearing his seatbelt, he would not have been ejected from the vehicle. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant acted wantonly and willfully by operating his vehicle at a high rate of speed under such conditions and by and traveling with unrestrained minors, contending that punitive damages were appropriate.

The plaintiff was rushed into surgery for repair of right forehead lacerations and a depressed skull fracture in the right suborbital region.

The plaintiff contended that the surgery to repair plaintiff’s skull fracture and facial laceration was extensive and required surgical hardware plating. The plaintiff’s neurologist concluded that the trauma has caused cognitive deficits and difficulties with short term memory and concentration. The evidence disclosed that the plaintiff has learned strategies to compensate for such cognitive deficits and that he is currently successfully attending a well known four year college. The plaintiff’s neurologist would have contended that despite the improvement, the plaintiff will remain at risk for headaches, sleep impairment, fatigue, and dizziness for the remainder of his life.

The plaintiff’s orthopedist discovered a fracture and deformity of the plaintiff’s left elbow and osteochondritis of the left knee several years after the accident, which required additional surgery. The orthopedist concluded that these injuries were causally related to the subject accident. The plaintiff’s neurologist indicated that it is common for these types of injuries to go unnoticed when serious head trauma is involved. The plaintiff contended that these injuries continue to cause pain and have hindered the plaintiff’s ability to participate in certain contact sports.

The defendant had a $________ primary policy and a $________ umbrella policy. The case settled prior to trial for $________. The case settled prior to any discovery from the other youthful passengers and before any judicial rulings on the issue of whether the plaintiff could proceed on the punitive damages claim.

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