$2.4M Verdict: Illustrating Drunk Driving DevastationPatrick Nolan, Esq., and Carolyn Tan, Esq., DeWitt Algorri + Algorri, PC, Pasadena, CA
DeWitt Algorri + Algorri, PC, obtained a $2.4M verdict for two plaintiffs who suffered catastrophic injuries that required months of painful recovery after a drunk driver smashed their vehicle into a guardrail on the highway. The verdict was awarded exclusively for the victims' pain and suffering - no punitive damages were involved.
The driver suffered a severely crushed ankle with bone protrusion through the skin, which required several surgeries over the course of a year. The passenger suffered a compression spine fracture, rib fractures, a right clavicle fracture, a finger fracture, and a dislocated hip.
Patrick Nolan, Esq., and Carolyn Tan, Esq., needed to show what these injuries and surgeries looked like in order to emphasize the magnitude of damages their clients suffered. They tasked High Impact with illustrating the painful devastation and complicated recovery.
The $2.4M did not include any punitive damages. The award was solely for the injuries the plaintiffs suffered, which were clearly depicted at trial by High Impact’s illustrations.
Exhibit A: Demonstrating the External Fixation of the Ankle
The first exhibit breaks down the driver's severely fractured ankle and the first of five surgeries he would need to undergo. Color Diagnostics flank this surgical progression on the left and right, highlighting the injury in pre-op and post-op X-rays.
Surgical illustrations are powerful because they capture the entirety of your client's suffering while simplifying complicated procedures down to the most defining chapters. Color Diagnostics highlight damages in radiographic films, using colorful realism to add brutal context over an otherwise mundane, black-and-white film.
High Impact graphically illustrated the plaintiff's injuries and treatment. The diagrams were especially helpful during expert testimony. The judge visibly cringed as she used the diagrams to understand the various injuries and surgeries.
Exhibit B: Breaking Down the ORIF
Eleven days after having the external fixator placed, the plaintiff would need to undergo an open reduction and internal fixation to reduce fractures. Metal plates were screwed into the plaintiff's fibula and tibia, the external fixator was removed, and the wound was sutured closed as necrosis began to set in.
The illustration introduces the plaintiff's pre-op condition and then walked the audience through the ORIF surgery step-by-step. It concludes with a Color Diagnostic that highlights the metal hardware and fractured bone over a post-op X-ray.
The client's ankle must have caused great pain and discomfort for them to have to have gone through this process requiring multiple surgeries. This is all part of a long and arduous journey back to wellness. Also, for this person, his life has been altered for good and we often forget how much pain and suffering is involved after the fact.
Nicholas Lang, High Impact Medical Illustrator
Exhibit C: Illustrating the Necrosis Cleanup
A month later, the wound would swell into the image seen below, as skin tissue continued to die and bacterial infection continued to spread. The necrotic material would need to be removed and the wound would need to be irrigated and debrided.
Cleaning out a wound might seem like a mundane procedure, but illustrating it in graphic detail anchors the audience's understanding of this event with lurid context. Five illustrated snapshots in time add powerful context to a procedure that otherwise may have been underestimated.
Exhibit D: Removing Hardware and Closing Wounds
After living a month-and-a-half with metal plates screwed into his tibia and fibula, the tibial hardware would be removed. During that surgery, a skin graft was harvested and meshed to rotate around and cover the open wound that refused to close.
The exhibit opens with the illustrated removal of the hardware. It then shows how surgeons used the plaintiff's own skin to cover an unhealable wound. Skin graft illustrations are a powerful way to emphasize another otherwise underestimated chapter of the story.
Exhibit E: Demonstrating Repair of Non-Union Fracture
Almost a year after the drunk driver crashed into the plaintiff, his ankle was still refusing to heal. Hardware was removed so surgeons could fix the non-union. Bone was harvested from the pelvis and placed in the non-union fracture site. The cortical window was screwed closed and plates were reattached to the plaintiff's bone.
The surgery illustration helped the audience understand the life-altering nature of this injury while demonstrating where and how the plaintiff's body would be forever altered. A colorized post-op x-ray concludes the surgical walk-through with a gruesome Color Diagnostic depicting the brutal conclusion of the plaintiff's damages he still lives with today.
The fixation of the ankle did not heal properly so surgery was required to place a bone graft on the posterior tibia bone of the ankle. The surgery was quite involved and was achieved by cutting a bone window into the tibia and placing graft material into the window and then replacing the surface bone with a screw.
Nicholas Lang, Medical Illustrator
Exhibit F: Wrapping Up Progression of Driver's Damages
The beauty of working with High Impact is that once we've created your visuals, we can reapply and organize them in whatever strategic outline you're trying to convey. Here, we had already created Color Diagnostics depicting the five chapters of recovery - so our artists decided to reorganize them into a timeline that conveyed the entire experience in one visual.
The result was a powerful exhibit that concluded the driver's damages with a dramatic story encompassing the plaintiff's entire painful experience - using materials we had already created.
This exhibit actually developed while we were in the middle of illustrating this case. Once I completed the series of Color Diagnostics for the surgical boards I realized that the Color Diagnostics created a unique visual timeline showing how the injury changed over the course of five surgeries. After discussing with the team we decided to incorporate the Color Di’s into a standalone exhibit – a visual summary that orients the audience and shows them the result of each surgery and just how difficult it was to repair this severe injury.
Michelle Lamont, High Impact Medical Illustrator
Exhibit G: Introducing Passenger's Finger Fracture
Once we had established the magnitude and progression of the driver's damages, we needed to introduce the audience to the injuries and surgeries suffered by the passenger. This first exhibit summarizes her severely fractured phalanx, followed by the surgery needed to reduce it.
The Color Diagnostic highlights the injury in an X-ray, an illustration shows where K-wires penetrated her finger to reduce fractures, and a post-op Color Di reinforces a photo of the mangled finger after surgery.
Exhibit H: Focusing Attention Clavicle Fracture
The next exhibit highlight's the plaintiff's severely fractured clavicle by adding colorized context to an X-ray film. Comparing the Color Diagnostic with the original film in the bottom-right corner shows a clear amount of heightened context.
When you focus your case on the damaging details that matter most to your client's pain and suffering, your audience will easily understand the points you're trying to convey.
Exhibit I: Illustrating Clavicle Repair
Once we had established how severely the clavicle had been fractured, we needed to show how it was surgically repaired through an ORIF. These snapshots illustrate important chapters of the plaintiff's surgery that would help the audience understand the brutal reality of her experience.
Similar to the driver's surgery illustrations, we conclude with a Color Diagnostic of the post-op hardware in an X-ray. Color Diagnostics are the best way to familiarize your audience with radiographic films.
Exhibit J: Demonstrating Dislocated Hip Injury and Repair
The final experience we needed to convey was the passenger's dislocated hip and the complicated surgery needed to fix it. The procedure would entail a capsulotomy and an acetabuloplasty to repair the labral tear with sutures.
The 10 exhibits collectively helped convey the full pain and suffering of Mr. Nolan and Ms. Tan's clients. They also helped convinced the audience to award them a $2.4M verdict.
Learn more about DeWitt Algorri + Algorri, PC at www.daalaw.com.