$46M Settlement Illustrating Leg Injuries After Driver Hits Motorcyclist During Alleged Seizure

Brian Panish, Dan Dunbar, Alex Behar, and Matt Stumpf, Panish Shea & Boyle, Los Angeles, CA

A U.S. Air Force Captain sitting at a red light on his motorcycle suffered catastrophic injuries after he was hit by a truck driven by a man who later alleged to be experiencing a seizure. After running over the Captain, the Defendant stopped for 23 seconds before attempting to flee the scene with the Captain still pinned beneath his truck.

Surveillance Footage Captures the Hit and Run from Multiple Angles

The Captain was dragged with his leg pressed into the asphalt under his motorcycle for more than the distance of a football field before other drivers blocked the Defendant from entering the highway. He was arrested at the scene and charged with Felony Hit and Run.

The Plaintiff lost almost 40 percent of his blood during the horrific incident as he suffered near-fatal injuries to his right leg. He would undergo numerous surgeries to save his leg from amputation, but skin and muscle would be removed from other parts of his body to rebuild his disfigured limb. Heading into trial, the Captain would still require many more additional surgeries in the future, and he continues to face the possibility of losing his leg, which must be monitored for the rest of his life.

The Defendant claimed to have suffered an epileptic seizure moments before the impact and admitted to having a long history of epileptic “breakthrough” seizures that would trigger without warning, at any time, and with no responsiveness to medications. The Defendant’s treating physician later testified that she had instructed the Defendant not to drive due to his dangerous and unpredictable medical condition.

SoCal Gas, the employer of the Defendant driver, admitted liability but disputed the Captain’s future medical expenses. The Defense argued that the Captain and his wife only deserved $9M in total damages.

Panish Shea & Boyle needed a powerful visual presentation that would make jurors and the Defense attorneys understand the devastating totality of their client’s experience, suffering, and lifetime of surgical recovery. We built the Plaintiff attorneys a Digital Injury Summary that would:

  • Illustrate the Captain’s numerous injuries, with emphasis on the leg.
  • Animate the many surgeries the Plaintiff underwent before trial.
  • Summarize the Plaintiff’s current condition (at trial) throughout his entire body.
  • Show the future surgeries the Captain would still need to undergo as a result of the collision.

    The following visual presentation convinced jurors to award a $41,864,102 verdict to the Captain and his wife, which included $35M for past and future pain and suffering, $3.9M for past and future medical expenses, $957K for past and future lost income, and $2M to reimburse the Captain’s wife for loss of consortium. The jury also decided that punitive damages should be added, but the Defense settled for $46M before that verdict was announced.

    Brian Panish, Esq., Panish Shea & Boyle, Los Angeles, CA
    The winner in this case is the civil justice system, which again proved that disputes can be resolved by 12 members of the community. The family will live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives. The settlement reached by the parties after the jury’s substantial verdict will enable this young couple to move forward, build a family and get this Captain the medical care he will need in the future.
    Brian Panish, Esq., Panish Shea & Boyle, Los Angeles, CA

    Section A: Illustrating Injuries

    The first section illustrates each of the injuries suffered as a result of the collision using a model of the Captain alongside detailed illustrations.

    Illustrated Injury Summary

    The Plaintiff suffered an open femur fracture with active bleeding. His distal right thigh had been mangled with major degloving throughout the leg. His femoral artery was completely transected and his sciatic nerves were severely stretched. Colorized X-rays highlight the open femur fracture while grounding the presentation with hard evidence. The last three illustrations capture the Captain’s additional injuries, which included a torn shoulder muscle, a torn hip labrum, and gruesome devastation to his Lymphatic System.

    Section B: Animating Surgeries

    After establishing the Plaintiff’s damages, the next section shows the many chapters through which his catastrophic leg injuries were surgically addressed - starting with the open reduction and internal fixation of the femur fracture.

    Surgery Animation 1 - 2/13/17

    The first surgery animation opens with the Plaintiff’s condition directly after the collision, as illustrated in the previous section. The femur was initially fixated with a plate and screws. Vascular clamps were then placed on both ends of the femoral artery before an arterial shunt was placed to maintain limb perfusion. Devitalized soft tissue was then debrided and nonviable muscle was removed. To prevent muscle death and necrosis, a Four Compartment Fasciotomy was performed on the lower leg and the wounds were temporarily closed with Wound VAC’s before the next procedure.

    Surgery Animation 2 - 2/14/17

    The next day, Wound VAC’s and screws from the temporary fixation were removed, and an incision and retraction were performed over the right knee. The plate was secured in place using clamps and a guidewire was brought in retrograde through the distal femur followed by reaming. An IM Nail is then placed in retrograde fashion with interlocking screws. A Colorized X-ray highlights the IM nail and screws within the leg while grounding the presentation in radiographic evidence.

    After addressing the fracture, a vein was harvested from the left thigh to be used in an anastomosis procedure to connect the femoral artery end-to-end. The area was then irrigated before Xeroform, sponges, and a Wound VAC were placed over the defect.

    Surgery Animation 3 - 2/15/17

    The following day, necrotic muscle and nonviable semitendinosus were debrided back to healthy bleeding muscle. The edges of skin were also debrided to remove residual debris. An irrigation was performed after the debridements in preparation for the latissimus flap harvest and placement.

    Surgery Animation 4 - 2/15/17

    Once the leg was prepared, surgeons harvested a skin pedicle and the Latissmus Dorsi Muscle from the patient’s left back. The artery and vein from the latissimus flap were then sutured to an artery and vein in the leg. Skin grafts were harvested from the left thigh, meshed, and stapled to the right posterior leg wound.

    Surgery Animation 5 - 4/10/17

    Two months later, the Captain returned to have a debridement performed with a Watson Blade over his proximal anterior thigh. A scalpel was also used to debride the anterior and posterior wounds. Following an irrigation of the area, skin grafts were harvested from the right lateral thigh, meshed, and sutured over the wounds.

    Surgery Animation 6 - 2/18/18

    More than a year after undergoing his first four surgeries, the patient returned to have scar tissue removed and to have tenolysis performed to release a tendon affected by adhesions. Following the closure of the lateral malleolus, skin grafts were harvested from the right thigh and placed over the right posterior wound.

    Section C: Summarizing the Plaintiff’s Current Condition

    After establishing the totality of damages and demonstrating the many surgeries the Plaintiff needed to undergo as a result, Section C walked jurors through all the medical conditions the Plaintiff continues to experience.

    Summary of Scarring and Current Condition

    Each condition is illustrated with minimal animation to anchor the jury’s understanding of each point, which ultimately reinforced the theme that these injuries would continue to cause pain and suffering for many years to come.

    Section D: Showing Future Surgeries

    Finally, after summarizing the past and the present, Section D shows the many treatments the Plaintiff would continue to need as part of his continued road to recovery.

    Summary of Future Treatments

    This rather simple section is powerful at anchoring the understanding that this Captain’s story is far from over, and he and his family will be forced to experience an unimaginable difficult road to a recovery.

    High Impact’s team of visual strategists, artists and developers can build and customize your digital presentation for any case involving personal injury, medical malpractice, birth trauma - or any subject involving complex information.

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