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Lipsitz & Ponterio recently represented the widower of a seventy-six year old Ransomville, New York, resident who died from injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident on December 11, 2008. Enduring great pain and suffering, the victim lingered in a state of consciousness for five days following the accident. On December 16, 2008, she slipped into a coma and became totally unresponsive. Eighteen days later, on January 3, 2009, she died from her injuries.

At 5:32 p.m. on December 11, 2008, the plaintiff’s mini-van was travelling northbound on Ransomville Road, when the driver of a tractor-trailer pulled out in front of her as he was exiting a field. The plaintiff’s vehicle struck the defendant’s tractor-trailer as it was crossing the roadway turning left. The plaintiff was alone in her car and was using her seat belt. As a direct result of the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff sustained serious back and neck injuries. Three hours after the crash, the plaintiff was removed from her vehicle by the jaws of life, and she was subsequently air lifted to the Erie County Medical Center for treatment.

This case illustrates the importance of enlisting an expert in accident reconstruction. Immediately after the family retained Lipsitz & Ponterio, attorneys John P. Comerford and Mathew J. Morton engaged James D. Orr, an expert with over thirty years of experience in automobile accident reconstruction.

Mr. Orr carefully reviewed the scene of the accident; factored the time of day and road conditions; reviewed police reports; and surveyed the damage to both vehicles involved in the accident. Based on his analysis, he determined that the accident was caused by the truck’s headlights pointing in the direction of the victim’s vehicle at dusk. The truck’s headlights gave the appearance that it was in the proper lane. The truck’s headlights obscured from the victim the light emitted by the low wattage marker lights and the reflective tape displayed on the sides and rear of the trailer. The plaintiff’s focus was on the headlights, and given the time of day, the body of the trailer was invisible to the plaintiff. After careful evaluation of the circumstances, Mr. Orr concluded that the proximate cause of the collision was the defendant’s failure to yield the right of way.

Following one day of mediation, this case settled for $325,000. The monetary amount of this settlement is significant because damages under New York State law are limited to the period of conscious pain and suffering, which, for our client, was a total of five days.