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$775,000 Recovery - Seminole County - Aggravation of Pre-Existing Condition

Brenda Doe, a native of Michigan, was visiting Central Florida with her employer, Pharmacia Upjohn. Brenda, a 52-year-old executive secretary, was a passenger on a bus that was involved in a rear end accident. At the time, the accident seemed to be only a minor "fender bender." Indeed, at the scene of the accident Brenda was the only person in either vehicle that reported any injuries.

Following the accident, Brenda was evaluated at a local hospital where x-rays of her neck and back were interpreted as negative. When she returned to Michigan, she was evaluated by her chiropractic physician and ultimately referred to an orthopaedic surgeon for a complete work-up.

An MRI performed many months after the accident revealed that Brenda suffered a ruptured disc in her lower back. Routine surgery unfortunately failed to relieve her pain and Brenda ultimately underwent spinal fusion surgery to stabilize her low back and obtain relief of the chronic back pain.

Attorney Jim Cunningham represented Ms. Doe. Once in litigation, Mr. Cunningham persuaded the trial court to enter pre-trial orders finding the bus driver and his employer liable for causing the accident. The bus company then disputed the relationship between Brenda's injuries and, as they claimed, the "very minor" accident. They pointed to the fact that Brenda had other prior incidents and had treated for low back injuries and symptoms for more than ten years before the bus accident in question.

With liability not an issue, Jim Cunningham knew the battle would be over the medical testimony. The bus company hired a doctor who examined Brenda and testified that Brenda's problems were a result of conditions which existed before the accident and that the surgery was related to her pre-existing conditions. In short, the accident had nothing to do with her chronic pain. However, a spine specialist from Kalamazoo, Michigan testified that Brenda's problems related to the accident and, shortly before trial, Mr. Cunningham was able to achieve a settlement of her claim for $775,000.

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