Rossback Demand Letter Revised to Rossman - part l
DEMAND FOR SETTLEMENT*
*This is a case study for a trash truck accident case in Georgia handled by personal injury lawyer, Casey W. Stevens – Names, Dates and Locations were revised to protect the privacy of the accident victim.
Our Client: Rosanne Rossman
Defendants: Major Waste Services Atlanta, LLC; Clint Pennington
Date of Loss: June 8, 2019
It is our understanding that Major Waste Services Atlanta, LLC is self-insured for $1 million dollars, with an insurance policy with very substantial liability limits affording coverage over and above the $1 million amount. If our understanding regarding the available self-insured funds and additional insurance is incorrect, please advise immediately.
The subject accident occurred at approximately 3:52 p.m. on June 8, 2019 in Jonesburg County, Georgia. The crash was investigated by the Jonesburg County Sheriff’s Office. Based on information provided in the official police report and all other information available to us, we believe the facts of the accident are quite clear.
Immediately prior to the accident, Ms. Rossman was driving a 2012 Ford F-150 XLT which was owned by her employer, the Jonesburg County Board of Commissioners. Our client was lawfully stopped in a line of traffic at a red traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 220 and Hwy 442. Her vehicle was positioned in the farthest left northbound through-lane. A vehicle owned and driven by Mr. Norman Stewart was stopped directly in front of Ms. Rossman. Another vehicle, owned and driven by Ms. Valentina Valdez, was stopped directly in front of the Stewart vehicle. At the same time, your insured driver, Mr. Clint Pennington, was approaching from our client’s rear in a very large 2013 Mack garbage truck that was owned by his employer, Major Waste Services Atlanta, LLC. Mr. Pennington was apparently intending to make a left turn at the intersection, as he proceeded to enter the left turn lane that was immediately to the left of the through-lane Ms. Rossman occupied. Most unfortunately for Ms. Rossman, as the garbage truck began to pass her vehicle on the left, the very large and heavy mechanical arm on the side of the dump truck swung out and struck her vehicle in the left rear. As the garbage truck proceeded forward, the mechanical arm continued its destruction all along the driver’s side of our client’s pickup truck. The arm also forced/dragged our client’s vehicle into Mr. Stewart’s vehicle. The arm then reportedly struck the side mirror of the Stewart vehicle and then went on to strike Ms. Valdez’s vehicle. The police report indicates that the officer witnessed the crash and saw the mechanical arm of the garbage truck being brought back into the side of the garbage truck just after the accident.
In light of the above, it is quite clear how this accident occurred, and there is simply no doubt that your clients breached their legal duties to our client and the other drivers by failing to ensure that the mechanical arm of the garbage truck was properly secured and that the truck was operated in a safe manner while navigating the busy public roadways of Jonesburg County. There is nothing at all to suggest that Ms. Rossman or the other involved drivers were in any way responsible for causing this accident. Our client was stopped and waiting for the traffic signal to turn green at the point the collision occurred. She was properly restrained in her vehicle. Taking all the above into consideration, it is our position that liability rests completely with Mr. Pennington and Major Waste Services Atlanta, LLC.
PROPERTY DAMAGE AND MECHANISM OF INJURY:
The 2012 Ford F-150 XLT our client was driving sustained a very substantial amount of damage. In fact, as you will be able to see from the photos we have included, it basically looks like the vehicle’s entire driver’s side was attacked by a giant can opener. There is quite a bit of crush damage, along with sizeable areas of the fenders and door where the mechanical arm of the garbage truck ripped completely through the sheet metal of the Ford. The extreme forces involved in this collision are evidenced both by the amount of property damage to Ms. Rossman’s vehicle, and by the fact it was struck and grabbed with enough force to propel it into the next vehicle in line in front of her. In addition, given the way in which the mechanical arm initially struck and then clawed its way down the side of the Ford and then tossed it into another vehicle, it is obvious that that our client actually experienced the forces of multiple impacts that transpired over a longer period of time than the typical crash that occurs in an instant and is over just as suddenly.
In conclusion, there should be absolutely no doubt that this type of motor vehicle collision was substantial enough to have caused the type of injuries that Ms. Rossman sustained as a result.
As Ms. Rossman’s deposition has already been taken, you have already obtained a detailed account of her background. Therefore, for purposes of this letter I am simply going to provide a summary of what I consider to be some of the more significant highlights that potentially have a bearing on the value her claim. You can obviously refer to her deposition transcript for the more specific information regarding information such as her complete marital history, various moves with her family, and the specific details of her military and private sector employment history.
Ms. Rossman was born in Wisconsin on October 19, 1976. She was only 42 years of age at the time of this accident. She is divorced, with two daughters aged 17 and 21. Ms. Rossman’s daughters and her own mother all currently reside with her at the family’s home in Gainesville, Georgia. She has been a resident of Gainesville for 13 years. Ms. Rossman received her high school diploma from a private high school in Ft. Pierce, Florida, where she was raised. She also eventually completed one full semester of pre-engineering studies at North Georgia University. She is a veteran of the U.S. Army, having proudly served our country from 1997 until 2001. She was stationed in Germany for more than one year, during which time her commanders demonstrated their confidence in her by assigning her the responsibility of overseeing all nuclear biological chemical relations for the artillery battalion. She eventually left the army after having completed her first full term of service, as she had become pregnant with her first child. At that point, she was honorably discharged. Over the course of her time in the army she was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and an Army Service Ribbon.
Ms. Rossman’s work in the public sector for the past many years has always been related to construction and engineering, with much of her most recent work having been in project engineer and inspector type positions. It is obvious that she has always demonstrated great dedication and passion for her work. This is evidenced by the numerous certifications and accreditations she has managed to obtain over the years, as well as by her solid work history, and the strong recommendations she has been given by former employers. For instance, the Asst. Director of Engineering for Jonesburg County, her employer at the time of the accident, described Ms. Rossman as professional, competent, hardworking, dependable, and trustworthy. Others for whom she has worked have described her as being a great asset to the employer, having high standards, being diligent in following policies, having excellent attention to detail, and always being professional and well-respected.
In terms of her personal life, Ms. Rossman is a dedicated mother to her two daughters, as well as being a devoted daughter to her own mother. She is the primary provider for the entire family, and as such, she is highly motivated to be able to continue to earn a reasonable living. As should be apparent from her deposition testimony, and as we will discuss in more detail below, our client has been doing her absolute best to work through the pain and functional difficulties presented by her injuries in order to provide for those she loves.
It is important to note that prior to this accident Ms. Rossman was fully functional and independent in terms of her activities of daily living. She had no difficulties at all performing the physical duties of her job with the county, nor did she experience any problems executing her household duties or pursuing favorite recreational interests such as hiking and gardening. Her only prior surgery was a hysterectomy procedure. She did sustain an old injury to her back when she was a teenager, resulting from some playground equipment having fallen on top of her. At the time, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with a lumbar compression fracture that has continued to cause her some low back soreness over the years. However, she had not been treating for that problem in recent years, as she found the situation stable and tolerable, and it was not in any way preventing her from attending to her home or work duties. She advises that she took Advil as necessary for the low back soreness. The only indication of any prior injury to her neck or shoulder was in 2007, when she was rear-ended and followed up with a clinic in Canton, Georgia for neck and shoulder stiffness which was resolved within a matter of weeks and never required further treatment.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF DAMAGES:
Unfortunately for our client, this accident resulted in some very significant and life altering injuries. She was transported by ambulance to the Emergency Department at Northside Hospital Jonesburg. Her primary complaints were pain to the left side of her neck and pain to her left shoulder and down her arm. She was x-rayed and given a sling and a prescription for pain medication, and she was told to follow up with a doctor who would be treating her within the workers’ compensation system.
As you will see from the detailed medical chronology in the next section of this letter, over the course of the next few years Ms. Rossman sought out treatment with orthopedic specialists, a chiropractor, physical therapists, a pain management specialist, a physical medicine specialist, and an acupuncturist. This was, essentially, a very long and somewhat desperate quest during which she was simply trying to find any way she could to get her body back to where it had been prior to the accident. She especially wanted to be able to resume her work in her chosen profession.
Unfortunately, once a cervical MRI was done in February of 2020, our client began to understand her injuries were seemingly worse than anyone had initially realized. That MRI, along with a subsequent CT/Myelogram that was eventually done, indicated she had some very significant protrusions at 3 levels of her cervical spine. While the exact descriptive terminology used by the radiologists and the treating physicians varies somewhat, you will see that everyone concurs that the findings are significant, and there is no doubt that the herniations/extrusions, the resulting cord impingement, and the annular tears relate back to the accident in question. In addition, while some degenerative disease and spurring was also noted to be present on the studies, even to the extent that particular component of the cervical condition March have pre-dated the accident, it was still obviously aggravated by the very hard and extended jolt her body took when struck by your client’s garbage truck. Clearly, there was a very meaningful and most damaging change to the underlying pathology of her neck as a result of this accident, and this caused all of her resulting symptomology…as she had been experiencing no such symptoms at all previously. Her post-accident symptoms included constant, persistent, and debilitating neck pain, as well as shoulder pain and radicular symptoms that went into her left arm, and at times all the way down to her fingers.
In an attempt to alleviate the symptoms, Ms. Rossman’s doctors tried various medications, numerous chiropractic and physical therapy modalities, and they even performed cervical epidural steroid blocks on three (3) separate occasions, with the first two procedures actually involving bilateral blocks at each of 3 levels…meaning there were 6 injections each time. Unfortunately, nothing that was tried ever gave her enough lasting relief, so she was forced to resort to a major surgical procedure. Specifically, on June 17, 2021, Dr. Lee Kelley performed a three (3) level anterior cervical fusion and discectomy at C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7. More of the specifics regarding that surgery will be outlined below.
While the surgery has been successful in terms of alleviating much of the problem relating to the radicular symptoms that were impacting her left upper extremity, and the cervical pain levels are generally more tolerable than previously, Ms. Rossman still has significant impairment and functional limitations that impact her life on a daily basis. Everything from her most active moments at work to her quietest moments at home (when she struggles to sleep in a recliner) have been affected. In addition, the surgeon gained access to her cervical spine by making a large incision in the front of her neck. This resulted in a rather unsightly scar that measures approximately 4 inches in length. As a young, single lady who was only 42 years of age at the time of this accident, the potential scarring was but one of several reasons she was hoping against hope that she would never have to undergo such surgery. Now, while she is thankful that the surgery did provide some benefit, the scar remains as a constant reminder of all she has been through, and she remains very self-conscious of it.
The above information relates primarily to Ms. Rossman’s general damages in the form of past, present and future pain and suffering, bodily impairment, loss of function, duties performed under duress, and overall loss of enjoyment of life. However, it is important to note that the economic damages component of this particular claim is also very significant. While we will discuss the particulars of those damages in more detail below, at this point please note she has already incurred in excess of $180,000.00 in medical charges, and we would anticipate that any competent life-care planner would project future medical expenses for someone this young with these sorts of injuries to be at least several hundred thousand more dollars. She is obviously going to require a lifetime of follow up visits, periodic diagnostic testing, additional therapy during times of exacerbations, potentially more injections, prescription medications, and possibly additional surgical procedures at some point. In her final years, she will also likely require attendant type care and/or convalescent facility type services sooner and for a more prolonged period than she would have otherwise. Finally, she already lost a significant amount of earnings as a result of this accident, and she certainly seems very likely to suffer a very large loss of earning capacity going forward. We would anticipate that a competent expert in this area would project that this component of damages will also run into several hundred thousands of dollars.
In order to be sure we have a common understanding of the nature and extent of the injuries and treatment, we are now going to provide you with a more detailed medical chronology that will outline our client’s treatment to date.
As noted above, immediately following the accident Ms. Rossman was transported by ambulance to Northside Hospital Jonesburg. She complained of pain to her left shoulder and down her arm from door intrusion. She also complained of left-sided neck pain. The pain was noted to be exacerbated by lifting and movement. In addition, she reported some dizziness. The examination revealed tenderness to the paraspinal muscles on the left, with the cervical and trapezius muscles being tender to palpation. The range of motion of the left shoulder was limited, and there was also diffuse tenderness of the left deltoid and shoulder region. She was evaluated with x-rays of the left shoulder and cervical spine. She was also given a sling for her left arm, and she was told to rest, use ice, wear the sling, and elevate the arm. She was diagnosed with cervical strain and shoulder strain. She was discharged with a prescription for Norco and told to follow up with a workers’ compensation doctor the following week.
She then began treating right away at Academy Orthopedics. On June 8, 2019, Dr. Jesse Seidman completed a work status report form which indicated she was restricted to light work, with occasional lifting up to 10-15 lbs., frequent lifting or carrying objects weighing up to 10 lbs., and no lifting of over 15 lbs. with the left arm. On June 12, 2019, Dr. James Duckett, III at Academy Orthopedics noted the ongoing neck and left shoulder pain, with pain into the arm. He found tenderness to palpation of the left shoulder. She was sent for some physical therapy, and he prescribed Voltaren. He noted that she could not perform her regular work duties, but she could return to work with restrictions of no lifting over 10 lbs., as well as some additional restrictions. It should be noted that the form her employer provided to the doctor appears to indicate her construction inspector position required frequent lifting of up to 50-100 lbs., as well as frequent twisting, pushing, pulling, reaching, and kneeling.
On June 20, 2019, Ms. Rossman saw chiropractor Dr. Jason Jamin, again complaining of neck pain, with upper back and left arm radiation. She related constant pain at a 7/10 level, with sharp pressure. Bending her head provoked the pain, and she had been using medication and a heating pad, which helped. There was also aching in the left clavicle and pain in her left upper medial arm, as well as tingling into the left hand. She had a positive cervical compression test on the left, which was noted to be an indication of nerve root compression or facet syndrome. The shoulder depression test was also positive. Palpation revealed numerous subluxated discs in the cervical and thoracic spine, and there were notable active trigger points in the trapezius and scalene muscles. She had significant loss of range of motion. He suggested follow up chiropractic treatments in hopes of improving her condition, and she ultimately attended 8 such sessions, with the last visit being on July 12, 2019. At that point, Dr. Jamin noted that she was still having neck and upper back pain.
Ms. Rossman was also receiving physical therapy at Pro Therapy during this period of time, as ordered by Dr. Duckett. She attended 25 physical therapy sessions between June 27, 2019 and September 20, 2019. She was noted to be suffering from pain across the shoulders and neck, and down her left arm to about the elbow. In addition to the pain, she had weakness, stiffness, decreased positional tolerance, and decreased work tolerance. Her cervical flexion was limited due to pain, and rotation was causing pain on her right side. As time went on she noted some improvement with the therapy, and she was highly motivated, never having missed any appointments.
She had been continuing to see Dr. Duckett while attending the physical therapy sessions, and by September 20, 2019 he was noting that she had seen a lot of improvement. You will note that Dr. Duckett appears to have been quite focused on addressing Ms. Rossman’s work status, as he was treating her as a workers’ compensation patient. While Ms. Rossman acknowledges that the physical therapy had been helpful, she actually was continuing to have problems with her neck and shoulder area, despite the passage of several months and having tried physical therapy, pain medications, chiropractic treatment, and even acupuncture. The work that she was doing at the time did not require heavy lifting, but it did require repetitive head movements that were increasingly causing her pain to come back. Therefore, she felt that she should try to see a different doctor to find out if perhaps more could be done to alleviate the symptoms.
On November 9, 2020, Ms. Rossman was able to get in for an evaluation with Dr. Erik Bendiks. He noted that Dr. Duckett had released her to work without restrictions, despite her ongoing complaints of persistent neck pain. She was at this point working on a part-time, as-needed basis, despite the pain which she reported as being at an intensity of 6 to 7 on a 10-point scale. The pain was aggravated by movement, and it was impacting her activities of daily living. On exam, she was guarding her neck, with limited range of motion. Dr. Bendiks’ assessment was persistent cervicalgia, despite adequate physical therapy. Dr. Bendiks therefore ordered an MRI of the cervical spine.
The February 4, 2020, cervical MRI was read by the radiologist as showing a broad-based disc herniation at C6-7, causing mass effect on the cord and some left-sided neural foraminal narrowing. Another broad-based disc herniation was noted at C5-6 with abutment of the cord. And yet another broad-based herniation was present at C4-5 with associated mass effect on the cord. Dr. Bendiks opined that the MRI actually revealed the discs at C4-5 and C6-7 to be extruded, with resultant cord impingement at both of those levels. Later, when Dr. Shevin Pollydore saw our client and reviewed the MRI, he also felt it showed a herniation at C4-5, another at C5-6, and a very large extrusion at C6-7, as well as annular tears at C4-5 and C6-7. Obviously, these findings made it quite apparent that the problems Ms. Rossman was having with her neck were far more significant than a mere strain or sprain type injury.
In March and June of 2020, Dr. Bendiks proceeded to perform two separate sets of bilateral cervical facet/medial branch blocks at C4, C5, and C6. She followed up with Dr. Bendiks in July and June of 2020, at which point her pain was reduced following the blocks and had become more tolerable. She was still quite sore in the evenings and having to sleep in a recliner, due to the pain severity when she tried to lay down flat. On June 11, 2020, Dr. Bendiks recommended she continue to work with permanent modifications to include no repetitive neck flexion or extension, no overhead lifting, no working in hard-hat areas, and no lifting of greater than 10 lbs. As Ms. Rossman explained in her deposition, such restrictions would make it extremely difficult to obtain or maintain any type of gainful employment within her professional field. In July of 2020, in light of her restrictions, her employment with Mill Creek Environmental Services was terminated.