In November, 2001, on a rainy day, the Plaintiff, a woman from Tifton, Georgia named Melissa Chapman, was stopped on Pleasant Hill Road at a traffic light in Gwinnett County, Georgia when she was was hit in the rear of her car by Defendant Ameda Wittmer. Defendant Wittmer would admit to being the cause of the accident, but deny that the accident was the cause of the surgical treatment that the Plaintiff later endured to her back.
It was acknowledged that the impact was a low-speed impact, that neither car sustained more damage beyond bumper damage in the form of minor scratches, there was no ambulance called, and there was no emergency visit to the hospital by the Plaintiff. Later, however, and not much longer after the accident, the Plaintiff would complain to friends and family that she was experiencing back and neck pain.
She treated her pain initially with over the counter medication and other home remedies to no avail. She then sought the assistance of a chiropractor who referred her to an orthopedic clinic that treated her with an injection to no avail.
The Plaintiff then underwent surgery for herniated disks in her back and the surgery did relieve her pain. Although this was ultimately a surgical case, the problem that seemed to stand in the way of a decent settlement or jury verdict, as acknowledged by attorneys for both sides, was, in part, the fact that the Plaintiff waited two (2) months to seek medical treatment. The case is Chapman v. Wittmer, No. M12CV1132.
This case seems to ignore, in part, that there is scientific evidence, as I have posted in a prior blog post that does acknowledge that severe injury can be caused from low-impact rear end collisions going as slow, or slower, than seven (7) miles per hour. There are also cases that have set precent that even though the Plaintiff has waited to seek treatment, and in some cases engaged in activities that it might be argued exasperate an injury of this sort, that juries have returned verdicts in the seven (7) figures if the case has resulted in a surgery or other major injury.
Whether or not this case neatly fits into one of these categories can not be said in absolute terms, but it should not send a message that if a victim has been involved in a low-impact collision and does not seek medical treatment immediately, that the Plaintiff does not have a viable, and potentially expensive, claim.
At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates we evaluate each case based on the individual merits of that case. We do not come to conclusions in every case that just because certain red herring types of facts may appear in the case that there is no case in which it makes sense to pursue.
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