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Record-Setting $15M Settlement by John Carpenter for Woman Rear-Ended by Napa County Dump Truck

It was a serene Spring day along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, where shady trees and elegant wineries decorate the road. The day turned bleak, though, when a Napa County dump truck driver carrying nearly 30,000 pounds of asphalt failed to remain alert and crashed into the back of a small sedan with a colossal amount of force.

Twenty-year-old Diana was sitting in the rear passenger seat of her friend’s Honda Accord with her two best friends sitting in the front. They decided to stop at a strawberry stand to get some fruit. As they sat stopped on the Silverado Trail waiting to turn left into the parking lot with their left-turn signal on, the massive truck slammed into their rear-end at 45 miles per hour. Diana was thrust forward, striking the back of her friend’s head with her face. The force of the collision caused Diana to sustain severe traumatic brain injuries, orbital fractures, facial lacerations, and crushing rib fractures. The truck driver only applied his brakes post-impact. The destruction to the vehicle looked fatal.

Miraculously, Diana survived the accident.

Diana’s mental and physical recuperation was remarkable. Her fractures healed, she had zero lingering neck or back complaints. In fact, after several months of healing, she resumed jogging three times a week. Nevertheless, some cognitive deficits persisted and aggravated her pre-existing psychiatric difficulties. Despite her miraculous recovery, Diana still has trouble reading and she continues to struggle with debilitating headaches. As she attempted to piece her life back together, Diana knew she needed help attaining justice.

She called on John Carpenter of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley to represent her against the County of Napa.

John approached Diana’s case like he does all his cases: using truth, love, and empathy to communicate her traumas. His goal was to understand who Diana was before the accident to convey how the crash devastated her. With extraordinary compassion, John got to know Diana and her life story. Diana learned English as a second language, but she excelled in her high school English classes because she was an avid reader before her brain injury. This is how she was able to attain a 93% score in English on her ACT/SAT tests in high school. She also qualified as a first chair cello player in high school but declined the seat because she wanted to sit with her friend.

John owned the fact that before the wreck, Diana suffered from mental health challenges which caused her to drop out of her studies at a state university. John incorporated Diana’s pre-incident challenges into the truth of Diana’s damages. John reassured Diana he would do everything in his power to hold the County of Napa accountable and encouraged her to resume her education. At the time of this settlement, Diana was back in school and - with some accommodations - her grades were better than they were before her traumatic brain injury. Diana still wants to study law and become a lawyer someday.

John filed Diana’s lawsuit, he focused on communicating the unseen truth: Diana’s cognitive difficulties from her traumatic brain injury compounded her previous mental health struggles. Diana had spectacular ACT/SAT scores in high school. John found the common ground with the defense neuropsychological experts and framed the case around the accepted truth that Diana’s post-incident IQ was 98. He retained an educational psychologist who used her pre-incident ACT/SAT results to estimate her IQ before the accident within the range of 118 to 124. 

Instead of fighting over disputed interpretations of imaging studies and life care plans, John framed the case around the facts that the defense could not dispute – that Diana lost approximately 20 IQ points as a result of their negligence.

The Defense attempted to minimize the harm done. Because her university grades were in fact better than before the incident, the defense claimed Diana was doing better than she was before the accident. To undermine the Defense’s argument, John assembled a team of medical experts to collaborate with DK Global and simulate the crash to convey the adverse effects Diana suffered from.

The animation began with a foreshadowing of the crash: the 24,000-pound Napa County dump truck loaded with over 28,000 pounds of asphalt concrete. Next, an interior view from the car depicted the monstrous vehicle careening towards Diana and her friends at 45 miles per hour. The collision was reconstructed, showing the women in the Honda Accord being rear-ended with a force equivalent to a passenger car traveling 160 miles per hour. As the car crumpled, a recreation of Diana illustrated her facial fractures. Finally, her overwhelming injuries were exhibited alongside her medical imagery, including her rib fractures, brain bleed, and subdural hematomas.

John shared the video with the Defense and their multiple layers of insurance carriers. After reviewing the video, Napa County’s advocates knew it would be in their best interest to mediate. The two sides agreed to an unprecedented $15 million settlement to help Diana move forward with her life.

For over 25 years, John Carpenter of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley has secured monumental awards for his deserving clients. With a focus on love and truth, John prides himself on attaining justice for those devastated by wrongdoings. In 2017, John was nominated for “Attorney of the Year” by the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and has been selected among the “Top 100 Attorneys” by The National Trial Lawyers.


"One of the reasons I think this case settled for what it did is because the defense knew that this [DK Global] video was coming in."
John Carpenter - Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley
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