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$824K Arbitration Award for Low-Speed Rideshare Crash Causing Orthopedic Injuries

A Lyft driver pulled up in her Honda Civic to pick up her next passenger: a tall, 28-year-old man named James. James sat in the backseat without his seatbelt, his head only inches below the low-sloping roof of the small sedan. As the driver attempted a left turn at an intersection, an underinsured motorist struck the Honda’s front end at a low speed. The crash whipped James backward, causing him to hit the roof with the back of his head. Tragically, he suffered injuries to his spine and shoulder, requiring a cervical fusion and arthroscopy surgery to manage his pain. However, the Defense attempted to withhold appropriate compensation because James was unbelted. Jon C. Teller of Wilshire Law Firm, PLC represented James against the tech giant. He used a reconstruction of the collision to demonstrate how James’ injuries would have happened regardless of whether he wore his seatbelt. In the end, Jon attained a combined $824,000 award for his client.

Jon quickly located the underinsured motorist and obtained the carrier’s $15,000 policy. Then, he focused on securing Lyft’s underinsured motorist coverage. However, the Defense compared the crash to a game of bumper cars, contending the low-speed impact could not have hurt James. Building on their case, the Defense retained a medical expert who stated James’ injuries resulted from degeneration, not trauma. They offered to settle the matter for $450,000, but Jon declined.

Jon asserted that the seatbelt would not have prevented James from hitting his skull on the roof. However, Jon found that persuading others why the seatbelt would have been ineffective in this case was challenging. Thus, he retained numerous experts to combat the Defense’s argument, including a biomechanical engineer, an accident reconstructionist, and an orthopedic surgeon. Then, with an array of expert testimony, Jon brought on DK Global to synthesize their findings into an easy-to-understand visual. Using the testimony and data, DK Global produced a 3D reconstruction and damages animation of the accident.

The animation began with progression stills showing the Lyft driver’s Honda Civic being struck from the front. Next, the interior was recreated with James sitting in the back seat; measurements showed his head a mere two inches away from the roof. A lateral view of the vehicle revealed James’ skeleton as the back of his skull hit the top of the vehicle, causing spinal injuries. Finally, an alternative scenario of James wearing his seatbelt during the crash demonstrated the belt would have had no effect on reducing the force exerted on his spine.

During the arbitration, Jon shared the animation with the Defense and the judge. Jon persuaded the opposition that the seatbelt would have been futile in preventing his client’s injuries, paving the way to an $824,000 award.

Wilshire Law Firm, PLC was founded in 2007 by Bobby Saadian. Bobby has been selected among the “Nation’s Top One Percent” of attorneys by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel (NADC). Notably, Bobby has been recognized with a Martindale Hubbell Peer Review Rating of “AV Preeminent” for his legal expertise.

Jon C. Teller is a partner at Wilshire Law Firm, PLC, advocating for the survivors of catastrophic injuries and sexual misconduct. In 2020, he was recognized as the “Consumer Attorney of the Year” by the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) and was consecutively named “Top 40 under 40” by The National Trial Lawyers. A Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum member, Jon has produced over $60 million for his deserving clients, attaining a landmark $28,715,000 school liability settlement in 2019.


"When you have an animation that is so clear and you can almost feel like you were there at the scene of the crash, it changes a case that's potentially worth $100,000 to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars."
Jon C. Teller, Esq. – Wilshire Law Firm, PLC
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