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Recent Immigrant Who Required Cane Hit by Inattentive Driver While Jaywalking

When we take the wheel of an automobile, we’re expected to drive safely, no matter the lighting or road conditions. That’s especially true where there are pedestrians. However, one Friday night in Altadena, California, an inattentive motorist failed to slow down when a man with a cane crossed the four-lane roadway in front of him. The four-door sedan slammed into the side of the pedestrian, a Filipino immigrant named Benjamin, causing multiple injuries and changing his life from that day forward. Minh Nguyen of Nguyen Theam Lawyers represented Benjamin, using animations to secure a very favorable settlement.

Benjamin had recently immigrated to the United States from the Philippines to pursue the American dream. Shortly before relocating, though, he suffered an aneurysm. As a result, Benjamin needed a cane when walking. On the night of the incident, Benjamin had gotten off a bus on his way home when the sedan struck him. The impact caused right tibia and fibula fractures as it swiveled him around. He hit his head twice on the side of the vehicle, knocking him unconscious. In addition to the leg injuries, Benjamin suffered multiple contusions to his forehead along with a traumatic brain injury.

The case came to lawyer Minh Nguyen of Nguyen Theam Lawyers as it was about to enter the trial phase. Many of the depositions had already been recorded, and Minh was presented with a bundle of information. Despite not conducting an investigation in the manner he might have preferred, Minh began discussions with the Defense.

The case was complex for several reasons, which the Defense exploited. First, they pointed out that the Plaintiff was jaywalking. In addition, they highlighted that because of Benjamin’s past aneurysm, his doctor recommended that he wear a helmet when he was out and about. However, he didn’t have one on at the time of the accident. Moreover, because of his existing brain injury and the trauma of the accident, Benjamin couldn’t recall much about what happened. Additionally, because Benjamin had a metal plate in his head, no further MRI’s could be performed to determine the extent of any additional injuries to his brain. He performed inconsistently on the neuropsychological tests and family and friends painted a dim picture of him before the crash.

Minh brought in a host of experts, including accident reconstructionists, driving experts, and biomechanical specialists, to help prove the driver’s negligence. They surveyed the roadway, scanned the car, and testified about the weather conditions and lighting. Together, they demonstrated that the driver should have been able to see Benjamin with plenty of time to slow or stop.

Minh also knew that TBI cases were difficult to prove — doubly so when the Plaintiff had a pre-existing head trauma. He brought in a series of doctors to bolster the damages part of the case. An orthopedic surgeon addressed the surgery and future care that Benjamin would require; a neurologist spoke to the brain trauma he suffered; and a neuropsychologist explained what effect those injuries would have on the rest of his life. Finally, Minh needed something that combined all these elements and painted a holistic picture of the accident. He wanted to put the jurors in the driver’s seat of the car, seeing what the Defendant saw through the windshield. So, he turned to DK Global, a company he’d previously worked with, for an animated presentation. Collaborating with Minh and his experts, DK Global created a three-minute presentation that synthesized the mountain of evidence and technical expert testimony into a concise visual aid.

The animation opened with a satellite view of the Earth that zoomed into a six-lane stretch of the Los Angeles County roadway where the collision occurred. It then cut to a bird’s-eye perspective, with a street-level photograph of the scene of the accident superimposed in the corner. Next, it showed the Defendant’s perspective through the windshield with a 3D character of Benjamin in the distance. Captions noted that the Defendant was driving at roughly 20 miles per hour. Benjamin’s 3D likeness walked across all but one lane and was in the Defendant’s field of vision for approximately six seconds. However, the Defendant never slowed down or took evasive action. After showing the incident at full speed, the animation went through the accident step by step. The sedan hit the Plaintiff in the right leg, spinning him around; the sideview mirror bashed Benjamin in the head; and the passenger-side door slammed the top of his skull. The perspective then switched to Benjamin’s injuries, displaying lacerations on his forehead. It closed with a 3D view of Benjamin’s tibia and fibula fractures.

With risks to both sides, the parties mediated the case even though there was palpable animosity between the lawyers before he got involved. Given his civility and professionalism, Minh established a respectful relationship from the get-go. The parties met without a mediator, where Minh showed the animation to the Defense, explaining that it was what a jury would see should the case continue to trial. In the end, both sides came to an agreement, settling the case confidentially with an amount that both covered Benjamin’s medical expenses and provided financially for the rest of his life. As a fun fact, after the case, Minh impressed one of the defense lawyers so much that she switched from defense work to join his firm.

Minh Nguyen is the principal of Nguyen Theam Lawyers, a boutique trial firm specializing in personal injury cases. With eight lawyers and a staff of fifteen, the firm works from offices in Long Beach, California. Minh has more than two decades of experience trying cases involving accidents, slip-and-falls, product liability, and other personal injuries. He is the immediate past president of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and past president of Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Charities. He was honored as a Rising Star in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012, and has been selected as a Super Lawyer every year from 2014 to the present.

"That's where DK Global makes it easy. They do take all the testimony and look at it and go through it. And in conjunction with the lawyers and the experts, truly create a visual display that is accurate and admissible at trial."
Minh Nguyen - Nguyen Theam Lawyers, LLP
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