Rear-End Collision Causes Facet Joint Injury

On Sept. 14, 2011, Steven Capaul was on his way to work on Highway 50 when he was rear-ended by Lisa Sommer. From the outset defendant Sommer began defending her case by trying to portray it as a minor impact, no injury accident. That theme carried on throughout the litigation but fortunately for Mr. Capaul was soundly rejected by the Sacramento County Superior Court jury on May 28, 2015, when it returned a verdict in his favor in the amount of $231,879.85.

As a result of the collision Mr. Capaul injured his lumbar facet joints. After failing to relieve his low back pain with chiropractic care and physical therapy he underwent two facet joint injections approximately one year apart. After the second injection the low back pain returned within several months which resulted in Mr. Capaul undergoing two radio frequency ablations both of which relieved his pain. Unfortunately, the low back pain returned leaving Mr. Capaul with a diagnosis of chronic pain. His condition has substantially interfered with his ability to enjoy his three passions in life: motorcycle riding, weight lifting and working at his body shop.

During the five-day trial Mr. Capual called as witnesses chiropractor Jared Thomas and pain management physician Dr. Kayvan Haddadan as well as several friends and family members. Defendant Sommer called defense medical examiner Dr. Mark Hambly and accident reconstructionist/biomechanic Dr. Brian Doherty. Ultimately the jury rejected Dr. Doherty’s testimony after he testified that based on a delta-V of 6-7 MPH the force generated in the accident was less than the force applied to the low back by simply bending over.

The jury deliberated over two days and awarded Mr. Capaul all of his claimed medical expenses totaling $44,379.52, future medical expenses of $17,500, past non-economic damages of $20,000 and future non-economic damages of $150,000 for a total verdict of $231,879.85. Plaintiff’s policy limits CCP section 998 demand in the amount of $100,000 was rejected in 2013, resulting in recoverable costs of nearly $60,000.