Hardison Wood Case Results
Any law firm that practices personal injury over time can give you a long list of short blurbs about previous cases followed by big numbers after each entry on the list. The implicit message is: we’ve won big cases before, and we’ll win a big one for you. That’s not always right.
The truth is no two lawsuits are the same. Every client is unique. Though we may have handled a case similar to yours, we’ve never handled the one you have. Nor has anyone else.
Below is a list of a few results that we think are representative of the type of excellent legal work we deliver. Remember, past successes are no indication of what the result is likely to be in your case. Like we said, no two lawsuits are exactly alike. So read this carefully, and see if the type of representation we’ve offered in those cases is the type of legal representation that you’re looking for.
Wrongful Death Estate v. Ambulance Service ($1,550,000.00)
Ambulance services are lifesavers. They make sure we get to the doctors we need, when we need them. We didn’t take this case on lightly.
Before suit was ever filed, we determined that the ambulance driver was not medically qualified for his job and our client’s husband was not properly restrained. Unfortunately, the insurance company decided they’d prefer to fight. In their view, the ambulance driver unexpectedly blacked out, and because his blackout was totally unpredictable, this was all a tragic accident with no one to blame.
What We Did
We had to file suit because the insurance company refused to pay the widow a single penny. During litigation, we hired an accident reconstructionist, a biomechanist, some top-notch doctors, and a nationally recognized EMS consultant. They helped us prove: (a) the driver had control before the crash, (b) our client died from injuries that were a result of improper restraint, (c) the driver was significantly at risk to develop syncope while driving because of his medical history, and (d) the ambulance service had every reason to keep this driver out of the driver’s seat before the crash.
Even though our client’s reported income was only around $4,000 per year before his death, this case settled at mediation for $1,550,000. He was a good man, and there was no reason for him to die on the interstate that day. The settlement paid to the Estate by the insurance company was more than what the widow offered to settle the case before suit was filed. If these insurance companies are going to force our clients into litigation, we’re going to demand more, not less, once we’re there.
Bernhardt v. NC State Highway Patrol: Successful Verdict
Police officers keep us safe and make sure drivers obey the law. However, in some cases officers can overstep their bounds and use excessive force in extenuating circumstances.
Mr. Bernhardt was taking his wife to the hospital, and ran several red lights on the way, because he believed she was dying. Mr. Bernhardt was also likely intoxicated at the time. A state trooper followed him to the hospital, and placed him under arrest, and slammed him down against his car, knee speared him and dislocated his elbow. Mr. Bernhardt’s wife witnessed this arrest as she was transported into the hospital by wheelchair, where she died a few days later.
While the officer was acting within his discretion in arresting Mr. Bernhardt, we believed that the amount of force used in the arrest was unlawful and unnecessary. Mr. Bernhardt was left with a dislocated elbow and chronic pain issues following the arrest. The trooper alleged that Mr. Bernhardt assaulted him, which required him to respond with a forceful arrest. After reviewing the evidence we disagreed and brought a claim for personal injuries on behalf of Mr. Bernhardt.
What We Did
Because this claim was against the State Highway Patrol, we brought this claim before the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which presides over worker’s compensation claims as well as claims against the State. In discovery, we obtained a copy of the trooper’s training manual, as well as the personnel file for the trooper involved. We were able to demonstrate that troopers are trained to use verbal commands, or “verbal judo” before resorting to force, and that they are trained to use the minimum amount of force required by the circumstances. We also obtained prior reports of previous incidents involving this trooper where he provided statements to the effect that troopers should always use force as a last resort.
We obtained a videotape of the incident taken from the trooper’s vehicle. We further learned in discovery that the State Highway Patrol had obtained another videotape of the incident, taken from a hospital camera, that was subsequently lost or destroyed.
The Attorney General’s Office filed several Motions seeking to dismiss the claim, on the grounds that the trooper was either acting outside of his authority, in which case the State could not be held liable, or that the trooper was acting within his discretion and enjoyed Public Officer Immunity. They also alleged that we could not prove that Mr. Bernhardt’s elbow was dislocated in the incident, because he did not see a doctor immediately afterwards, since he was being booked into jail immediately after the incident. We successfully opposed the State’s Motions, and secured deposition testimony from Mr. Bernhardt’s longtime family doctor that his elbow dislocation was related to the arrest.
The Attorney General’s office also alleged that Mr. Berhardt’s testimony was unreliable because he was intoxicated on the night of incident, and because he was a habitual aggressor, who actually assaulted the same trooper on another occasion. We were able to prove that the other alleged assault never took place.
The NC Industrial Commission found in favor of Mr. Bernhardt and awarded him sufficient damages for
pain and suffering, medical bills and attorney fees. Mr. Bernhardt was vindicated and hoped that in the
future Highway Patrol officers would consider the amount of force necessary during an arrest.
Minor Child v. Major Surgical Center (Confidential)
Pediatric surgeons have a special place in the medical world. They aren’t just assisting patients, they are aiding the future. Sometimes though, their mistakes can cast a cloud on that child’s promise.
This darling little boy presented with his parents to a pediatric ENT surgeon with a mass on his neck. His parents were worried, as any parents would be. “Not to worry” said the surgeon. It was a benign cyst he could take care of with a simple procedure. Over the days and weeks post-op, the parents noticed he couldn’t lift his arm the way he used to. They asked the surgeon about it and he said: “not to worry, it is just bad posture.” What we learned in our investigation was that this wasn’t bad posture all, it was actually bad medicine.
What We Did
We drafted a lawsuit, hired a nationally renowned pediatric ENT, and sent a demand over to the doctor’s insurance company that detailed what went wrong, and how the surgeon could have corrected it post-operatively. The botched surgery was one thing, but the failure to take the child’s parents seriously was the real offense. A few weeks later, we got a call from insurance carrier: “don’t file suit, we can work this out if you’re willing.”
The little boy got the best reconstructive and repair surgery anyone could ask for. The settlement amount is confidential, but he now has a fully funded life care plan, an arm almost as good as new, and his education and any other medical problems he may have in the future are taken care of. All of this occurred without ever having to put him through the ordeal of a lawsuit.
Minor Passengers and Wrongful Death Estate v. Automobile Manufacturer ($2,280,000.00)
There are a lot of automobiles that are safe, well-designed, and built to last. Unfortunately though, there are probably just as many where the powers that be have cut corners, sacrificed safety, and compromised quality.
Our clients were traveling to a family reunion. On the way there, the driver slid off the shoulder, tried to correct, and ended up in a rollover. One child was ejected and died, and several other minors were hurt. The manufacturer believed their product was safe, since millions of other drivers used this automobile without any problems. In their view, the accident must have been the result of the driver’s negligence, and the failure of the minor to secure its seatbelt.
What We Did
First, we told the families what we tell every client in a case like this – this is going to take some time. Then, after pre-suit negotiations failed, we filed suit and unleashed our experts and our own expertise. A biomechanist, accident reconstructionist, design engineer, neuropsychologist, economist, and occupational therapist were all utilized. We took depositions of the corporate defendants at their facilities, and combed through every one of the thousands of documents they dumped on us. All of this hard work paid off as we were able to prove that the automobile was: (1) inherently prone to rollover, (2) designed in a way that maximized the propensity for ejection and (3) its seatbelts were defective and unhelpful in the event of rollover.
The case settled for a total of $2,280,000.00 on the second day of trial. The injured passengers each received sufficient compensation for their injuries. The family of the deceased set up a scholarship in their child’s honor.
Workplace Injury/Workplace Death (Confidential)
The Claimant was on his lunch break but still on the jobsite when he was shot and killed by a co-worker. The Employer denied that the injury was compensable and claimed that the Claimant was not on duty at the time, and that the shooting was not related to workplace duties. The Full Commission found in favor of the Claimant, ruling that the Claimant was still on duty and subject to his employer’s control at the time of the incident, and that the shooting was the result of a workplace dispute, meaning that the employer was liable to pay worker’s compensation benefits to the deceased Claimant’s family. Settlement: Confidential.
Wrongful Death Estate v. Tractor-Trailer Company ($1,000,000.00)
Truck drivers have late shifts, long-hours, and they work hard. Sometimes though, they can be a menace to the driving public. This young man’s family came to us after their son died in a late-night collision on the interstate with a fully loaded 18-wheeler and the accident report stated it was all the fault of their son.
The only living witness to the accident was the truck driver, and his statement to the highway patrol made it seem like the young man was to blame. But first impressions can be deceiving, and the driver’s story didn’t sit well with us. Before suit was filed, we hired an accident reconstruction firm to download and interpret the data stored on the electronic data recorder (EDR) in the young man’s vehicle. The data retrieved from the EDR turned out to totally contradict the driver’s story.
What We Did
The insurance company for the truck driver had a $1M dollar policy, but the insurance company wouldn’t budge before suit was filed. They stood by their driver’s version of events. During litigation, we performed a second download, this time on the tractor-trailer’s EDR. The data retrieved from the tractor-trailer confirmed the data we discovered in the young man’s vehicle. This persuaded the insurance company to negotiate, but they still wouldn’t pay the family the limits of their policy.
The young man didn’t have a job at the time, but he was full of promise. Maybe that’s why the insurance company didn’t want to pay their full limit. He hadn’t reached his full potential, so his family should get less. We disagreed. After we deposed the accident reconstruction expert that the truck driver’s insurance company hired, the case settled at mediation for policy limits of $1,000,000.00. Ironically, the family offered to settle this case for less than limits before we filed suit.