Cooper & Elliott Blog

Uncovering Truth in a Wrongful Death Tragedy

Posted on Fri, Apr 10, 2015 @ 9:51 PM

As wrongful death attorneys, at times we encounter cases that seem mysterious, and it isn’t until all the facts have been gathered that we can make some sense of the whole situation.  This wrongful death case began just like that.

A serious accident

Jessica’s* headaches were incredibly painful, and no one knew why they were getting worse. Many months after a truck rear-ended her car, Jessica was enduring chronic physical pain and severe headaches in addition to the emotional trauma of the crash.

Instead of improving as expected, Jessica’s pain worsened, and after months of increasingly debilitating suffering, Jessica died. Her grieving mother and fiancée were devastated, and they had lots of questions. How could this have happened? Was Jessica’s death related to the accident that took place a year and a half earlier?

Meeting the family

We first met with Jessica’s family shortly after her death. Another firm was handling the accident investigation and litigation, but they were treating the suit as a typical “rear-end collision and compensation” case, the way you might approach an ordinary whiplash or neck sprain.

Months before her death, however, Jessica’s chronic headaches had been diagnosed as a neurological disorder known as a pseudotumor. It’s a condition that mimics a brain tumor, and the effects are as crippling as an actual tumor.

Jessica had spent her final months in agonizing pain, and her mother and fiancée suspected this wasn’t just an ordinary car crash injury. They brought us on board to uncover the truth and seek justice for Jessica.

The investigation

The big question for everyone was this: did the car crash cause Jessica’s death?

Our initial investigation hit a few bumps early, as expected. The medical diagnosis, cause of death, and medical journals all hinted at a connection between Jessica’s death and the car accident, but no solid link could be made to file a wrongful death case.

But on behalf of Jessica and her family, we kept looking. We spent hours combing neurology case studies, articles, and peer-reviewed journals. Because of how rare pseudotumors are, there are only a handful of experts in the world who are versed in this particular disease. We finally tracked one down, and he helped us and Jessica’s family get some answers.  He confirmed that there is in fact a link between trauma—such as trauma caused by a rear-end accident—and pseudotumors.

Justice and closure

It was a tough battle, to be sure. Despite our medical expert’s conclusion, the insurance company’s lawyers didn’t want to believe it.

They claimed there wasn’t enough medical evidence to support the connection, and that there wasn’t enough legal precedent to allow our medical expert’s testimony. They even went so far as to imply that the months and months of care and treatment of Jessica by her family members could have caused her death.

But we had done our homework, and ultimately the insurance company caved, settling for a much higher amount than they had offered when the other firm first filed the case.

Perhaps more important to Jessica’s family than the settlement amount, though, were the answers they received along the way. Jessica’s family now definitively knew that they were not responsible for her death. And by uncovering and telling Jessica’s story, we and her family shed light on a rare but serious neurological disease. Our shared hope is that this case will help pave the way for other families who find themselves in a similar situation.

*Names in this article have been changed to protect our client’s privacy.

The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances of the case.

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