A back injury and resulting back surgery following a car accident should make insurance companies nervous. However, in the last couple of years the large insurance carriers (GEICO, State Farm, Allstate, and Progressive) decided they were going to aggresively fight back surgery cases. Not sure that has been a good idea for them. The latest verdict was handed to GEICO, (who has been losing bad faith trials throughout the state).
The facts are as follows: On June 29, 2010, Dr. Rene Casanova, a family practitioner, was driving northbound on the Sawgrass Expressway when he was rear-ended by another driver. The other driver was under insured (typical in Florida) and Casanova sued his own insurer (an uninsured motorist claim) GEICO General Insurance Co.
Casanova sustained a l5-S1 disc herniation, and underwent back surgery. GEICO admitted liability as to the accident but as always questioned causation. Relying on photographs that depicted minimal property damage, GEICO took the usual insurance company approach, and said, “we didn’t cause the back injury, look at these property damage pictures.” deny, deny, deny. To support their opinion, GEICO hired Dr. Rolando Garcia, an orthopedic surgeon in Aventura, to testify that the disc injury, if it existed, was a pre-existing condition.
Not only was Casanova permanently injured, but he also lost a lot of time from work, and his future income was limited. Accordingly, the jury found the negligence of the under-insured driver, Eduardo Hernandez, was the legal cause of Casanova’s injury and loss, and that the injury was permanent. For past and future medical costs, Casanova was awarded $299,770. For loss of future earning capacity, he was awarded $1,029,486. For pain and suffering, he was awarded $90,000.
Insurance companies have drawn a line in the sand, and are failing to look at cases on an individual basis. They apply the same arguments to every case, and will try putting a square peg into a round hole, even if it doesn’t fit. For example, in this case they alleged, as they always do, that the injury was pre-existing. That sounds great, but where are the medical records to back that up? Surely, a doctor, who had health insurance would of mentioned his prior back pain to someone before the accident. Yet, the medical records said otherwise.