411,000 Jury Verdict in Sudden Stop Rear-End Crash; Nowak v. Ball

Peter Nowak, 54, was stopped at a red light on eastbound Lake-Cook Road in Palatine, Ill., on April 14, 2010 when Nowak’s car was rear-ended by defendant Ball. Nowak’s testimony was that he never saw the Ball vehicle prior to the crash.

Nowak contended in his lawsuit that the impact from the crash aggravated a previously asymptomatic bulging disc at C5-6. The crash caused Nowak to experience cervical radiculopathy, which is described as neck pain that may radiate into the shoulder and arm. Nowak also claimed loss of range of motion and a cervical facet syndrome, which required two injections and possibly a future surgery. Cervical facet syndrome is a common cause of neck pain. This occurs when the joints of the neck become inflamed. The facet joints are located between the disc and the vertebrae in front of the boney bumps that can be felt on the back the neck.

In addition, Nowak claimed that he had developed severe pain from the neck injury, suffered from depression, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nowak was a self-employed dump truck driver who earned $69,350 in 2008 and $65,805 in 2009. He has not worked since July 1, 2010. He sought to recover ten years of past and future lost income.

On the issue of negligence, the presiding judge granted a directed verdict in favor of the plaintiff on that issue. That means that the court, without jury deliberation, found that the defendant was at fault. The defendant testified that she was following the plaintiff in making a right turn on red. According to defendant Ball, Nowak began to turn, but then stopped abruptly, making it difficult for her to stop before impact. Ball said she was only going about 3 miles an hour at the time of the crash.

The defendant also argued that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent, disputed the nature and the cause of Nowak’s claimed injuries and maintained that he suffered only a mild whiplash and soft tissue injuries. It was also maintained by the defendant that the injuries claimed by Nowak resolved within a few weeks. The defendant pointed to a discrepancy in his version of events and mechanism of injury that he had reported to various doctors. Evidence of the plaintiff’s prior lumbar spine injury and fusion surgery was barred from the jury by a motion in limine granted by the trial judge. The plaintiff, who is Polish-speaking, testified at trial through an interpreter.

The jury’s verdict of $411,000 was made up of the following items of damage:
• $50,000 for past and future pain and suffering;
• $36,000 for past and future medical expenses;
• $325,000 for past and future loss of earnings; and
• $0 for past and future loss of normal life.

The defendant has brought a post-trial motion for a new trial, which is pending.

Attorney Bradley M. Cosgrove represented the plaintiff Peter Nowak at trial.

Peter Nowak v. Mary Anne Ball, 10 L 8653 (Cook County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handing automobile crashes, truck accidents and pedestrian accidents for individuals and families for more than 36 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Garfield Park), Chicago (Little Village), LaGrange Park, Villa Park, Itasca, Hickory Hills, Melrose Park, Waukegan, Wheaton, Mount Prospect and Park Ridge, Ill.

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