Heinrich Law recently achieved a huge victory for our client Omar Hidalgo, who had been seriously injured in a tow truck accident. We settled the matter for $994,000 in the case of Hidalgo v. NEL Trucks.
Mr. Hidaldgo came to my personal injury law firm in Oakland because he had been rear-ended by a tow truck at a relatively low rate of speed. He had developed severe low back pain with associated radiculopathy – pain, tingling and numbness traveling down one of his legs that’s often referred to as sciatica.
He said, “Nobody will take my case because there’s very little damage to my car. But I’ve developed this horrendous pain that I never had before. Nobody has diagnosed it. I can’t find a lawyer.”
I knew in my heart after I talked with him at length and evaluated the evidence that there was a connection between the accident and his severe pain. I knew one of the problems was that he hadn’t received an MRI of his lumbar spine. So how could it properly be diagnosed? I knew that X-Rays, CT scans and other imaging studies oftentimes don’t reveal severe back injuries. So, one of the first things I did is to get a referral through his primary care physician for an MRI of his lumbar spine.
Sure enough, the MRI showed a 7-millimeter herniated disc. I believed Omar’s injuries had to have been caused by this incident. This was a huge tow truck, weighing thousands of pounds running into a small Toyota Corolla. I didn’t care that there was minor damage to the car. I knew there was a correlation and a connection. I’ve been doing this work for over 30 years. I know the medicine. I know the biomechanics. I knew I was going to be able to prove it.
In addition to figuring out that my client needed an MRI to see what exactly was going on with his back, and determining there was a 7-millimeter herniated disc that just could not have been there before this incident, the other really interesting aspect of this case, that helped get it resolved for just shy of $1,000,000, is something called Sub Rosa.
In the world of personal injury law, Sub Rosa is where your adversary hires an investigator, pays him or her thousands of dollars to follow your client around and videotape them. The reason they’re doing this is because in a case like this, where we were claiming a severe back injury, they want to get your client on tape going to Home Depot, or Costco, or going to a local gardening shop, pushing and pulling your trash cans around and a myriad of other things to prove that they’re really not that injured. Then your adversary will claim “He’s exaggerating, or outright lying about his injuries.”
That’s what happened in Omar Hidalgo’s case. I discovered shortly before trial that my adversary had tapes of “my client.” That was why they weren’t paying the money to settle it. I couldn’t figure out what the disconnect was. Why aren’t they settling this case? Why aren’t they throwing a lot of money at of it? Why are they going to try this case?
I obtained these tapes. We always ask for these tapes throughout the course of the litigation. A lot of lawyers ask for them once and then forget to follow up and ask for them shortly before trial. Then your opponent springs them on you at trial, and it can potentially have a devastating impact on your case.
When I got the tapes, the defense said, “There’s your client. He’s gone to Costco. He’s lifting, stooping, and bending. He’s pushing and pulling trash cans around. We’re not paying!”
What was incredible about getting these tapes shortly before trial is that it wasn’t my client they had videotaped! It was a man that looked almost exactly like Omar. It was a relative of his who happened to be living in the same house as he was in San Francisco. They accidentally videotaped the wrong person!
Once I proved to the adversary, the tow truck company, that they videotaped the wrong guy – at first they wouldn’t believe me! But when they finally did, the case settled for $994,000.