More than meets the eyes: transforming a bewildering case into one that results in full and fair compensation
Everyone can appreciate the severity of a broken arm or leg – the scans, the casting, the medications, and the excruciating months or even years of occupational and physical therapy that can result. But what do you do when you have been in a terrible accident, from which you continue to feel tremendous pain and suffering, but you look the same as you did before the accident?
We recently had the privilege to represent a remarkable woman who endured such an accident. A landscaper’s wheelbarrow came loose from his truck and crashed through our client’s front windshield. The vehicles were passing each other in opposite directions in single driving lanes over a bridge that extended more than 100 feet above a river. The events were terrifying to say the least. Glass shards from the impact became lodged in our client’s eyes as her car came screeching to a halt. While the glass fragments were removed, her vision progressively worsened over time. What had been her 20/20 vision corrected through Lasik surgery years earlier worsened after the accident to become 20/200 nearsighted vision and 20/400 farsighted vision. To make matters worse, multiple optic nerve and other diagnostic studies revealed no objective signs of injury. By all accounts, our client looked fine, but she felt anything but fine throughout her body, most concerningly through her eyes.
It became clear during the litigation that if our client were to receive the compensation to which she was entitled, our legal team needed to rethink how her symptoms were being caused. We quickly identified local medical experts with knowledge of lesser known conditions than the public is generally aware. It turns out our client suffers from a mental illness called Somatic Symptom Disorder. This disorder causes an extreme and excessive preoccupation with bodily symptoms – such as dizziness, confusion, or pain – that causes enough stress to degrade her bodily functions. Somatic Symptom Disorder is a type of Conversion Disorder, meaning that it results from converting emotional distress into physical symptoms.
In our collective 100+ years of practice, this was the first client whom we have represented to suffer from such a disorder. And the significance of this diagnosis cannot be overstated. It not only causally tied her vision loss to the accident, but given what seems to be the permanency of her vision loss, Ohio law provided us leverage for claiming increased damages for such a “permanent and substantial physical deformity.” R.C. 2315.18(B)(3).
Explaining how such a disorder can be traumatically induced can be challenging, but we identified and consulted with a tremendous team of both treating and independent providers to help our client achieve a high six-figure settlement.