Taxicab companies often operate their business by hiring drivers, furnishing them with cabs, and sending them on calls from customers. The cab companies profit from these activities, but what happens when their driver crashes into innocent drivers and causes serious injury? Suddenly the cab company may claim that their driver is an “independent contractor” and claim that the company is not liable for his carelessness. This argument succeeded for many years and cab companies often escaped all responsibility. Michael Salasky was the first lawyer in Virginia to change this rule, and to persuade a court that cab companies cannot delegate away the risks of their operations. In Belcher vs. Yellow Cab, 61 Va. Cir. 684 (2002) it was established for the first time in Virginia that cab companies cannot escape the risks associated with their operations.
The settling insurance company was humbled, and insisted on a confidentiality clause in the settlement agreement, so details cannot be divulged. But one could safely say that people and vehicles are always a dangerous mix. The case involved several moving parts which all required diligent investigation. Putting all the facts together paid off when an additional large insurance policy was discovered, thus allowing the client to achieve a measure of fair compensation. Client was one of the most deserving of people we have had the privilege of representing, so a good outcome was especially gratifying and welcome.
The plaintiff was operating a commercial truck along a two lane highway. A dump truck driver waiting to enter the highway saw plaintiff approaching and, thinking that he had sufficient time, turned onto the highway and into plaintiff’s lane of travel with the intention of moving in the same direction as plaintiff. Plaintiff’s fully loaded truck could not be slowed within the space allotted by defendant’s maneuver, despite plaintiff’s frantic attempts to brake, and plaintiff struck the rear of defendant’s dump truck. Plaintiff sustained bilateral wrist fractures as well as right ankle, tibia and fibula fractures. Plaintiff underwent open reduction and internal fixation of both wrists with plating, as well as intra-medullary nailing of right tibia-fibula. A subsequent surgery was performed to accomplish reduction and fixation with plating for the ankle, and to remove pins from the wrist. He suffered a 15% impairment of each upper extremity, and a 30% impairment of the lower extremity.
Client was an office worker who remained at work after dark. As she left her office, she requested that the security guard walk her to her car. The security guard accompanied the client, and began to speak to her in inappropriately familiar terms. After the client entered her vehicle, the security guard also got inside and forced her to engage in improper touching. Michael Salasky’s investigation revealed that the security guard had previously been fired from other jobs for harassment. The case settled on the eve of trial for $500,000.
Client was driving to work with the right of way when a dump truck pulled away from a stop sign directly across her path. Even though the dump truck driver had a duty to yield the right of way, he alleged that our client was improperly passing another vehicle when the accident occurred and denied liability. Our client developed shoulder pain and back pain, both of which required surgical repair. After the defendant refused to offer a fair settlement, a jury returned a verdict in favor of our client for $500,000.
Our client was proceeding through the intersection on a green light when the drunk driver, approaching from the opposite direction, made a left-hand turn into the path of our client. A serious crash took place and our client was transported to the hospital and admitted. He ended up suffering injuries to his neck, chest, shoulder and back. At the time of the crash, the drunk driver had a blood alcohol content of 0.20. After diligent investigation, Mr. Salasky was able to show that, just prior to the crash,the drunk driver had been to a series of restaurants and bars where he consumed multiple alcoholic beverages. Additionally, Mr. Salasky discovered that this same drunk driver had previously been convicted of another drunk driving offense. Rather than face the likely harsh judgment of a jury, the insurance company finally decided to settle the case about two weeks before trial.
Sometimes it takes enormous “staying power” to achieve a just and fair result. The plaintiff was struck in the rear while stopped at a red light. After noticing in the medical records the tell-tale signs of an emerging radiculopathy, Mr. Salasky adopted a “go slow” approach to the case. Sure enough, about a year and a half after the accident the plaintiff was forced to undergo neck surgery in order to decompress cervical nerves that had become “pinched”. An additional period of watchful waiting was then necessary in order to ascertain that the surgery would turn out to be successful. The case proceeded to a jury, but when one of the defense attorneys interjected improper argument, a mistrial was declared. On the eve of the second trial many months later a settlement was achieved, and the insurance company insisted that the amount not be made public. The plaintiff was delighted with the result, and in the end his patience was rewarded.
Plaintiff developed complaints of shooting pain down her back and thigh after being struck in the rear of her auto. She treated for six weeks and was released as asymptomatic. An MRI was eventually ordered which showed a protruding disc at L5-S1, which her physician identified as the source of her pain. Defendant’s opposing medical expert testified that plaintiff developed pain from disc degeneration sometime after the accident and her complaints were not accident related. The jury returned a verdict for $50,000 which, coincidentally, was the amount of the coverage.
Our client was crossing the street intending to catch a bus. Tragically, she was struck and killed in the intersection. The responsible driver claimed that he had the green light while entering the intersection. Michael Salasky investigated the case and located a witness who was at the scene but who later moved to Georgia. This witness stated that our client was lawfully crossing the intersection. The driver’s insurance company eventually paid their entire policy limits to the family of the victim.
The plaintiff was rear-ended on the interstate and began to experience numbness and tingling down her right leg. A conservative course of physical therapy and medication failed to relieve her back pain and leg pain. An MRI revealed an extruded disc at the L5-S1 level and, with steadily worsening complaints, the plaintiff finally decided to undergo back surgery. Her spine surgeon removed the extruded disc and inserted screws and rods into the spine to promote stability and relieve the pain. Even though an opposing neurosurgeon testified that the accident did not cause plaintiff’s injury, Mr. Salasky overcame this testimony and obtained a six figure confidential settlement for the plaintiff.
Client gave birth to a child with a serious congenital heart defect. Her life insurance agent convinced her to apply for life insurance for this child, and helped her complete the application. When the child unfortunately died soon thereafter, the insurance company showed that it had never received the application, had never issued a life insurance policy, and in any event the child was uninsurable. Michael Salasky convinced the court that, even though the company never issued a policy, the actions of the agent bound the company. Life insurance proceeds were ultimately paid to the mother of the deceased child.
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