An automobile accident is not a lottery ticket. It is not an opportunity to take a negligent party to court and “sue their pants off” in an effort to win a hefty money judgment sufficient to pay for a bed-and-breakfast getaway in Natchitoches. But it should not leave the plaintiff in the lurch, either, without enough money to even cover medical bills. And sometimes, when you strive for one, you end up missing out on the other. One Louisiana couple learned the limits of revenue-generating potential for automobile accidents the hard way.
Eureka Ellis was driving up the onramp to the I-20 in East Monroe when she was sideswiped by Gregory Brown’s vehicle. Ellis also had her three children in the car with her. Brown apparently merged into Ellis’ lane prematurely. Brown did not deny he was at fault, but he asserted that the impact was minimal, reportedly asking after the collision if they even needed to call the police. The resultant “tap” of Brown’s vehicle left a few scratches on the driver’s side quarter panel of Ellis’ Charger; whether or not there was even a dent was a matter of dispute. When police arrived at the scene, none of the parties reported injuries, and no ticket was issued.
Despite the mild nature of the collision, 12 days later, Ellis and her children all went to see a chiropractor. This chiropractor, Dr. Holt, diagnosed them with neck and back pain. Over the course of the next three months, Dr. Holt saw Ms. Ellis and her three children twice a week, over 20 times each, billing them in excess of $15,000. The Ellises then filed a lawsuit against Brown and his insurer for general damages, special damages arising from the chiropractor visits, loss of consortium, and lost wages. Though the Trial Court denied a few of the claims, it determined that some damages were in order, and awarded the Ellis family a grand total of $7,692.50. This figure was far below their total claim requested and barely half of what they owed the chiropractor.