In mild traumatic brain injury cases, jurors may not be able to see the outward symptoms of a plaintiff's brain damage immediately. Because of that, it’s critical for a plaintiff’s attorney to lay the groundwork for a significant damage request by conveying the severity of the injury in the first moments of an opening statement. In Wicker v. American Family Insurance, Cash, Krugler & Fredericks’ Alwyn Fredericks combined visual aids and clear analogies during his opening to set up a seven-figure verdict in his client’s 2015 trial.
Fredericks’ client, Jewel Wicker, claimed she suffered a mild traumatic brain injury when a produce box truck nearly crushed her car in a 2012 crash in Atlanta. The defense admitted fault for the accident but disputed damages.
In his opening, Fredericks used both computer animation and a printed trial board to demonstrate the circumstances and location of Wicker’s brain injury. As an animation demonstrated a figure’s head thrown violently forward and back, Fredericks said “It’s kind of like the shaken baby syndrome… the baby is shaken, the brain is shaken around inside of the head. You don’t see any injuries outside. No broken skull, it’s not going to show up on a CT scan, but something is wrong with that brain.”
Fredericks went on to describe what he said was the axonal brain injury Wicker suffered in the crash. “That essentially is when the superhighway in yoyr brain is affected,” Fredericks explained, as a computer animation demonstrating brain function played. “That white line, that sheath right there, carries information from one cell to the other. And when your brain is struck, or you have a… twisting injury, that sheath is affected and it impacts your ability to carry information from cell to cell. And that’s what affects your memory, and that’s what affects your cognitive functioning.”
Fredericks told jurors medical evidence would prove the injury had lasting effects on Wicker. “There is no such thing as a small brain injury, and you will see why we believe there should be an award in the millions for Jewel.” Fredericks said. “Jewel Wicker has a permanent, mild traumatic brain injury. She didn’t have that before she was run over. There is no such thing as a small brain injury.”
Fredericks’ opening helped deliver a $3.5 million verdict in the case.
Email Arlin Crisco at [email protected].
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