As a personal injury lawyer and former prosecutor, I know that fraudulent and false injury claims put a black eye on all legitimate injury claims. But they may in fact cause the perpetrators to be charged with fraud, as in one recent Metro claim where the person was caught on video camera faking the incident by placing a banana peel on the floor to slip on it–all caught on Metro’s video camera. These claims are in the minority and very few in number. Yet, juries often punish the legitimate claims by awarding less in damages as they second guess the legitimacy of claims. And these claims provide the excuse for Metro and other companies to deny what are legitimate claims.
On Monday, February 3, Fox 5 ran a segment on claims against Metro in which I discuss these bogus and sometimes false claims.
Metro is becoming aggressive in pursuing what it deems as bogus claims. I just wish Metro would give fair compensation to those claims that are legitimate ones. Metro, like most companies, is willing to discuss the bad claims, ones that it deems to be without merit. Yet, those claims that do deserve merit and fair compensation are often treated as if they are also lacking in merit.
I recall trying a case against Metro (WMATA) in federal court in Washington, DC for a woman who fell backwards off of a bus while the bus driver pulled away with the bus door open. She was standing on the bus steps attempting to board the bus. It was an obvious act of wrongdoing on the part of the bus driver to drive the bus with the door open. And my client sustained serious neck and back injuries as she fell flat on her back onto the hard cement which ultimately resulted in her having surgery. Despite the obvious legitimacy of her claim, the case still proceeded to trial on the amount of damages to award the client. Before the trial, the federal judge entered a judgment against Metro on liability for its fault in causing the injury. But, Metro ( WMATA), despite the court’s prior ruling on negligence, refused to offer sufficient compensation which resulted in a jury trial. The client was awarded a verdict of $150,000.
And in another case tried by another law firm, the Plaintiff was injured when a WMATA bus collided with a car which resulted in the Plaintiff being ejected from her seat, striking her head, neck and shoulder against a pole leaving her with serious life altering injuries. A jury found WMATA negligent and awarded the Plaintiff $675,000. Rather than pay the amount of the verdict, Metro appealed and a DC appeals court upheld the verdict in July, 2013. The accident occurred in 2006.
The case of Patricia Barksdale-Showell is yet another example of a passenger receiving injuries at the negligence of Metro with WMATA fighting to avoid its responsibility. Ms. Barksdale-Showell fell down Metro escalator steps due to wet conditions from snow and slush which Metro failed to warn about or clean. She sustained injuries resulting in a fracture to her left leg requiring two surgeries. After a jury trial and a verdict of $45,000, Metro appealed. The Court of Appeals ruled in the Plaintiff’s favor and upheld the verdict. Her accident occurred on December 20, 2000 and reached final appeal decision 9 years later.
Unfortunately, these cases often do not make the news; instead the ones which discuss fraudulent or fake claims often make the news. While there may be a few bad apples who create false claims, like the “Banana Caper” in the Fox 5 video, my experience and that of many personal injury trial lawyers, show that the large majority of personal injury claims are ones by litigants seeking fair compensation for their injuries sustained. And these cases deserve fair and adequate compensation. And meritorious claims should not be given a black eye and judged in the same category with the few bad apples. Metro while fighting bogus claims should pay out on claims that are meritorious and for which they are negligent, instead of making litigants wait years in court before a final successful outcome.
UPDATED: February 5, 2014
Fox 5 News Video: Monitoring Metro Injury Claims