Case Studies and Results

See how our law firm has gotten real results for clients

We're selective about the cases we handle here at NLE Law. That's because we want to make sure that every client gets the best possible results. We invest our own time and energy, consulting with some of the leading experts on traumatic brain injury and coordinating with the best doctors and specialists in the Puget Sound area to help our clients get better.

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Read on to see some of our most significant case results. Note that every case is different and past results are not a guarantee of future performance.

In-Depth Case Studies

Other Significant Cases

Confidential v. Confidential

Monetary Award : $850,000.00

We represented a young woman who was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver. Unfortunately for the passengers of the car, the driver severely misled his friends about his drinking the night of the crash. The driver of the vehicle had pledged to be the designated driver and, unbeknownst to his passengers, had been secretly drinking outside of the party that the group attended.

Our client suffered two broken arms and a spine injury when the driver crashed into a tree going around a corner. With our help, our client was able to get excellent medical care and access to specialists who helped her recover faster.

We also assisted her with her long-term disability claim, and she was able to make her mortgage payments, pay her bills, and feed her family while she recovered. Thankfully, her injuries recovered with her hard work and excellent team of doctors.

It is very important to NLE that our clients get treated with respect and dignity. The insurance company for the negligent driver initially denied liability, but with our thorough investigation and comprehensive presentation, we were able to convince the insurance company that it should honor its promises and take responsibility for the harm that was caused to our client.

Our client was able to continue on with her life, and she began giving presentations to youth groups about the dangers of drunk driving. At NLE, we strongly believe that our clients and the firm should care about the communities that we live in.

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Suzanne Tupper vs. APCO Worldwide Inc. and Unum Life Insurance Company

Ms. Tupper was a valued employee at a very prominent international charity. She worked long hours and received a long-term disability policy as part of her compensation. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with a serious medical condition and became disabled to the point that she could no longer continue working the job that she loved.

After dutifully paying the premiums for many years, she applied for long-term disability benefits from UNUM. Despite having objective evidence of disability, UNUM relied upon a flawed and biased medical exam to deny her claim. We filed an appeal on her behalf, which was denied after an inadequate review.

We then filed suit against UNUM and a federal judge agreed that Ms. Tupper was disabled. The Honorable Judge Coughenour found that UNUM improperly ignored the opinions of Ms. Tupper's doctors who had treated her for a long time. He also found that UNUM's doctors erroneously determined that her disability was caused by a mental health condition. The Court agreed with her treating physicians and the Social Security Administration that she was disabled.

Ms. Tupper had the courage to pursue her case against one of the most powerful insurance companies in America, and we were very proud to represent her. We methodically built our appeal to best position her case for litigation because we know, all too well, the lengths that long-term disability insurers will go to deny valid claims. It is important to remember that in an ERISA case, your only chance to prove your case is during the appeals process. That is why it is very important to contact us as soon as you get a denial of your long-term disability benefits.

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Trial Avoided; Lump Sum Resolution Achieved

Darla Jones (name changed), a divorced 48-year-old with two adopted disabled children, worked as a paralegal for a major Seattle law firm until she became disabled from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and diabetes. Fortunately, her employer provided her and her coworkers with a disability insurance policy.

Ms. Jones filed her claim for disability benefits thinking that the insurance company would fully and fairly investigate her claim. As in so many other disability claims, the insurance company selectively chose portions from her medical records which gave the impression that her disability was "caused or contributed to" by a mental disorder, such as depression. The insurance company acknowledged that she was sick with fibromyalgia, CFS and diabetes but refused to consider these diagnoses as medically disabling. Ms. Jones was paid two years of benefits, the period allowed for coverage of what the insurance company determined was her disabling psychological injuries, but her permanent disability claim was closed.

Ms. Jones retained NLE after her attempts to reopen her disability insurance claim were denied by the insurance company. Since her claim was governed by ERISA (the group of federal statutes known as the Employee Retirement Income Securities Act), the Washington State Insurance Commissioner could not be of any assistance to her. NLE filed suit in federal court and, before trial, successfully negotiated a lump-sum settlement of her past and future disability benefits.

NLE is one of the few law firms in the Pacific Northwest that devotes a significant amount of resources fighting to obtain the disability benefits owed to disabled workers through ERISA plans or private insurance policies. Many times the information developed by NLE can also be used to obtain disability benefits from other sources, such as from the Social Security Administration.

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Lifetime Care Need

Monetary Award : $1,001,500.00

Jorge Hernandez (name changed) was a 62-year-old married man on his way to work when a commercial van pulled out in front of him. The ensuing collision caused Mr. Hernandez to sustain a fractured tibia requiring external fixation. He developed a chronic compartment syndrome in the lower portion of that leg and also suffered several fractured ribs. Ultimately, Mr. Hernandez' leg injuries required three surgeries, and he was left with a significant permanent partial disability (or impairment rating) and appreciable future medical needs.

NLE achieved a pretrial settlement of $1,001,500 for Mr. Hernandez and his wife, who suffered personal loss of consortium damages. Because a significant portion of the settlement was placed in a structured settlement annuity, the lifetime payout of the settlement will be much greater.

The regular, tax-free payments will provide salary replacement for Mr. Hernandez along with sufficient funds for his future anticipated medical treatment. The up-front portion of the settlement allowed Mr. Hernandez and his wife to relocate to a more user-friendly home to accommodate his disability.

NLE will often use special experts to develop and portray the disability and impairment aspects of their serious injury cases. A key to the successful evolution of the Hernandez case was the demonstration of Mr. Hernandez' work disability and ongoing impairments around the home.

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Repeat Head Injuries

Monetary Award : $12,000,000.00

The Problem

Brandon Schultz, a 16-year-old high school athlete in Anacortes, WA, sustained a blow to the head during a school football game. The following week, before he had healed from the first concussion, he played football again. After a seemingly harmless tackle, Brandon collapsed and fell into a deep coma. Doctors performed emergency surgery to reduce swelling in his brain and followed up with three more brain operations. The young man endured weeks of intensive inpatient care and years of rehabilitation.

Today, physical and psychological problems have forced Brandon to live in supervised housing in another state. He can no longer think clearly or express himself adequately. Clinical experts describe Brandon's condition as a "permanent state of adolescence." He is haunted by the memory of the above-average student, athlete, and carefree teenager he used to be.

The Legal Process

On behalf of the family, attorney Michael Nelson filed a lawsuit against the Anacortes School District. The suit claimed the district failed to use reasonable policies and procedures for head injury management, did not provide its coaches with proper training, and did not require a "return to play" note from a doctor following a concussion.

Before filing suit, Nelson researched other catastrophic brain injuries involving athletes. He found Brandon's brain injury was a classic case of Second Impact Syndrome (SIS), a rare, usually fatal condition that may occur when a person sustains a second concussion before healing from the first. Nelson's suit, filed upon these conclusions, was the first such litigation to argue SIS as both a liability theory and as a damage consequence.

The Results

Mike Nelson reached a settlement with the Anacortes School District that was felt to be adequate to cover Brandon's lifetime needs, which experts placed at over $12 million. As part of the settlement, the Anacortes School District also volunteered to help fund a speaking tour for Brandon's mother, allowing her to educate coaches, school officials, and parents about the dangers of concussion, return to play, and SIS.

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Settlement in Excess of Available Insurance Coverage

Monetary Award : $430,000.00

Joy Knight, a partially sighted disabled individual who uses a white cane, was struck while crossing the street. She was knocked to the pavement and taken by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center. As a result of her brain injury, she required a craniotomy and experienced a cognitive disorder. The accident also resulted in temporomandibular joint problems, vertigo and fear of traffic.

Before the trial, NLE was able to achieve a mediated settlement which included the liability insurance limits of $250,000, in addition to $180,000 from the at-fault driver himself. Another feature of this settlement included a special needs trust. That trust allowed our client to invest part of her settlement so as to meet ongoing monthly expenses while maintaining her eligibility to receive governmental benefits. In addition, an up-front cash allotment allowed her to purchase a specially suited condominium.

The liability insurance for this accident was not substantial enough to meet our client's needs. However, NLE's expertise in the combining of insurance coverages, excess or extra compensation, governmental entitlements, and special settlement vehicles such as trusts allowed limited resources to be stretched and combined for maximum client benefit.

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Loss of Consortium

Monetary Award : $2,500,000.00

Lillia Smith (name changed), a married 37-year-old with three children, worked as a pediatric nurse. Her vehicle was rear-ended by a dump truck, causing her injuries, including traumatic brain injury, spinal lesions, urinary incontinence, tinnitus and a loss of libido. Ms. Smith was unable to return to work.

In this case, as in many, also profoundly affected are the spouse and children, who suffer compensable losses termed "loss of consortium" damages. NLE takes pride in emphasizing the independent damages of these individuals.

Through negotiation on behalf of the Smith family, a pretrial settlement of $2.5 million was achieved. Actually, the long-term payout will be considerably greater by virtue of placing a portion of the settlement into a structured settlement annuity. Such annuities allow guaranteed, tax-free investment profits to be paid out at specified times in the future or for life. For instance, for the Smith children, college and early adult financial needs could be incorporated into the settlement by NLE. Accordingly, the long-term needs of the entire family can be met by combining aggressive case development along with engineered financial programs in the settlement process.

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Falling Merchandise

Monetary Award : $250,000.00

Because NLE puts an emphasis on head injury and related cases, the firm has handled a number of matters involving falling merchandise. One such case involved Brian Pekowski, who was injured in a Home Depot store when a worker attempted to retrieve some merchandise from a highly stacked shelf, which ultimately fell on Mr. Pekowski's head. He suffered a post-concussive syndrome and related injuries. Mr. Pekowski was not insured, and because Home Depot, as a corporate policy, does not advance medical expenses to customers who may be injured in its stores, litigation was necessary.

However, in a mediation before a former judge, the case was successfully resolved with the settlement including both past and future medical expenses along with Mr. Pekowski's pain, suffering, and inability to enjoy life damages.

Similarly, Debra Gregor was a patron at a Target store in southern Washington when stools stacked high upon a display fell and struck her on the head. Although Ms. Gregor sustained a concussion, she did not develop further symptomatology of traumatic brain injury.

However, she did suffer traumatically induced endolymphatic hydrops, a vestibular (or inner ear) disorder caused by the falling merchandise. NLE has found that traumatically induced inner ear disorders are often confused with traumatic brain injuries. Each can mask the symptoms of the other, but medical treatment needs to be specifically oriented to the injuries suffered. Treatment for Ms. Gregor was prolonged, and a lawsuit had to be filed. The case was resolved through formal mediation for Target's payment of $250,000.

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Auto Accidents

Sorensen v. Vanee Livestock

Monetary Award : $3,830,000.00

Brain injury as a result of multiple car pile-up on I-5.

Confidential v. Allied Insurance (Under-insured Motorist claim)

Monetary Award : $1,500,000.00

Brain injury to attorney as a result of under-insured motorist negligence in Snohomish County.

Knapp v. Cho and State of Washington

Monetary Award : $1,100,000.00

Left ankle and tibia injury requiring seven surgeries as a result of cable barrier failure on I-5 near Marysville.

Friend v. Alexander

Monetary Award : $600,000.00

Traumatically induced epilepsy as a result of brain injury incurred in an auto collision.

Fowler v. Yellow Cab

Monetary Award : $475,000.00

Traumatically induced narcolepsy and concussion as a result of taxi cab driver negligence.

Jane Doe v. Confidential

Monetary Award : $350,000.00

Minimal impact case when client rear-ended by another vehicle. Other driver cited for failure to control speed to avoid a collision; defense claimed all conditions pre-existed collision and force of impact could not have caused injures.

Mitchell v. Confidential

Motor vehicle crash, rear ended, head trauma, cognitive difficulties.

McGlashan v. Confidential

High-impact rear-end motor vehicle crash resulting in spinal injuries. Resolved for policy limit.

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Insurance Denial

Jane Doe v. Life Insurance Company of North America

Her husband's life insurance plan was denied following his death for dubious reasons. A federal judge agreed and ruled Mrs. Doe was entitled to policy limits and that the insurance company acted in bad faith. The case resolved for the policy limits along with bad faith damages.

Lambert vs. Aetna Life Insurance Company

Ms. Lambert's disability benefits were wrongfully denied. The Court ruled that Aetna's investigation and administration of claim was unreasonable and ordered a remand. Aetna then reinstated her benefits and paid attorney's fees and costs.

Corsnitz v Aetna Life Insurance Company

Ms. Corsnitz filed for long-term disability benefits with Aetna Insurance Company, pursuant to an ERISA disability insurance program provided by Boeing. All of claimant's treating physicians opined that she was disabled due to chronic pain and fatigue caused by fibromyalgia, but Aetna refused to pay benefits. The Court determined that Aetna breached its fiduciary duties, and Aetna paid all back benefits, costs of litigation, prejudgment interest, reasonable attorneys' fees, and Ms. Corsnitz was put back on claim.

Ettel v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America and Costco Wholesale Corpor

Ms. Ettel became eligible to receive disability benefits, and Defendant Costco contracted with Defendant UNUM as to the determination, claim administration and payment of these disability benefits. The Court ruled that UNUM wrongfully denied Ms. Ettel's claim for benefits, and she received an award of benefits and attorney fees.

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Traumatic Brain Injury

Rader v. Fogelquist, and King County Dept. of Transportation

Monetary Award: $5,500,000.00

Brain injury, shoulder fracture, staph infection as a result of King County Department of Transportation negligence. 

Williams-Porchia et al. v. Magraw, Delicor of Wa, State of Washington, etc.

Monetary Award : $1,450,000.00

Multiple fractures to pelvis, both ankles, ribs, and traumatic brain injury as a result of highway design negligence during Mukilteo Speedway remake

Snow v. Samuel

Monetary Award: $800,000.00

Head trauma, 18-month-old falls through apartment railing as result of landlord negligence

Daigle v. Confidential

Bicycle v. pedestrian, head trauma, cognitive difficulties. Resolved for policy limits.

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Wrongful Death

Holschen v. Odom and State of Washington

Monetary Award : $9,000,000.00

Traumatic brain injury and wrongful death as a result of cable barrier failure on I-5 near Marysville

Confidential v. State of Washington

Monetary Award : $300,000.00

Loss-of-consortium recovery for wrongful death as a result of cable barrier failure on I-5 near Marysville.

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Washington State Association for Justice Eagle ProgramWashington State Association for JusticeBrain Injury Association of AmericaWashington State Bar AssociationBrain Injury Alliance Washington
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NLE Law / Nelson, Langer, Engle PLLC

12055 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98125
Phone: (206) 623-7520 Fax: (206) 622-7068

NLE Law / Nelson, Langer, Engle PLLC

38579 SE River Street Suite 3
Snoqualmie, WA 98065
Phone: (425) 394-4117

NLE Law / Nelson, Langer, Engle PLLC

705 South 9th Street #303
Tacoma, WA 98405
Phone: (253) 343-6043