Wife and Child Sue After Husband Dies From Pain Medication Overdoes Prescribed After Car Accident

The following blog entry is written to illustrate an example of a personal injury case. Reviewing this kind of lawsuit should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in personal injury cases present such issues to the court.

(Please also note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this personal injury lawsuit and its proceedings.)

INJURIES: Adam and Gillian both complained of neck and back pain after the accident, and went to an urgent care center later that day. Both proceeded with conservative care with physical therapists and chiropractors.


On Jan. 8, 2002, plaintiffs’ decedent Adam Oliver, 41, a self-employed marketer of promotional materials, was driving a car with his daughter, plaintiff Gillian Oliver, riding as a passenger. They were rear-ended by a California Department of Transportation pickup truck on Shaw Avenue, near its intersection with West Avenue in Fresno.

Adam eventually underwent a lumbar discectomy fusion to remedy his injuries, and then accidentally died from an overdose of painkillers.

Adam’s widow Janice, individually and as successor-in-interest to Adam and Gillian, sued Caltrans, claiming that the agency was entirely at fault for the accident. They also claimed that Adam had been slowing for traffic when he was hit.

The plaintiffs further claimed that, since Adam would not have been taking pain medication if he had not been in the accident, Caltrans was responsible for his accidental death.

Caltrans admitted liability for the car accident, but disputed liability for Adam’s death.

Adam’s lower back pain did not resolve, but kept getting worse. He sought treatment from various specialists, and then underwent a three-level lumbar discectomy and fusion. During the fusion, there was a complication that caused nerve damage. The nerve damage caused Adam significant chronic post-operative pain in his back and legs, for which he was prescribed pain medications.

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

Adam accidentally overdosed on the pain medication, and Gillian found him dead on the floor of his home office.

Adam was his daughter’s soccer coach and was very involved with her school. He worked from home and had a lot of time to spend with Gillian. They were close.

Adam and Janice met while both were in the army. Their 15-year marriage had been challenged by Adam’s repeated admissions to drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. His last admission had been about two years before the accident, and witnesses testified that Adam was doing well, and that the marriage was on solid ground.

The plaintiffs submitted $164,000 in past medical expenses for Adam.

The plaintiffs sought damages of between $3,000 and $5,000 for Gillian’s medical expenses; $164,000 in damages for Adam’s medical expenses; damages in the mid-six figures range for Adam’s loss of earning capacity; and an unspecified amount for Janice and Gillian’s loss of care, comfort and society. Janice was in her 40s; Gillian was age 9.

RESULT: Verdict-Plaintiff
Award Total: $1,470,600
The jury returned a plaintiff verdict, awarding $1,470,600, broken down as $164,000 for Andrew’s past medical expenses; $1,200 for Gina’s medical expenses; and $1,305,400 for Johanna and Gina’s wrongful-death claim.

The jury also found that Andrew was 90 percent liable for his own death, so it is expected that the wrongful death damages will be reduced.

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

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