Jury Awards $2.1 Million in PTSD Case

Minnesota LawyerSeptember 27, 2019

Minnesota Lawyer

The insurance company didn’t believe that Paula Cottingham had post-traumatic stress disorder from a car accident where her car was T-boned in an intersection where she had the right of way. The other driver blew a stop sign and tragically was killed. Cottingham sustained neck and shoulder pain and, importantly, a traumatic brain injury that led to PTSD.

Her insurer, State Farm, offered her $21,000 from a policy that had limits of $250,000.  A Dakota County jury saw things differently and came back with a verdict of $2.1 million—100 times as much. It included $1 million for future medical expenses and $750,000 for future pain, suffering, embarrassment and emotional distress. It also awarded her $369,537 in past medical expenses, pain and suffering, and wage loss.

The take-away of the case is that jurors can choose to trust the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s witnesses, said her attorney, Jim Carey of Minneapolis.

“People genuinely suffer from PTSD,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing. It’s easy for insurance carriers and jurors to be dismissive.”

Cottingham exhibits most of the symptoms of PTSD and has been so diagnosed by 10 other treating physicians, Carey said. Her symptoms include anxiety, depression insomnia, nightmares about the crash and reclusiveness. She also has constant neck pain and headaches. “There isn’t a single provider who didn’t say she had PTSD,” he added.

Cottingham underwent a drastic personality change, Carey said. Before the accident she worked as a hair and make-up stylist and hoped to work in the modeling field in that capacity or open her own salon. She had to give it up because she could not be on her feet all the time or work with her arms at or above shoulder level. She also found it too stressful to drive to work. She is now a bank teller.

Her marriage fell apart and she was divorced. Her ex-husband said in a deposition that she was not the same woman as before the accident. She moved into her parents’ basement and became reclusive. But she is tough and is slowly getting better, Carey said.

“It’s said that juries are conservative, but they understood what is going on,” Carey said. He said that they were instructed to return a verdict based on Cottingham’s trauma and not on the death of the other driver.

Cottingham was insured by State Farm, whose witness was Dr. Joseph J. Burgarino, who Carey said practices in Wisconsin and is an experienced witness. He also said that the doctor spent 17 minutes with her before testifying that she was recovered from the accident but that Burgarino denies this.

Cottingham’s expert witnesses were Dr. John Stark, an orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Lon Lutz, a pain specialist.

Post-trial motions are pending.

State Farm was represented by Tamara Rollins of Minneapolis. She said the company had no comment on pending litigation in view of Minnesota Lawyer’s deadline.

Client Reviews

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Dorothy Larson

I'm glad Jim and his staff were on my side after my accident in 2017. Everybody was so helpful and answered all of my questions. I had more than just the accident taking a toll on me at the time! I was still in the midst of having Chemo Therapy. Everyone was so kind to me and Jim was so helpful along with Rachel, Jayne, Lori, and Angela.

I also appreciated the fact that Jim called personally to let me know what was going on. Thanks to everyone and I would recommend Jim to anyone in need.

Sarah Peterson

It was a great experience working with Jim and his entire team! Always felt well taken care of and someone was always there to answer my many questions! Thanks!

Lora O'Hern
Mr. Carey and his staff were so professional  and helpful dealing with our accident. Their communication was excellent. Working with the SiebenCarey team was the only bright spot in our horrible accident experience. We always felt we were represented by extremely knowledgeable and caring people. We appreciate the outstanding service we received.
 
Roger and Merle Landro

We wanted to thank you so much for all that you did for us. This was a very difficult time in our life and you made it possible for us to get through it with a good outcome! Angela and Jane were also so good and helpful to us. We will never forget everything your firm did to be there for us. Life can have some difficult times, but people like you make it possible to have better days! - Roger & Merle Landro

Christine Butina

Jim Carey and his staff were excellent at their jobs. They were very understanding and were always available if you had questions on something with my case. They treated you as if you were their only client that they had. I would definitely recommend sending anyone to SiebenCarey because they really do care about you.

Julie Larson
Such a great experience - Angela and Jim were beyond easy to work with - always helpful and friendly, no matter how many times we asked the same question. Very quick to get back to a message or email - would highly recommend this firm.
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When I needed help, after an auto accident,  I was unsure who to turn to. A family friend has suggested SiebenCarey to because of their prior experience.

I will tell you this, there is no one else I would recommend after the excellent service I was given.

They stayed on top of everything, they kept me in the loop, most of all they gave me piece of mind. I felt confident that there was nothing to worry about with such fantastic people on my side.

A big thank you to the folks at SiebenCarey!

Greg Christiansen

My wife and daughter were killed in a vehicular incident.  I was referred by a good friend to SiebenCarey . Jim Carey personally handled my situation. The compassion, professionalism, and competence was beyond excellent.  In a most difficult  time for my son and me the help we received was immeasurable and in fact, helped our healing process.  I want to personally thank Jim and his team for their assistance.  I would recommend this organization unreservedly and totally to anyone who needs help in a tough time.

Barbara Heinzen

On November 17, 2017 I was involved in a car accident with a friend. A young man ran a red light. Both of us were ambulanced to the nearest hospital. With in three hours I had a friend call Jim Carey's office because they had used them . I had someone by my bedside the very next morning, and Jim Carey and his staff took such good care of me. They really did take the worry off my shoulders. Bottom line, it took about a year and a half and they were with me the entire time... Jim and his staff Angela, Jayne, and Lori, were all amazing. Got back to me fast, answered my questions so I could understand, and Jim would call if I needed to ask him a question. I felt I was the most important client!! If you need someone who will show that they care, you will not go wrong with Jim Carey and his staff.

Sharon Jensen
Jim Carey and his staff were great. Returned calls promptly and answered any and all questions in layman's terms for me. Exceeded my expectations. I've already told family and friends that if any of them should need personal injury representation to contact SiebenCarey. I wouldn't hesitate to contact them again if necessary.
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The team at SiebenCarey was extremely dedicated in helping me with my case. Jim and his staff were knowledgeable, caring , friendly, and sympathetic throughout the entire case. They are like family to me. I would highly recommend them.
Lisa Gariepy

The entire Minneapolis team that worked with me was amazing.  Always proactive in sharing what to expect and taking time to explain things.  In a stressful, unfamiliar informed and supported. Wonderful group!

Cheryl Nelson
Jim Carey is down-to-earth, understanding, compassionate, extremely focused and downright brilliant in his skillful and highly successful resolution to my serious injuries resulting from a car accident. I can't say enough about how grateful I am and how pleased I am with his representation and the service from his entire team. Thank you.
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In need of a personal injury attorney? Well you're if you're reading this you're in the right place. You'd be hard pressed to find more competent attorneys than the ones here at SiebenCarey.

They took my case to trial and an amazing job presenting the facts and fighting for my best interests! Three years ago I was unsure of what my future would bring; now that it's over I can rest a bit easier. With SiebenCarey as my counsel, I believe I had the absolute BEST representation a person could've asked for. I knew that I wanted the absolute best representation when searching for an attorney to handle my case and I most definitely received it.

If you need a personal injury attorney, look no further. Can't recommend highly enough.

Daniel Ball
Really good professionals, they solved my issues in no time using the most impressive and advanced approach. Really good, highly recommended
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SiebenCarey is a professional and dedicated law organization that help accident victim.

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Even though I was states away and could only talk on the phone, they listened and did everything that they could to win my case. I felt like I was a part of the family.
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My boyfriend was hit by a car and while all the attorneys he talked to said he didn't have much chance of a case, SiebenCarey took him on and gave him a fighting chance. He's still recovering, but SiebenCarey is making it a lot easier.

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