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Motor Vehicle Accident Jury Verdict Napa California

In California accident cases, it is common for insurance carriers and defense attorneys to try to dispute liability in an effort to establish the comparative fault of injured plaintiffs. A recent case, Melissa Alvarez and Lorenzo Alvarez, a minor v. Syar Industries, Inc. – Napa County Superior Court Case No. 26-67154, demonstrates how some defense lawyers and insurance companies attempt to place blame on the injured victims as well as how having help from an experienced personal injury attorney might help to defeat the defense arguments.

Factual background of the case

On April 17, 2015, a 33-year-old juvenile hall counselor was driving her 2005 GMC Yukon on Highway 221 in Napa County accompanied by her 3-year-old son. As she was traveling north in the number two righthand lane, a street sweeper that was being driven by an employee of Syar Industries was cleaning up gravel that had been spilled in the merge lane. The Syar Industries employee attempted to complete a U-turn and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle.

Plaintiff’s injuries

The plaintiff suffered numerous fractures, abrasions and contusions. After the collision, her car caught fire, but she was unable to get out of it because of injuries she suffered to her leg. Two passersby stopped and dragged her out of her car after forcing her door open. The woman begged them to save her son, which they did. The plaintiff and her son were both transported to the hospital via an ambulance. She underwent numerous surgeries to repair the fractures in her leg, including to her femur and ankle. Her son suffered a contusion to his foot and required a splint but did not require further treatment. During his deposition, the defendant’s medical expert testified that the plaintiff would likely require an ankle fusion and a partial knee replacement in the future.

Plaintiff’s arguments

The plaintiff argued that the street sweeper’s driver held all of the fault for causing the accident. Since he was working at the time of the accident, the plaintiff argued that his employer, Sylar Industries, was liable to pay damages.

Defendant’s arguments

From the outset of the case, the defense and defendant’s attorney tried to argue that the plaintiff held some comparative fault. The insurance carrier, AIG, hired an accident reconstruction expert and a human factors expert in an attempt to prove that the plaintiff was at least partly to blame. In order to further that goal, the defense created a video simulation purporting to demonstrate that the plaintiff held a portion of the liability for the accident’s cause. The defense failed to make any meaningful settlement offers throughout the case until shortly before trial when AIG hired a new attorney.


The plaintiff submitted a §998 offer before trial in the amount of $1.9 million, which the defendant ignored. The parties engaged in mediation, but it was unsuccessful. Following the deposition testimony of her treating physicians, the plaintiff made a demand for $7 million, which the defendant again ignored. After AIG hired a new defense attorney just before trial, the defendant stipulated to liability and made an offer of $600,000. The plaintiff countered with a pretrial demand of $6.9 million, which was rejected. During the trial, the defendant made several significant offers which were rejected by the plaintiff.


After a trial that lasted for 19 days, the jury deliberated for one day before returning a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. The gross verdict award to the plaintiff was $ $8,313,685 for the plaintiff and $129,048 for the plaintiff’s son. Of the plaintiff’s amount, the jury awarded her $340,805 in past economic damages and $2,222,880 in future economic losses. The jury awarded the plaintiff $1,750,000 in past non-economic losses and $4,000,000 in future non-economic losses.

How an attorney might help

It is common for defendant insurance companies and defense attorneys to engage in a broad range of tactics in an effort to dispute liability. One of those tactics may involve hiring experts such as the accident reconstruction and human factors experts that were hired in this case. These types of defense experts often will go to great lengths in an effort to discredit the plaintiff, including making video simulations and using technology in other ways to try to tell a different story than what actually happened. In this case, the plaintiff’s attorney was able to demonstrate the weaknesses in the defense experts’ opinions, leading to the pretrial offers from the new defense attorney.

If you have been injured in an accident involving the potential for substantial damages, you may need to get help from an experienced personal injury attorney. A seasoned lawyer understands the types of arguments that defense attorneys often try to make and understands how to combat them. Your attorney may hire experts on your behalf to render their own opinions. He or she may also present evidence to the defense through the discovery process demonstrating the strength of your case and clearly pointing to the liability of the defendant. To learn more about your potential right to recovery, contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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