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Brain injury case settles for $472K

By: Phillip Bantz//February 10, 2015

Brain injury case settles for $472K

By: Phillip Bantz//February 10, 2015

The people in Dustin Smith’s life noticed changes in his personality after he was involved in a high-speed crash on Interstate 20 in Columbia, according to his attorney, Kenneth Berger.

Smith’s pastor was ready to testify that “it seemed like the wind had been taken out of his sails,” said Berger, who has an eponymous practice in Columbia. Other fact witnesses, including Smith’s best friend since childhood, also had been prepared to tell jurors how Smith emerged from the 2011 crash a changed man.

But the case against the at-fault driver, Rebecca Beverly, settled shortly before trial for $472,000 from her $500,000 auto insurance policy. Her insurer, Safeco, and her attorney, Charles Moore of Turner Padget in Columbia, had initially offered $50,000 to Smith before he sued, Berger said. He added that the highest offer during mediation was $100,000. Moore could not be reached for comment.

While Beverly admitted that she caused the crash – the car she was driving was travelling about 75 mph when it slammed into the back of Smith’s pickup truck while he was stopped in rush-hour traffic – she disputed the extent of Smith’s injuries, according to Berger.

Post-crash scans of Smith’s brain were normal and he went on to become a volunteer firefighter and join the Army Reserve. But Smith, who was 21 at the time of the incident, began suffering from headaches, attention-deficit disorder, insomnia, mood swings and impulse-control issues, Berger said.

Berger argued that the impact of the crash smashed Smith’s brain against his skull, resulting in a diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury by a doctor at the Palmetto Health Richland hospital in Columbia.

A neurologist later made the same diagnosis and concluded that Smith would benefit from medication, counseling and follow-up care, Berger said. He added that Smith stopped working as a roofer after the crash.

“One of the sad parts is that for nearly three years, Dustin went without the medical care he needed because he was in dire financial straits,” he said.

Follow Phillip Bantz on Twitter at SCLWBantz




Case name: Dustin Smith v. Rebecca Beverly

No. 2013-CP-40-2491

Court: Richland Count Court of Common Pleas

Date of settlement: Jan. 8

Amount: $472,000

Attorneys for plaintiff: Kenneth Berger of Columbia and Chris Corley of Augusta, Georgia

Attorneys for defendant: Charlie Moore of Turner Padget in Columbia.

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