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$31.3 Million for Dangerous and Out-of-Date Guardrails

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Philadelphia, PAIn a unanimous decision last fall, a jury awarded a young man almost $32 million after he was permanently injured in a car accident. It may be one of the largest verdicts ever recorded for a motor vehicle accident case in the Superior Court of New Jersey but attorney John Dodig says considering the injuries suffered and the negligence involved, his client deserved every cent of it. "It is a lot of money, but the jury felt it was fair compensation and I couldn't agree more," he says.

John DodigThree years before, when Nicholas Anderson was just 18, he was driving down a county road when he was forced to swerve to avoid a head-on collision with a car that had wandered into his lane. A drop off in the pavement grabbed the car and smashed it into the end of metal safety guardrail.

That safety guardrail pierced the cabin of his vehicle and severed his leg. "He is only 22 now," says Dodig. "He has had 34 surgeries and already has had medical bills close to $3 million. His right leg was severed at the scene of the accident and he will soon have one of his arms amputated."

Nicholas Anderson will need another $15 million for medical services in the years
to come. The remainder of the $32 million is for Anderson's pain and suffering—the loss of life's pleasures and the embarrassment and disfigurement that the he will endure for the rest of his life.

The jury found that the County of Camden, NJ had failed in its duty to repair the highway and a safety guardrail it knew was out-of-date and dangerous and should have been able to foresee the potential damage that could result.

Dodig argued first that the highway was hazardous. "There was a 6 inch drop off at the edge of the pavement – that is what caused my client's car to go off the road in the first place," says Dodig.

However, the biggest problem was the safety guardrail that Camden County knew could cause injuries in a crash. "That guardrail was dangerous because it was not up to code. In fact, it was 30 to 40 years out of code," says Dodig. "It didn't have any of the current safety features and it acted like a spear when it impacted with the driver's compartment."

During the trial Camden County admitted that it had a policy not to bring guardrails up to code unless they were specifically involved in an accident. "Then it would go after the driver who hit the guardrail and use their insurance money to bring the guardrail up to code," says Dodig. "I don't think the jury was impressed with that testimony."

There are highways in poor states of repair and similar out-of-date safety guardrails on highways across the US. Since the Nicholas Anderson case, Dodig has heard from a number people about accidents with road guardrails. "Yes, there are a lot of cases out there," says Dodig. "But since the verdict, New Jersey is doing a better job."

Dodig has successfully obtained a number of eight figure verdicts for victims of motor vehicle accidents, medical negligence, product liability, consumer class actions and civil rights cases during his career.

John Dodig is a partner in the firm of Feldman, Shepherd, Wohlgelernt
Tanner, Weinstock & Dodig in Philadelphia. He received his Bachelor of Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University and his law degree from Nova University. He also received an LLM in Trial Advocacy from Temple University. In 2004, he was awarded the President's Award by the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, in recognition of his work protecting the rights of innocent victims and maintaining their access to the court system.

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