Motorcyclist settles in crash case for $575,000

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motorcycle rider who lawyers on both sides assessed as a strong witness has collected a $575,000 settlement of a case involving a crash in rural Greene County.

The case would have been scheduled for trial in the fall before Toombs Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Roger Dunaway Jr., according to plaintiff’s counsel Richard Connelly Jr. of Hudson, Montgomery, Kalivoda & Connelly in Athens.

Connelly said the case was a good one for mediation. He said he was concerned that jurors from the conservative area might be unlikely to deliver a high verdict and could be prejudiced against motorcycle riders as risk takers. But, Connelly said, he had a good client: Alan Ballard, who was severely injured but tried hard to get back to work as an auto mechanic to support his family following the three surgeries that were required after the Aug. 26, 2011, crash.

Ballard was riding his 2007 Honda motorcycle eastbound on State Route 44 from Athens toward his home in Statesboro shortly after 2 p.m. when he approached the defendant, Amber Jordan of Wilkes County, who was heading west. Jordan turned her 2002 Ford Explorer directly into his path, according to the complaint.

Jordan, a debt collector for Edwards Loan Co., was searching for a house where she was trying to collect on a loan. When she found the address she was looking for, she turned toward the private driveway, not seeing the motorcycle in her path. She was cited for failure to yield while making a left turn, according to the complaint.

The motorcycle struck the rear of the Explorer, catapulting Ballard over the top of the SUV and onto the ground “a good distance away” on the other side. “It’s miraculous that he wasn’t killed,” Connelly said of his client.

Ballard had internal injuries and broken bones in his hands, ribs and arm. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Athens, where he had surgery to repair a “severely comminuted left humerus fracture,” Connelly said, meaning the bone was crushed. After Ballard went home to Statesboro, he had another operation to place pins in his thumbs, both shattered. Then he had to haveanother surgery on his arm because the bones had not healed after the first surgery.

Ballard’s medical expenses totaled $227,465, Connelly said, and he suffered significant lost earnings from his solo auto repair business during his recovery from three surgeries.

“This was a good case to mediate,” Connelly said. He and partner Kenneth Kalivoda held a mediation in October with the defense counsel, John Hawkins and Shannon Barrow of Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial. “The defense on the other side had reasonable expectations and we did, too.”

The two sides came to agreement at their meeting with Tom Tobin of Henning Mediation & Arbitration Service, Connelly said. The money was paid
and the settlement was signed in late October, the attorneys said.

Hawkins, the defense attorney, said it was the credibility of the plaintiff that led to the settlement. “I told him at the mediation the reason this case settled is you’re a good guy and you’re going to make a good witness,” Hawkins said.

He noted that Ballard was seriously injured but was trying hard to regain his strength, not in any way exaggerating his damages. Ballard had returned to working out and was able to tell the lawyers exactly how much weight he could lift before and after the accident. Hawkins said he couldn’t remember the numbers, but he was impressed by the message.

The defendant driver’s Geico insurance policy had a $30,000 limit, Connelly said. The rest of the settlement was paid by Central Insurance Co. under the defendant’s employer’s policy.

The case is Ballard V. Edwards Loan Co,, No. 12-CV-099