Monday, April 28, 2014

Pedestrian Settles Case against the Driver That Struck Her and Her Own Insurance Company

It was a beautiful springlike day and my client was leaving Temple services in Washington DC. She was crossing the street in the crosswalk. Unknown to her a car was approaching and the driver was apparently blinded by the glare of the bright sunlight. He never saw her and struck her putting her on the hood and her face against the windshield. I am thankful that she was not killed or maimed but she did break her nose. She was taken to the hospital and stabilized.

Unfortunately the broken nose was sufficiently bad that it required surgery. The surgery went well but was painful. Moreover, my client began developing extreme anxiety about being in a car and around cars. Whenever she would have a close encounter, near accident experience, it would basically paralyze her from terror. She sought counseling for this.

Of course we made a claim against the driver of the vehicle. Unfortunately, the policy limits on his insurance were minimal. My client was just a pedestrian and had no insurance of her own. Or did she? My client was extremely helpful and we began researching what insurance might be available to her. We were able to determine that she was still on a policy of insurance with her parents and that policy was way beyond minimum limits.

We made a claim against her underinsured motorist coverage. Her company acknowledged that they would provide coverage but they significantly undervalued the claim. Rather than protracted and uncertain litigation I suggested that we try mediation. Her insurance company suggested several mediators. I did not counter with my own mediators because I wanted this to work out. My reasoning was that they would more likely listen to the advice of a neutral mediator that they selected over one but I selected. We were able to agree on the mediator and went forward.

My client had medical expenses of approximately $19,000, obviously some initial pain and suffering from the injuries, mental stress from the accident and potential long-term problems such as increased risk of sinus infection. The mediator was very able and persuasive to both sides. The mediator painted a real picture of the benefits and risks of not resolving the case. The defendant clearly ran down my client in the crosswalk. My client, from outward appearances, looked just fine. The driver did not intend to run down my client. My client was a very sympathetic and well spoken person whom I believe a jury would like very much.

We were able to resolve the case to the satisfaction of my client.

Even though we were done with the mediation I was not done with the case. There is the matter of the competing releases. A release is a contract wherein you forever give up your right to make a claim against the released party. In this case there were two released parties and two releases. The driver of the car sent a release basically stating that once my client signed that release it would prevent her from making claims against anybody in the world. Her insurance company sent a release basically stating that once she signed that release it would release them and everybody else in the world from any claims. Clearly these releases contradicted the mediation agreement. Rather than have my client simply sign the releases I added language making it very clear that she was settling with both parties simultaneously. Further, there was still the matter of reimbursing her health insurance. Most health insurance contracts will have a subrogation clause. In other words, if the health insurance pays out benefits and a third party is involved that caused the injury and pays money through judgment or settlement, the health insurance company gets their money back. In this particular case I was able to negotiate a substantial reduction from the claimed health insurance which put more money into my clients pocket.

When you are involved in an accident remember to consider additional insurance possibilities.  Considering the mediator is critical. I have been practicing in the Rockville area since 1986 and I knew the mediators that the insurance company provided. I picked the mediator that I believe would be most beneficial to my client and I believe that the results speak for themselves.

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