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I have tried many, many cases involving bad drivers hurting good people. You would think this to be a simple and short process, but often it’s not.
The bad drivers may feel at fault for what they did, although some deny it ‘til their last breath. Then the insurance company gets involved and starts to deny everything. I have a joke with my friends that insurance companies would deny they ever knew you… until the premiums are due, and then they love you.
Mary Meyers* was one of my clients in a case of “Bad Driver Hurts Good Person.” Mary was a pedestrian struck in a crosswalk by a northbound vehicle driving in a southbound lane. The driver was late for an appointment so she got around the stopped traffic by going the wrong way in the wrong lane.
Mary wanted nothing more than to get well, return to work, and recover her wage loss and her medical bills. Mary was an hourly employee with limited benefits; she lost wages and had to pay out-of-pocket for her copays and a significant deductible. The driver refused to acknowledge her guilt so the case went to trial. The insurer took a hard stance and stated: We will make no offers, we will accept no offers.
RESULT: Verdict for Mary, $212,000.
*Name is changed
Taylor* was a 17-year-old boy living with his parents and still unsure what to do with his life. Next year was high school graduation and then college or trade school, or off to work. What Taylor did know for sure is that he was young and healthy and the world was his oyster. He could play for one more year before becoming an adult. Then one night changed everything…
Taylor and friends were on a date, parked on a hill to oversee the city lights. When it was time to go, the driver, in a moment of inattention, put the car in reverse instead of drive, and backed off the cliff. Taylor was a rear seat passenger and as the car tumbled Taylor suffered a significant compound fracture to his femur. As the medical bills began to pile-up, Taylor called me to help.
This case does not stand out for reasons of liability or injury as both were certain: the driver admitted to his fault and the injury to the leg was undeniable. Rather what makes this case remarkable is the decision which Taylor had to make when the insurance company offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle the claim.
Taylor took my initial round of advice to outright reject any offers less than $300,000. He trusted me as his attorney and his parents trusted me as both an attorney and as a father. All they asked of me was to do for Taylor what I would do for my own child. That request is something I will never forget — it struck a chord with me and woke up a 25-year veteran to realize again the great responsibility I owe to my clients.
At a mediation, the insurer eventually made their best-and-final, a term meaning their highest offer: $500,000. And while that seemed like, to quote Taylor, “a hell of a lot money,” I advised Taylor to walk away. I also advised him that there are no guarantees that the insurer won’t pull the offer, or offer less as trial approaches.
Taylor trusted in me and followed my advice to walk away from $500,000. How many teenagers do you know have the ability to make that incredibly adult decision? With a trial date approaching, the insurer responded to my request to continue with negotiations. At the end of the day, Taylor received just short of $600,000.
I placed this case story on my website for a couple reasons: (1) it has a happy ending for Taylor, a great kid and one of the most mature teenagers I have ever met, and (2) it reminds me constantly of how much trust a client places in their attorney and that it’s a huge professional responsibility as well as a personal honor to fulfill that trust.
*Name has been changed
Mr. Frank*, a high school principal, was having an adult relationship with a 15-year-old student. When rumors started to surface and when the school needed to take action, the school chose a different path. To my shock, the school recommended Mr. Frank for a transfer to another school.
The parents of the 15-year-old student were outraged and hired me to do the right thing. With my clients’ help we gathered evidence and witnesses and flew to Washington State to locate the key witness (a good-hearted retired teacher who was the original whistleblower). The entire matter was exposed in the deposition of the superintendent of the school system.
RESULT: The specific terms of the settlement are concealed to protect the minor. The general terms are that Mr. Frank did not get a “transfer” to another school to prey on other children. Mr. Frank does not teach anymore; the school paid monetary compensation for the care and treatment of the child and to penalize the school for its attempt to conceal the predatory conduct of its employee.
*Name has been changed