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