How did it get there?
In the disarray following the crash, as my client tried to unfog her brain and take stock of her injuries, she noticed mascara on the ceiling of her SUV, and she couldn’t quite understand how it got there.
While sitting stopped in traffic, my client and her husband were suddenly rocketed forward into the vehicle in front of them. And everything changed.
One of the first things my client mentioned to me when we first talked was that her vehicle was hit so hard that her face hit the ceiling. She offered to send me photos. When I looked at the photos of her face, when she was in the hospital wearing a neck brace and with an obvious black eye, it was poignant enough, but the additional photo depicting the force of the hit that caused her face to fly up toward and strike the ceiling of her vehicle made me gasp aloud. This certainly explained why she was so agitated.
"J" was a happily married woman with a young child before this happened. She and her husband had been undergoing fertility treatments to try to have another child, but it had not yet been successful. As she pushed toward 40, she knew time was starting to close her window. Then the crash occurred, and she had even more important thing to worry about.
The crash caused her left eye to be injured, resulting in seeing spots, blurriness, and headaches. She also had a concussion and significant right sided (she is right handed) neck pain. In her quest to return to health, she went to doctors for nearly two years straight and incurred medical bills well over $100,000.
Despite diligently seeing doctors and going for therapy for her neck, she still had pain performing daily activities like playing with or picking up her daughter, or even driving or sitting. Headaches persisted. The eye blurriness has never completely healed.
It would seem that the other driver should pay for all of J’s injuries, her medical bills, her pain and suffering, any future medical costs, and the loss of her normal life. But how much you can recover is often a function dependent upon the insurance liability limits of the driver that hit you.
In initiated a lawsuit while J was still in treatment (in fact, she still requires some degree of maintenance care from time to time), knowing that it would take awhile for her to fully recover. The other driver’s lawyers responded to one of my inquiries by indicating that their insured only had liability policy limits of $100,000. Knowing this, I immediately began to dig into any possible policies of insurance my client may have had that would cover her, in the hopes that there would be a potential Underinsured Motorist (UIM) claim. Unfortunately, a UIM claim is only possible when your insurance limits exceed the limits of the person at fault. In J’s case, her family policy was the same as the tortfeasor’s, precluding any further recovery.
While we were in the process of waiting for my client’s condition to stabilize and schedule depositions of her and the other driver, something really odd occurred. To add insult to injury, the lawyers for the other driver filed suit against my client’s husband. Despite the fact that he had been at a complete stop at the time of the crash, had done nothing wrong, and their insured received a ticket, they somehow decided it was good form to harass my client by suing her husband.
Normally, this is a legal shrug of the shoulders. You can usually just forward the countersuit to your insurer and it will file an appearance and hire lawyers free of charge. Knowing it is just a way to devalue your case and harass you, it usually winds up being a no-cost annoyance. But in J’s case it was a bit more of a hassle. You see, J and her husband live in Indiana and had an Allstate policy written in that state. Thus, the counterclaim for contribution (claiming the husband was partially negligent for J’s injuries) was not recognized under Indiana law so her insurer would not enter into the case. Fortunately, I was able to impress upon the other lawyers that they should immediately withdraw the counterclaim. They did.
Right after we had scheduled depositions of the parties, I sent a special letter to the other lawyer and the insurance company demanding that they settle the case immediately for the policy limits of their insured.
Or else. The “or else” is that if I were to receive a verdict at trial higher than the policy limits, I would be entitled to that amount, plus attorney’s fees and costs under the “bad faith” statute—Section 155 of the Illinois Insurance Code. This was a step I had waited to use until the last moment. Once it became obvious that J had a serious eye injury and persistent neck pain, I pounced. The letter gave the other driver’s insurer two weeks to settle for the limits. I received a phone call on the last day. We settled the case for the $100,000.
One of my primary jobs as a personal injury lawyer is reducing the amount my client must repay to their own insurers, creditors, and medical providers. I spend a great deal of time and energy on the liens, subrogation rights, and other items that would come out of a settlement, all with the goal of improving my client’s bottom line.
In J’s case, I convinced her health carrier (which had a subrogation interest to recover due to the language of its contract) and auto carrier (which had paid bills out of the “medical payments” coverage and had a similar contractual right to reimbursement) to take substantially less than they were owed. As an example, J’s bills exceeded $100,000, and her health insurer paid out (on a discounted rate) nearly $28,000. I was able to reduce that to $17,000. Similarly, her auto carrier paid $10,000, its limits, and I reduced that to $5,000. This allowed her to keep a significant amount more money than if she had not had a lawyer.
Because I have clients so satisfied that they produce handwritten thank you notes like this.
I get a bit misty-eyed. It humbles me and makes me realize why I love my job and am motivated to work so hard for my client.
Make sure you have insurance limits that are way more than you can ever hope to need. Because the person who hits you may not have enough insurance. In J’s case, had she had more coverage, her case would have been worth double or triple what I was able to get her.
If you have the misfortune of tripping, slipping, or falling, contact a lawyer immediately.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a personal injury lawyer.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.