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Help me value two car accident cases

Hi All, I have taken my first two car accident cases. I do n tennessewilliams12/28/18
Case #1 sucks. Your client will have to feign injury and ge jeffm12/28/18
Thanks Jeff. Great advice as always. tennessewilliams12/28/18
I don't think a message board like this is the place to get flharfh12/28/18
Thanks for the advice. I figured case #1 wouldn’t be a big tennessewilliams12/28/18
Potentially perhaps. Grounds for punitive damages claims als flharfh12/28/18
The CL communicated with adjuster by email, and provided me tennessewilliams12/28/18
As someone with a few years in PI/ID, I'm happy to help in t flharfh12/29/18
Well, depending on the state, a huge factor in analyzing any goorange88812/28/18
Awesome input, thank you. Is there any specific tests or tre tennessewilliams12/28/18
1) $9,000 max, assuming the stars align. Ditch it. 2) wha jmoney12/28/18
...... wutwutwut12/29/18
"The insurance carrier denied the claim, claiming that the c guyingorillasuit12/31/18
Agree with everything eveyone else has said about case 1. Al lolasaurusrex01/01/19
tennessewilliams (Dec 28, 2018 - 11:58 am)

Hi All, I have taken my first two car accident cases. I do not how much monetary value I should put on pain and suffering, punitive damages, etc..Any input is very much appreciated.

Case# 1

CL was behind an 18 wheeler on the highway. 18 wheeler was in left lane and CL was in right lane. 18 wheeler made an abrupt right turn. CL had to to swerve off the road to avoid running into the 18 wheeler’s cab. As the 18 wheeler made its turn, the trucks trailer struck the passenger side of CL’s car, causing multiple large dents and scratches on CL’s car. The car is still drivable. The police were called and truck driver was found at fault. The estimated repairs for the car is ~2,500-3,000. The CL did not seek medical treatment. The CL made a claim and provided the full police report to the insurance carrier for the company which owns the truck ( as listed on police report). The insurance carrier denied the claim, claiming that the company has no knowledge of who the driver was, and that the truck listed on the report was not in use the day of the accident.

Case #2

CL is pregnant and was stopped at red light. Truck rear ended her at full speed. CL’s car was totaled. CL thought she had lost baby, and started throwing up ( have pictures of vomit in car). CL was transported by ambulance to ER. Ultrasound was performed and baby appears fine. CL was extremely sore from accident, and continues to have neck and back pain. CL attempted to make doctors appointment for her neck and back pain, but was told she would have to see OBGYN, since pregnant. CL has a OBGYN appointment next week. At fault driver’s insurance has accepted responsibility. They offered her 1,000 and to pay whatever medical bills she has, up to 5k (CL is on Medicaid). CL told told them she doesn’t want to discuss personal injury settlement until after she sees doctor.

The insurance carrier has offered CL the value of car, which appears fair. CL is underwater on loan but has gap insurance. Would it have any adverse effect on a possible personal injury case if we accept property settlement for car?

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jeffm (Dec 28, 2018 - 12:18 pm)

Case #1 sucks. Your client will have to feign injury and get some chiropractor to say the pain is real. If you can't stoop to that kind of game, then get rid of the case quickly for property damage and some nuisance value. You have a coverage issue in that there might not even be any coverage. It makes it all the more reason why this case should be dumped. You will spend more time weaving through nuance in the law over injuries that never happened.

Case #2 will have to play out. Do not settle until after the baby is born and enough time has passed to know what effect, if any, the wreck had on the baby. After she has sought sufficient medical attention for her own injuries, it will become more clear whether or not the neck and back pain is persistent or resolves.

There are many cases on the books where plaintiffs try to go back for more money because they settled prematurely and found out later their losses/injuries were worse than they thought. This almost never works.

Good luck!

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tennessewilliams (Dec 28, 2018 - 12:22 pm)

Thanks Jeff. Great advice as always.

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flharfh (Dec 28, 2018 - 3:06 pm)

I don't think a message board like this is the place to get a good answer to your question, as the value is going to depend a lot on both how plaintiff friendly your jurisdiction is as well as how plaintiff friendly your specific venues are.

That said, I agree with Jeffm - if there are no injuries, the value of case 1 is the PD claim at best and you have to worry about a coverage issue. Even if your client starts treating now (assuming the accident didn't happen like, last week) you are going to face a near impossible fight to prove the treatment/claimed injuries are related to the accident. You would probably have to try that case and you would probably lose. This is probably a case most PI attorneys would not take.

Case 2 - you have to wait until your client is done getting treated. The pregnancy issue is an additional little hook that is probably worth some extra $$ even if there are no adverse consequences to the pregnancy or baby. In my state PD claims are commonly settled before injury claims and it has no effect on the injury litigation, but again your mileage may vary depending on where you are.

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tennessewilliams (Dec 28, 2018 - 3:48 pm)

Thanks for the advice. I figured case #1 wouldn’t be a big case. I know this a jurisdiction specific question, but generally speaking, would there be an argument for punitive damages if the company was flat out lying about not knowing who the driver is and that the truck wasn’t in use? I don’t see how the police officer could have gotten the wrong the information on the truck, and how the company wouldn’t know the driver, even if independent contractor.

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flharfh (Dec 28, 2018 - 4:07 pm)

Potentially perhaps. Grounds for punitive damages claims also vary significantly by state. They may also be capped to a multiple of the compensatory recovery, so if your state caps them at 2-3x the compensatory you are still looking at a small case, even if you hurdle all the legal, factual and expense considerations.

Finally it sounds like you are relying on what your (probably unsophisticated) client told you about her interaction with the insurance company - don't do that. Contact the adjuster yourself and see if you can make more sense the situation. Perhaps your client is wrong or perhaps the truck driver simply lied so he wouldn't get busted for driving w/o insurance. There are a lot of innocent explanations and again this does not sound like a promising case. You would likely spend more pursuing it than you would recover.

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tennessewilliams (Dec 28, 2018 - 5:27 pm)

The CL communicated with adjuster by email, and provided me copies. Everything he said checked out. The police report has the trucks vin number. I didn’t think this would be a big case, so made CL agree to 50% contingency fee to take case. My thought was if I could get CL a quick settlement of 5-10k, I could get a nice payday with pretty minimum work.

If I end up filing a case, how hard do you think insurance company would fight, assuming there’s no coverage issue,if I’m seeking, let’s say, 9 k( three times property damage)? Too much to hope for since CL isn’t hurt?

Again, thanks again for your advice.

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flharfh (Dec 29, 2018 - 1:37 am)

As someone with a few years in PI/ID, I'm happy to help in the limited capacity that I can. To answer your question, if there is no injury claim, why would the insurance company pay you 3x the PD? The full PD is their worst case scenario.

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goorange888 (Dec 28, 2018 - 4:05 pm)

Well, depending on the state, a huge factor in analyzing any of these claims is what type of insurance policy you're dealing with. #1 seems like a longshot, like others said, unless you get her into treatment ASAP, and you avoid any sort of coverage issues. I'd probably pass on that if I were you. Now #2, you definitely have something there. Find out the policy limits, and get the client into treatment right after the OBGYN visit. Even putting the baby issue aside, if an MRI yields favorable results, and she gets treatment regularly, you are looking at some good money here. Obviously, there are other variables that come into play that I am not aware of, but generally speaking, I would definitely pursue #2.

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tennessewilliams (Dec 28, 2018 - 5:29 pm)

Awesome input, thank you. Is there any specific tests or treatment you could suggest offhand that CL should ask OBGYN to make referral for?

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jmoney (Dec 28, 2018 - 6:35 pm)

1) $9,000 max, assuming the stars align. Ditch it.

2) what jeffm said. Sit on it till the facts come out. A pregnant woman, assuming not crazy, is a good plaintiff. Need to know what all the specials are but the multiplier would be higher. Could be 100,000. Worth sitting on.

Neither one sounds like conscious disregard to a known risk, but check your state code on statutory punitives. Probably no punitives for either (driver not drunk, driver not playing words with friends, etc).

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wutwutwut (Dec 29, 2018 - 1:15 am)

......

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guyingorillasuit (Dec 31, 2018 - 3:09 pm)

"The insurance carrier denied the claim, claiming that the company has no knowledge of who the driver was, and that the truck listed on the report was not in use the day of the accident."

I don't do this kind of work, but this part sounds interesting. So some guy the company doesn't know is driving an 18-wheeler which the company admits is theirs? How does that happen? Do they just lend 18-wheelers out to random people? And this truck, which was clearly in service that day because there are multiple witnesses and a police report that say so, was supposedly "not in use"? How does that happen?

Something is off here, and there may be a bad faith claim lurking in there somewhere. Either that, or the company is doing something extremely shady. There may be some value in this beyond the property damage.

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lolasaurusrex (Jan 1, 2019 - 12:18 am)

Agree with everything eveyone else has said about case 1. Also depending on jurisdiction your client wouldn’t even meet the PI tort threshold amount. However depending again on your states consumer protection statute, the insurer claiming that truck wasn’t in service that day and no idea who driver was does sound like an unfair and deceptive insurance practice.

Case 2 wait until the baby is born and treatment is finished. You’ve indicated that mother is on Medicaid. Any potential settlement can have a huge impact on her eligibility for benefits depending on the amount. Also take into account their lien status.

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