I recently settled a personal injury case for $94,000 for a personal injury victim who had been injured by a drunk driver in Campbell County, Virginia.
The Defendant was driving with a suspended license and his blood alcohol content (BAC) was .37 according to a certificate of analysis that was prepared by the Department of Forensic Science. He was ultimately convicted of DUI 2nd Offense in Ten Years, Drive Suspended 2nd Offense, and Leaving the Scene of a Collision.
The Defendant was driving south on Leesville Road when he ran a red light and made an illegal left hand turn onto Waterlick Road where the Plaintiff was second in line at the traffic light. My client’s light had already turned green and she had started to pull forward when the Defendant crossed the double yellow line and struck the first car, then struck my clients car all along the driver side of her vehicle. The Defendant left the scene of the wreck that he had caused and continued driving to his home. He parked his car, got out, and went inside. Unbeknownst to the Defendant, a witness called 911 and followed him to his home. The police arrived and arrested the Defendant and performed a blood test to determine his BAC.
My client suffered serious injuries to her left side, her back, and she had a significant cuts from the broken glass on her left shoulder and on her face. She had injuries to her left wrist that necessitated surgery, physical therapy, and multiple other treatments.
After a thorough search, we discovered that the Defendant was uninsured and did not have any assets to attach a judgment to. The Plaintiff’s auto insurance policy had $100,000 in uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and she was forced to make a claim against her own insurance company. While her medical expenses exceeded $40,000 and her case was probably worth in excess of $200,000, there was only $100,000 actually available through her UM coverage. After negotiations, the insurance company offered $94,000 and after weighing the options, including trying the case, the client decided to accept the offer and save the hassle, delay and expense of a trial.
This is what we refer to as a policy limits case—that is, the case is worth more than the policy limits. The Plaintiff’s auto insurance will cover the risk of injury by an uninsured person up to a certain “policy limit,” in this case $100,000. Often times we are faced with a choice of whether to spend several thousand dollars to present the case to the jury or take a few thousand dollars less than the policy limits. The result is the same to the client, but the resolution is quicker, easier and gives peace of mind.
You should periodically check your policy limits on your auto insurance policy. If you have $100,000 in coverage you might be covered, or you might have a case like this where your damages exceed your coverage. It is not that much more expensive to purchase $250,000 or $500,000 in auto insurance. If you do, your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage goes up to that same amount.
The Virginia State Bar requires that we give a disclaimer whenever we talk about case results. As we are sure you already know, the case result described above must be read in context with the unique facts of this particular case. Each case result depends upon a variety of factors unique to each case, which is why we describe those facts in detail. To be clear, this case result does not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by the lawyers at Osterbind Law, PLLC.