Anatomy of a Good Personal Injury Case Final Chapter—Part 4
Woodland Hills Personal Injury Attorney Barry P. Goldberg was recently hired to represent an 18 year old traffic collision victim who was violently rear ended on the freeway—A very serious accident to be sure. During the initial interview, discussion about expectations with the victim and her family, it occurred to Mr. Goldberg that the topics addressed may give important insight to other injury victims. Moreover, the discussion gives some insight about how an attorney analyzes and evaluates a case.
Mr. Goldberg’s initial installment dealt with immediate concerns, medical condition, and client expectations. In Part 2, Mr. Goldberg went through his thought process after receiving an in-depth Traffic Collision Report. In Part 3, Mr. Goldberg analyzed the challenges faced because the at fault driver was “grossly” underinsured. In this final chapter, “Part 4,” Mr. Goldberg details a less than satisfying conclusion to “a Good Personal Injury Case.”
What to do? We already established that this incredibly negligent driver maintained theCalifornia State minimum amount of insurance to drive legally on the streets and highways. Of course, the minimum is only 15/30/5 established in 1974 and has not been raised since. This at fault driver should have maintained at least 100/300/50 to be even reasonably protected. [Ironically, the 1974 minimums, adjusted by the cost of living index would today be about 50/100/25!]
Our office immediately hired a professional investigator to determine whether the at fault driver had any appreciable assets in the form of property, bank accounts or businesses. The investigation disclosed that the adverse driver was a self employed “independent contractor” who was not even arguably in the course and scope of any employment at the time of the crash. He had no significant assets to speak of —except that he owned a home in a small California town.
Further “digging” revealed that the at fault driver was “upside down” on his home equity—ouch! My experience spanning almost three decades is that the chances that the at fault driver will ever voluntarily part with his personal assets is very rare. If there ever is an “excess” judgment, it is fully dischargeable in Bankruptcy proceedings because it was not intentional and it is would not involve punitive damages.
Like I said before, from a personal injury attorney’s standpoint, this is a tragedy for his client. Accordingly, I sat with the client and her family and went over all the possible approaches. We decided that the best course of action was to obtain the most amount that the at fault driver would part with short of declaring bankruptcy. Initially, my office insisted that the at fault driver “come out of pocket” to replace my client’s vehicle, in addition to the insurer’s small prorated property damage settlement. We stated that unless this was paid immediately, the only option would be a large verdict and bankruptcy. The at fault driver paid the property damage and complained that the money was borrowed just to satisfy our demand.
After receipt of the property damage payment, our office made a “one time” demand for settlement of the bodily injury claim in return for a full release of all claims. The demand for settlement was for an amount —in addition to the minimum policy limits— that we estimated the at fault driver would pay short of bankruptcy. We explained to the insurance claims representative that he needed to explain to his insured that we meant business and that he should pay our demand if at all possible. A counter proposal would be deemed a “rejection” and we would simply file suit. Further, he was to explain to his insured that failure to pay—for any reason— would guarantee a financial disaster.
Before the expiration of the timed demand, we received both the insurer’s check and a cashier’s check for the balance of the settlement.
While I am disappointed that the “anatomy” of such a favorable plaintiff’s case yielded a poor result, it did provide an interesting and very realistic case study of what the modern California personal injury attorney is facing. It is our hope that this case study will not only convince drivers to purchase more than the minimum liability policy, but will demonstrate to potential claimants and lawyers the dilemma faced by the growing “underinsured motorist” crisis in California.
For more information about blog author and attorney Barry Goldberg’s civil litigation expertise, please visit his web page, Woodland Hills Civil Litigation Attorney. https://www.barrypgoldberg.com/
For more information about the article author and attorney Barry Goldberg’s Personal Injury Expertise, please visit his web site: Woodland Hills Civil Litigation Attorney; http://www.BarryPGoldberg.com
Call Mr. Goldberg today for a free consultation. (818) 222-6994