$13,342 trial verdict in wife’s case leads to $95,000 settlement in husband’s claim

DISCLAIMER: CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.

I represented an older couple who had the misfortune of being injured in a automobile collision. My clients, who I will refer to as “Husband and Wife,” had just exited a shopping center parking lot and were traveling down the roadway to meet a family member for lunch. Wife was driving the vehicle. Husband was a front seat passenger. As they approached the next intersection, the defendant, who was fully stopped in the median waiting to make a left turn, illegally entered my clients’ lane causing both vehicles to collide. Both vehicles were significant damaged.

As a result of the collision, Wife suffered soft tissue injuries and Husband tore his right medial meniscus. Wife underwent conservative care including orthopedic treatment and physical therapy for muscle sprains. Husband required complex arthroscopic knee surgery.

There is a restaurant on the corner of  the intersection where the collision occurred. The restaurant has multiple surveillance cameras including one facing the intersection. The entire incident was captured on video. After personally reviewing the video it was obvious that liability was clear and adverse against the defendant. The defendant’s insurance company disagreed and denied liability on the grounds that its driver was not liable and that Wife was contributorily negligent for failing to discharge her duty to keep a proper lookout and duty to take reasonable steps to avoid the collision. An injured party’s failure to reasonably exercise these duties is negligence and a complete bar to recovery (i.e., the doctrine of “contributory negligence”). Because the defendant’s insurance company denied liability, I filed suit.

For strategic purposes, I filed a law suit in Wife’s case, not husband’s. I filed in General District Court which paved the way for a quick trial date, minimal discovery and litigation costs, and a ruling on the contributory negligence issue. At the close of the evidence, the judge ruled that 1) the defendant was negligent and such negligence was the sole proximate cause of the collision, and 2) Wife was not contributorily negligent for failing to keep a proper lookout or failing to take reasonable action to avoid the collision. We won.

The Court was compelled by the video evidence. The video showed that Wife had less than 1.5 seconds to react to the defendant’s act of breaching Wife’s lane which created the perilous situation in the first place. Under Va. Code Section 46.2-880 the law presumes that all drivers have an average perception-reaction time of 1.5 seconds (i.e., the time it takes a driver to perceive and react to stimuli), so I argued that there was nothing Wife could have done reasonably under the circumstances to avoid the collision as a matter of law (and biology). This argument one the day. Judgment was entered on the verdict. The insurance company did not appeal the case and the judgment was paid shortly thereafter with interest.

After Wife’s trial, the defendant’s insurance company revoked its denial of Husband’s claim and paid Husband its limits of $25,000. We then pursued an underinsured motorist (“UIM”) claim with Husband’s insurance carrier since the defendant’s $25,000 policy was insufficient to compensate Husband for his harms and losses. Husband’s UIM policy had limits of $100,000, but was entitled to an offset under Virginia law equal to the defendant’s liability limits. Thus, the total amount of available insurance under Husband’s UIM policy was $75,000 ($100,000 – $25,000). The UIM carrier offered all but $5,000 of its applicable policy limits ($70,000) to Husband resulting in a total recovery of $95,000 ($25,000 from defendant + $70,000 from UIM). This was an optimal result under the circumstances considering Husband’s case would have cost significantly more than $5,000 to litigate in circuit court so filing a lawsuit would have only decreased Husband’s compensation.

Winning Wife’s case led to both of my client’s obtaining full and fair compensation for their injuries. As is often true in the world of a trial lawyer, excellence in the small things creates opportunities for success in the big things. 

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, give me a call at 804-678-8285 for a free consultation.

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