Appendix - Additional Cases

"10 Mistakes That Wreck Your Car Accident Case"

$5 Million for Child of Man Killed in Truck Crash

This tractor trailer-SUV crash occurred in the early morning of June 15, 2013. A fully loaded tractor trailer traveling south on Broadway crashed into our decedent’s SUV at an intersection. The crash pushed the SUV a great distance and caused the tractor trailer to overturn and slide along and off the roadway. The engine actually separated from the tractor cab and the trailer’s load of Budweiser products was strewn all over the roadway. Residential property in the area was severely damaged.

Drivers of both vehicles died in the accident. Gary filed suit right away and also investigated the case by hiring accident reconstruction experts. Through investigation, we identified post impact witnesses who heard the impact, looked up and saw that the northbound Broadway light was red. This strongly indicated that the southbound tractor trailer had violated the light at the intersection. Attempts to get video from the intersection proved fruitless. The skid marks on the road indicated that the tractor trailer was slightly into the left hand turn lane and slightly over the center line at the point of impact with the deceased plaintiff’s vehicle. We worked hard to investigate the case; and our expert determined the forces involved in the accident and concluded the truck was speeding at the time of the impact going 47-49 miles per hour. No one alive witnessed the impact but the post impact witnesses also suggested the tractor trailer was exceeding the speed limit.

When we filed the lawsuit, we requested a defendant ad litem be named for the deceased truck driver. After the case was filed, the defendants removed the case to Federal Court as there was complete diversity of citizenship between parties. Then, in a separate action, we petitioned to have an estate opened in Jefferson County, Missouri for the deceased truck driver. After service and notice, the public administrator was appointed as the personal representative of the estate. Plaintiff successfully substituted the estate of the deceased truck driver as the party defendant instead of the defendant ad litem in Federal Court. This destroyed diversity and we filed a Motion to Remand the case to state court, where it belonged. These actions were strongly opposed by the defendants.

We were determined to get a great result for the family, but the case did not settle at mediation. Eventually, we were able to settle the case for 5 million dollars. The Court approved the settlement. We put the funds in a structured settlement to benefit the minor child of the deceased and also opened a separate conservatorship so that the funds can be monitored by the Court. All told, four separate probate cases were needed to resolve this case.

Person Injury Compensation Explained

When someone is injured or killed in an accident, we demand that they receive full compensation for all of the harms and losses that they have suffered or their family suffered. I’m Gary Burger and this is my firm Burger Law.

Injury Due to Negligence

This goes back thousands of years both in our culture and in every religion on the planet. If someone, a person or a business, violates a safety rule in our community – if they go through a red light, if they are speeding, if they act carelessly while driving, if they are not keeping a proper lookout, a truck driver is too tired or he violates a rule, or a landowner has a dangerous condition of their property, or a lawyer or doctor does something wrong – whenever these societal rules that we have are broken and it causes damages to someone, the word “justice” means that those scales are balanced.

What it Means to Balance the Scales of Justice

And when you balance those scales, you don’t partially balance those scales. You don’t say “Hey, I have a personal view that pain and suffering damages should not be awarded, so I am only going to pay 80 percent of their damages. Or I don’t think wage loss damages or future medical or other components…” No, that is not how that works. If you work a 40-hour workweek and your employer comes in at the end of the week and says, “You know what? I know I owe you your paycheck. I am only going to pay you for 30 hours this week because I have a personal or philosophical viewpoint that you should only get 30 hours a week or 75 percent of your damages.” That is not how it works.

So when I am trying cases and we are presenting claims to insurance companies, to truck companies, to corporations, to whatever entity we are pursuing a claim against, (and the person we are pursuing the claim against is the one who violated the rule, the safety rule that is meant to keep all of us safe, whether it is kids or adults or whoever,) when we pursue those claims, we insist on full compensation. Not “let’s not pay because the person had a back treatment before.” We don’t say, “Hey We are not going to give you 100 percent because I don’t believe in pain and suffering.”

Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case

So let me talk to you about your components of damages. That is the idea and that is what we try to tell jurors and claims adjusters and corporations to ensure that. And we insist on that. The reason I do what I do is not to get 75 percent compensation for my clients, but to get 100 percent.

Let me show you a chart that I did for a recent trial and give you an example of some of the damages. So, when we talk about damages, you have certain categories of damages. You have the past neck pain and injury that this client sustained. You have the future neck pain that she had. And that pain and suffering can vary.

The question is how bad is that pain? How long has it or will it last in the future? And how interfering is it? It can be really bad but last for a second and then not interfere with her anymore. It can be medium but it can be permanent pain and the person will have neck pain for the rest of her life. And interfering, it can interfere greatly and the person can be in a wheelchair for the rest of their life and be paralyzed, or it can only interfere a lot and the grandma can’t lift the grandkids as much. So these ranges and these categories are how we teach jurors and how the law teaches jurors and how jury instructions and the law teaches jurors to assess these different elements of damages.

And that mostly goes for the pain and suffering. How much does it hurt? How long does it hurt? How bad is the hurt? How often does it happen? In the beginning, did it happen every day and then later it happens once a week, or is this a permanent pain condition for which injections, pain medication, or physical therapy is needed? Future neck pain: we take depositions of doctors and get evidence from the family about how much this happened in the past and is going to happen in the future.

Disability is a separate idea. Disability in law is the idea of how much are you physically unable to do what you used to be able to do. You can’t throw a baseball or play the piano because of an arm injury. You can’t walk around the block and spend time with your children and do the physical activities you used to do because you have a permanent limp condition because you injured your pelvis, knee, ankle, or foot. So that is a disability idea that is separate from pain and suffering and that can be passed into the future.

Disfigurement means that you have a scar and that affects you. We have folks who have scars from dog bites on their face or from auto accidents or whatever or on their hands or somewhere visible. Sometimes a scar isn’t going to be that material or that significant, but sometimes it really is. We can also ameliorate or address those damages by having someone go to a plastic surgeon. Sometimes those scars can be filled in or taken down. Future medical is always a component of that – medical damages, expenses, and future medical expenses.

You can also have a category of damages of wage loss. You can have past wage loss and future wage loss. In the future, your wage loss is often calculated with an expert. We hire economists and invoke rehab experts to come in and say how much you could have been making had the accident not happened, how much you are making now, and reduce that amount to present value to give the jury an element of damages.

In wrongful death cases, it is different. We hire economists to show how much the deceased family member would have provided to the family in the future and you take it out through their work life expectancy and reduce that amount to present value and that is the number we give to the jury. We are always very accurate and we try not to exaggerate these numbers so that the jury gets the credibility and understands that this is only meant to fully compensate, not to excessively compensate, but then again under-compensating is not appropriate.

There are other elements of damages depending on the case. If you call me, I am always happy to talk with you about it. You can have disfigurement as I mentioned. You can have teeth pain. This happened to have this in this case. And in Illinois – we try cases in different states and different states have different ways of describing damages in the jury instructions – they talk about life changes and how much an accident affects your life. And that kind of can go into disability and transcend a couple of areas but in Illinois, that is a separate area.

So regardless of the category of damages that you have – wage loss damages, medical damages, pain and suffering damages, life change damages, disability, disfigurement, all of these elements – we don’t duplicate or double-dip into these areas, but we do try to present these areas so that juries, and the claim agent, and the truck company, or the guy that hit you, or the landowner, or whoever it is understands and they get the harm. There is no burden easier than another man’s troubles. What we try to do to fight that idea is to really get the jury to understand and walk in your shoes and be empathetic to what an injury victim suffers. We work hard on that and we would do that for you. If you have any questions, call me. Thanks.

Settling Auto Accident Cases Before Trial

I settled three auto accident cases this summer that are similar. In each case, an older (over 50) person was rear-ended in an automobile accident causing a whiplash injury. Each had neck surgery.

The surgeries are designed to repair herniated discs in the cervical spine. These can be pain-producing, debilitating, and can cause referred pain numbness and tingling in arms. Metal cages and screws are put in the vertebras and the disk is removed and cleaned out so the central nerve is no longer impinged by the disk.

Some of the clients in these cases had prior neck problems. Settlement amounts differ depending on how much money fairly compensates the client– or equalizes their damages – based on the different types of prior problems they had with their neck. Although all were asymptomatic prior to their accidents, x-rays and MRI’s can reveal degenerative changes in the neck causing some medical doctors and some juries to believe that the medical is not related.

We believe the medical was related in these cases and were able to prove it. Further, each had differences in the timing of treatment, recovery, and continued problems. I worked with my clients to litigate these cases up until trial to ensure their fair recovery.

I settled a case for Patricia against the Missouri Highway Department for $305,000. She was on a road in southern Missouri and had slowed down when a MODOT vehicle backed up on the roadway to pick up trash and hit her car. Although the property damage was small, Patricia’s injuries were not. She went to different doctors for some time and eventually had neck surgery by a great doctor in Springfield, IL. We filed suit, vigorously litigated the case, and took depositions of physicians and prepared her case for trial. The case settled within 10 days of trial. I am happy the client is happy.

We settled Darrel’s case within 10 days of trial as well. He had been rear-ended in St. Louis County, a suit was filed and we litigated the case. Darrel was produced a couple of times for deposition, we deposed all of his medical physicians by video and deposed the defendant’s medical expert. The defendant hired a medical expert for an independent medical exam. Darrel had undergone neck surgery following his accident by a physician who then retired. Further, the imaging scans showed preexisting conditions in his neck near where the surgery occurred. This made the medical aspects of the case hotly contested. We conducted many depositions and were ready to try this case. The Defendants decided to settle the case shortly before trial and came up with significant money to do so. The case settled for $150,000. Great result.

Randy settled his case for $327,500. We also litigated this case until very close to trial. Randy was getting on highway 44 when a work truck rear ended him and caused a whiplash type injury. Randy had neck surgery by a very well qualified physician. In this case, we deposed Randy and deposed many of his treating physicians. We continuously and aggressively worked the case and were successful in the deposition of the defendant. We were able to get the defendant to increase his offer shortly before trial.

We are very proud to help Patricia, Darrel, and Randy recover for their significant injuries and proud that they remain friends of the firm.

Med Pay Benefits

I just sent a check to my client and friend Darrel for $5,000.00 in med pay benefits. I fought against an unscrupulous lawyer for a year to get this check to Darrel without charging a fee on it. I litigated it, had a hearing in front of a judge in St. Louis County, and then arbitrated this matter without charging Darrel. I did this because my firm and I believe that if a lawyer doesn’t fight for a recovery they ought not to charge the client.

Almost all auto insurance policies have a medical payment or med pay benefit which pays for medical expenses you incur. This is automatic and it is often paid by insurance companies directly to injured people or their medical providers. Most of the time lawyers do not need to fight to get those benefits. When they don’t they should not take a fee. It is unethical to do so.

Our firm regularly collects med pay recoveries for our clients and does not charge anything. If you need a little bit of help to get a med pay payment, I am happy to do it for free. At Cantor & Burger, we only charge for a recovery that we have to fight for. It is true that sometimes we do have to fight for med pay. We have filed suit and litigated over med pay money because we think it is important that clients get the benefits of their insurance policy for which they pay premiums. A fee in this situation is justified.

Auto Crash Settlement

We recently settled Brian’s auto crash case for $59,000. He was rear ended in St. Louis County while driving home from work. The other driver was distracted from another wreck. His injuries were typical for this type of impact. The forces of a rear end crash go straight to the spine and the discs between our neck vertebrae are not designed to handle that type of acute force.

Brian sustained a soft tissue injury to his neck and received medical treatment right after the crash. He continued to have pain and went to a good area chiropractor. He consulted with an orthopedic surgeon and received a few injections to help him with his case. We became involved, collected Brian’s medical records, and made a demand on the insurance company to settle.

They offered $24,000 to settle the case, which we rejected. We then filed suit and aggressively pursued the claim. We did depositions, set the case for trial and were ready to try the case. We also reiterated our demand numerous times because most clients, do not want to add to the stress of an injury with a trial. Shortly before trial defense lawyers offered enough money to fairly compensate Brian for his injury, so we settled the case.

The Jury

The Seventh Amendment of the United States of the Constitution provides: “In suits at common law, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved.” Jury service is an obligation of members of our community. To get the benefits of our amazing country and justice system, people who are non-felons, over the age of 18 and registered to vote, are asked to serve on juries. Without jurors to perform this essential function, our justice system could not exist.

All jurors called for jury duty are certainly qualified, but a juror’s belief system may determine the type of case for which they are best suited: whether it is a criminal case, a contract dispute, employment discrimination or a personal injury case like auto accidents, medical malpractice or premises liability. People who cannot sit in judgment or convict a person of a crime should not sit on a jury. Recently, a criminal case in front of Judge Jimmy Edwards in the City of St. Louis had to be declared a mistrial because a juror failed to disclose his personal religious view that he could not sit in judgment of others. That juror sat in the corner of a jury room for two days of deliberations despite the request by the jury foreman, jurors and the judge to participate in the decision. That case now has to be retried and was a big of waste of time and money for all involved. When criminal charges are brought against a person, and his or her liberty is at stake, a jury must find that person guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, when the controversy is civil in nature — a money dispute between two parties — the case must be proven by a preponderance of evidence. This means a party must prove their propositions are more likely than not, or by 51%.

Our firm has already picked three juries through a process called voir dire in 2015. Voir dire is an essential part of trying a case and enables a lawyer to talk directly with prospective jurors about their personal views. On February 3, 2015, Gary Burger represented a dog attack victim at trial. The dog had not bitten anyone before and the young man did not have that much of a visual scar. Gary was able to strike 28 out of the 50 jurors for cause because they candidly expressed their views that they would either not be able to compensate the plaintiff for his pain and suffering or would require more proof than 51% to award that pain and suffering. Missouri law on challenges for cause provides that “no person who has formed or expressed an opinion concerning the matter in controversy in any case that may influence the judgment of such person… shall be sworn as a juror in that case” (Mo.Rev.Stat. section 494.470.1). Both the prosecutor or plaintiff and defendant in both civil and criminal cases ought to have a fair and impartial jury always. Justice requires this.

Gary’s client obtained a verdict of $20,000 who had $3,500.00 in medical bills. This is a good and fair verdict from the jury. The damage instruction in Missouri says that if a jury finds for a plaintiff they “must award such sum they believe will fairly and justly compensate plaintiff for all the damages he sustained.” So, it would be inappropriate for a juror to decide not to fairly compensate someone because they have a personal or political view that personal injury damages should not be awarded or that pain and suffering damages should not be awarded. Some people think a person should only get ten cents on the dollar for their pain and suffering, or needs 85% or 95% proof, rather than 51% for pain and suffering damages. That’s ok – but those who have those beliefs ought to serve on different juries and not personal injury cases. Once potential jurors state they will require more than 51% proof or have trouble awarding pain and suffering damages, defense counsel cannot save a prospective juror by rehabilitating them through coercive leading questions. See State v. Wacaser, 794 S.W.2d 190, 192-94 (Mo. Banc 1990); see also State v. Houston, 803 S.W.2d 195, 197 (Mo. App. W.D. 1991).

Good lawyers explain these concepts to the jury and make sure everyone in the courtroom understands and is comfortable with monetary compensation to fully compensate injured people. If my great paralegal Casey works 40 hours for me in a week, it would not be fair for me to only pay her for 30 hours and say that I have a political view or a personal view that I should not fully pay her wages.

Let’s make no mistake about why the American public has these views against people who are injured, their lawyers, pain and suffering damages, and fighting for compensation for these injuries. Insurance companies and big corporations have spent millions (or billions) of dollars over the last 20 years – in commercials, newspapers, other marketing, political donations – to alter people’s opinions about injuries. It used to be that Americans fought and cared for the individual against insurance companies and big corporations. Now, because of billionaires, large corporations, and big insurance companies, people opinions have changed. This marketing continues everyday and insurance companies are right now trying to get prospective jurors to think that people who are injured shouldn’t get any money for their pain and suffering, which is ridiculous, against the law, and against American principles.

Gary Burger said to the jury on February 4, 2015 that “I could not be more proud to be a plaintiff’s attorney representing this young man and his family than I am here today. I would not be anywhere else today.”

Top 2 Reasons To Quickly Investigate Truck Accident

Investigating Truck Accident Claims Quickly

St. Louis truck accident lawyer Gary Burger explains why you need your own team of legal experts to quickly investigate the collision.

You have just been involved in a truck crash and the last thing on your mind is finding a truck accident attorney to represent you in your truck accident claim. We understand that recovering from your injuries is your top priority. Your health and wellbeing is our first priority, too. But, we don’t want to downplay the very thing that could be harming your chances of a financial recovery right now. That very thing is the fact that investigating your case can NOT wait.

There are two very important factors that are set into play as soon as the collision occurs. The first is that the trucking company has likely deployed its own team of lawyers and investigators within the first 24 hours following the accident. This team of lawyers and investigators works for the trucking company and is charged with finding and preserving any and all evidence that can limit and even defeat your claim for compensation. They already have their investigative team on the case, you should have one too.

The second factor is the fact that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration only requires commercial trucking companies to preserve key pieces of evidence for a short period of time following the accident. After that time period is up, the trucking companies can destroy that evidence. When we are quickly engaged in the investigative process after your accident, we can pursue the proper legal channels to collect and preserve that key evidence before it is destroyed.

If there is only one thing that you take away from this information, it is that you need to speak with an experienced truck crash attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. With that being said, the choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be made with haste. Take the time to vet your lawyer by reading client reviews and inquire further about their process and how they can help you. The St. Louis truck accident attorneys at Burger Law represent injury victims throughout Missouri, Illinois and the greater Midwest. We are happy to discuss your legal options for free today. Call us toll-free at (314) 542-2222 or request a time to chat using the contact form below.

Hiring a Lawyer For Your Car Accident Injury Case

Why hire a car accident lawyer? If you are injured in a car accident, you have one claim and one time to get compensated for your injuries. Many times, people try to handle these claims on their own and many times they can. However, in our experience, insurance companies are out there to collect as much as they can in premiums and pay as little on claims. They are there to pay you as little as possible.

As lawyers, my partner Mark Cantor and I have represented hundreds of people on these types of cases. We take cases, we file suit, we put our gravitas and our energy behind your case and zealously advocate for you to get the most that we can for you. And really it is to get you fairly compensated.

I just settled a case for Sharon and Len Cossey. Literally the trucking company in this case had someone at the scene, a lawyer and an investigator, before they were taken away in the ambulance. So, when lawyers and other folks say “hey, you have got to get to us soon because the insurance company is working against you,” it is really true, because they are.

The other things I can help you with and lawyers can help you with is that we can:

  • Help you navigate the different types of insurance that may come into play: the defendants insurance, your insurance, what to do with your medical health insurance.
  • Give you guidance and suggestions on the kind of medical care to get

  • Make sure you are fully compensated, tell you the value of this is
  • What are your wage loss damages worth?
  • What if you have future medical needs?
  • How to deal with Medicare or other insurance issues.

You will find as you navigate yourself through this process that there is a host of legal questions that a person like me can help you answer. And I’ll tell you, I have folks that come to me and if I am not able to help you, if I cannot add value to your case, I’ll say go handle it yourself. I will write a letter for you for free. I’ll help you. I’ll give you guidance. It is only in those cases where I think with my contingency fee that I take – because you don’t have to pay me to hire me, I only get paid at the end of the case—I only take those cases and help those people where I can add value to their case and put more in their pocket than they would get otherwise.

So those are some of the reasons why you should hire a car accident lawyer. I would be happy to visit with you and talk about your case. Thank you.

Highway and Road Construction Zone Accidents

Roads and highways are a critical component of our transportation infrastructure. While it is necessary to maintain our roadways, highway construction sites are dangerous and even deadly for both drivers and construction workers. It is important for motorists to keep a proper lookout for construction zones and to adjust their driving accordingly, but there are some circumstances that are beyond the average motorist’s control.

Construction companies are often found responsible for road construction zone accidents when:

  • State safety regulations are violated causing a hazardous work zone for motorists
  • Warning signage is not adequately distanced from construction sites
  • Incorrect placement of construction equipment or road markers
  • The construction company did not factor in weather conditions to the work zone safety measures
  • Unmarked road hazards on construction sites like unexpected dips, turns and shifts in the lanes
  • Construction debris left on the road

It can be challenging to determine what parties are at fault for the construction zone accident. Liability depends on the facts and circumstances of the accident, but common negligent parties in these types of accidents include the construction company, equipment manufacturers, city, county, state or federal governments. There are often contracts between construction companies and state or federal governments to predetermine how liability for accidents will be handled by the insurance. A lawyer experienced with highway construction accidents will help you sort out the negligent parties and who can be held accountable for your injuries.

$95,000 for Passenger Injured in Car Crash

On March 20, 2015, Gary Burger settled an auto accident for $95,000 with the defendant’s insurance company after filing a lawsuit to aggressively pursue the case (Case No. 1422-CC9823) in St. Louis County, Missouri. Our client Melissa was a passenger in the back seat of a vehicle driven by her co-worker. As they were traveling down River des Peres Road in St. Louis County, MO the Defendant turned left into Melissa’s car and viciously crashed into the side where Melissa was sitting. Melissa immediately went to the emergency room with severe injuries and then began treatment with her primary physician, physical therapists, and a pain management physician. Melissa received treatment over the past 2 years for her injuries.

After filing a lawsuit and providing all documents in the case, the firm put Geico in a box. They made a time limited demand to settle the case within the insurance policy limits. This was Geico’s only chance to settle or they would risk having the defendant personally liable for a judgment over the $100,000 limits. So, the case settled the morning of the scheduled depositions-saving our client money in expenses and her time.

Burger says “with only $20,000 in medical expenses the $95,000 settlement is a great result”. Although Melissa had health insurance she still has outstanding medical liens. The firm is currently working to negotiate all outstanding medical liens down to put the maximum amount of money in Melissa’s pocket for future medical expenses and financial security.

Burger applies the tactics used in Melissa’s case to pressure insurance companies. “Usually big insurers have the power over injury victims, but we know how to level the playing field,” he said.

Zuniga Case Result

The Zuniga case was recently featured in Missouri Lawyers Weekly – our client was killed when a trip wire the property owner had put on the property “clotheslined” our client while they drove an ATV.

View article

Gary represented Paul’s family in a premises liability all terrain vehicle case. Paul and his wife were ATV riding on property in southern Missouri that they had been to before. They were both on one ATV with Paul driving and were trail riding with the son of the owner of the property. They exited the woods and were headed to another trail head cutting through the front lawn of a house. As they rode between two trees in this yard, Paul’s chest struck a metal wire line that had been strung between the two trees. This immediately halted his forward movement and he and his wife were violently recoiled backwards off of the ATV and onto the ground. The force was so great that Paul suffered severe and traumatic abdomen injuries – “barbed wire” injuries on his abdomen and chest. Paul was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital. He had multiple internal organ injuries and suffered cardiac arrest at the hospital. Despite surgery and aggressive, good medical care, he died. Paul’s wife was also hurt by the sudden stop and suffered broken ribs among other injuries. The classic “clothes line” was a dangerous condition of the premises.

Another lawyer got Cantor & Burger involved in the case and we immediately filed suit, served process and engaged in discovery with the defendant. As soon as we learned the insurance policy limits in this case were $600,000, we made a time- limited, policy limit demand. We advised the insurance company that they had 30 days to pay $600,000, or the offer would be rescinded and never offered again. Paul’s damages were much greater than this amount; however, his blood alcohol content at the time was .18, over two times the legal limit. The insurance company accepted our demand, and we were fortunate to settle the case for $600,000 for Paul’s family. We divided the settlement for Paul’s death and his wife’s claims and were able to structure a significant part of the settlement. This will provide payments to Paul’s children for college and their first homes.

The lessons learned from this case are as we have oft advised: be careful around ATV’s, unfamiliar property and don’t drink and drive. It was terrible that this land owner had a wire strung between two trees and certainly should have warned Paul and his wife about it. Had they done so, this accident would not have happened. Fortunately, we were still able to obtain a great recovery in this case.

Fighting a Unique(ly) Bad Insurance Company

Irresponsible Actions by Uninsured Driver Eclipsed by Worse Conduct of
Insurance Company

On August 27, 2015, Gary Burger tried an uninsured motorist claim for Christopher Smith and his daughter. We won the case, received the decision last week, and Unique Insurance was ordered to pay a total of $49,930.40 plus costs. There has been no payment to date and we are pursuing a bad faith claim in Illinois under 215 ILCS § 155. Unique treated their insured terribly (and has a reputation for doing so); Unique violated the basic rules of how insurance companies should treat their premium-paying customers. Gary will likely seek to expand this case into a class action – so call us if you or a client has had similar experiences. The facts of this case are amazing and show
what a hero Chris Smith is – battling both a crazy driver who hit him and Chris’ own insurance company.

View award

Chris was driving his daughter home from school 3 days before Christmas 2012. As they were stopped at a stoplight, a reckless driver rear-ended them while playing with his phone. It was a hard impact. Chris exited his vehicle and the other driver offered Chris $1000 to leave. Chris refused and said that he would call and wait for the police. The driver was incredulous at this, yelled and cursed at Chris and acted very aggressively. So, Chris, a security officer with a proper conceal and carry permit, returned to his vehicle and retrieved his weapon. The driver was not dissuaded by the weapon and tried to drive away. Chris reached into the driver’s car, turned off the ignition, and took the crazy driver’s keys. The police arrived and took the kicking and screaming driver into custody. Both vehicles were towed from the scene.

Christopher sought treatment immediately and his daughter treated a few days later. They had care from emergency rooms, MDs, a chiropractor and received MRIs – which showed they both had suffered herniated discs from the crash. They did improve, but Chris and his daughter have continued problems and pain. The impingement on their nerves causes leg pain weakness and numbness. Gary filed a lawsuit in Illinois right away and aggressively pursued the case against the crazy driver and his mother (who held insurance for the car). However, there was an interesting turn of events:The defendant’s mother claimed her son had stolen her car when he crashed into Chris. So, the defendant’s insurance company denied coverage as the crazy driver was not a permissive user of the vehicle. The insurance company filed another case against Chris (which we defended) seeking a declaratory judgment that the crazy driver was not insured. Those two cases are still pending. But that isn’t the bad insurance company.

We made an uninsured claim against Chris’ insurance company, Unique Insurance, as the crazy driver in the car accident had no other coverage. Unique Insurance had promised to pay Chris if an uninsured driver injured him or his family under Illinois law. But Unique refused to answer our letters or talk to us. We told them about the case and Chris’ and his daughter’s damages; we provided medical records, bills, depositions of medical treaters and our clients, MRI films, etc. to support our claim. No written reply or any response from Unique occurred. Ever. Nothing offered to Chris. The adjuster only took one call from us in a year and a half and yelled at Gary the whole call.

Gary filed an arbitration case against Unique. Illinois law mandates arbitration, meaning no jury trial or judge, for an uninsured claim. We tried this case in an arbitration hearing and won handily. The arbitrator gave us all available damages up to the policy limits, and then some. The arbitrator could not award damages for Unique’s bad faith conduct or rule “on whether alleged bad faith from respondent’s failure to respond to those demands creates additional liability for claimant’s injuries. In no way should this award be interpreted as a way to bar further proceedings on those potential entitlements in the appropriate form.” Illinois law provides that an insurance company’s bad faith refusal to settle or properly evaluate a claim should be heard by a jury.

Unique’s conduct throughout the claims process was ridiculous. No response, communication or offer – then Unique’s lawyer walked into the arbitration hearing saying “I don’t know why I’m here” as his client had no defense. Unique presented no evidence at trial. Unique’s bad faith conduct is incredibly aggravating to us and Chris. Americans can get numb to companies treating us bad as it happens so often, but Chris and our firm will keep fighting. We will let you know how the bad faith case goes.

5 Lawsuits in 1 Day: Car Accidents

It has been a busy Friday at Cantor & Burger! I filed five lawsuits today in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. Four of the five lawsuits involved drivers who chose to violate the rules of the road and, as a result, seriously injured our clients in car accidents. These rules come from the Missouri Drivers Guide.

Here is just a sample of the rule violations that led to today’s lawsuits:

  • Drivers should not cross a sidewalk or crosswalk without first yielding to pedestrians
  • Drivers entering a road from a driveway, alley or roadside must yield to vehicles already on the main road
  • When passing, give bicycles a full lane width. Do not squeeze past these road users.
  • The speed limit is the maximum allowable speed in ideal conditions. Adjust your speed for hills, curves, slippery roadways, limited sight distance, pedestrians, bicyclists and slow-moving vehicles
  • No one should ever be in too much of a hurry or too distracted to not drive safely while behind the wheel of a vehicle. Take your time and be safe out there. Don’t drive intexticated.

    Vince’s Story of Survival is a Cautionary Tale for Drivers

    Vince was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle in October of 2014. The circumstances that led to his motorcycle accident are far too common. A driver was waiting to make a left turn into traffic. She saw the pickup truck that Vince was following as it approached her, but she did not see Vince on his bike behind it. His bike was too small and the truck was too large, obstructing her view. Assuming that there were no vehicles behind the pickup truck, the at-fault driver directed her attention to traffic coming from the other direction and entered into the road. She crashed into Vince, violently throwing him from his bike.

    When all was said and done, Vince had to receive 13 pints of blood to save his life and his leg was amputated below the knee during emergency surgery. Vince’s injuries were life-changing. He will never be the same again. Fortunately, he survived the accident and has taken everything in stride. He has a great support network and an even better outlook on life. We are proud to have helped such a good person recover from such a horrific accident. Due to the limited recovery and the life-changing nature of Vince’s injuries, Gary Burger decided to represent Vince pro bono in this case. He did not charge a fee and helped Vince for free.

    Missouri’s Rules of the Road as outlined in the Driver’s Guide dictates that “drivers entering a road from a driveway, alley, or roadside must yield to vehicles already in the main road” and “drivers turning left must yield to oncoming vehicles going straight.” Considering that nearly 42% of all two-vehicle fatal motorcycle crashes involve a vehicle turning left while the motorcycle is going straight, it is important that we all take extra time to ensure that the road is clear of oncoming traffic before proceeding with our turn. We need to pause long enough to determine there are no smaller vehicles following behind the ones we can immediately see. Someone’s life may depend on it. More than 4,000 people die in motorcycle accidents every year. If we all use more caution while driving, we could help make our roadways safer for motorcycles, bicycles and smaller cars.

    Southern Illinois Truck Accident Case Settles for $305,000

    I am thrilled to have recently settled a truck/auto collision case in Southern Illinois. My three clients were husband and wife and grandmother in a car that was hit by a tractor-trailer truck. They were traveling from a family dinner and proceeding northbound on Route 3 in Waterloo, Illinois.

    As they approached an intersection, a truck was making a local delivery at night and made a left hand turn directly in front of them. My client Len did not have time to stop and skidded into the front of the tractor-trailer. A photograph of the accident is posted above.

    The truck driver did not get out of his vehicle, apologize, or even speak to my clients. Instead, he called his headquarters and within a half-hour, had a lawyer and a claim agent at the scene taking statements and pictures. So, when we say that trucking companies, insurance companies, or big corporations are working immediately against you on these cases, we are not exaggerating.

    The trucking company’s lawyer came to the scene and took photos of my clients being taken away in the ambulance — that is how quickly they were at the scene. They were transported to St. Anthony’s Hospital.

    Len and Alline were treated for a period of time for soft tissue injuries, but Sharon had a broken bone in her hand. She then had reflex sympatric dystrophy and ongoing problems with the case. We successfully settled all three cases after extensive litigation which included mediation for Sharon’s case. We are happy to get a total of $305,000 for a broken bone in a hand and soft tissue injuries.

    Civil Successes by Gary Burger

    Two car accident trials in Missouri and Illinois

    Gary Burger tried a two plaintiff car accident case in Springfield, Illinois. The jury returned a verdict for a fair result. It is good to try cases in Illinois. Illinois is different than Missouri in three main areas of law:

    • First, by Supreme Court rules, the Judge does most of the questioning of the jury and did so in this particular case. Gary was limited in the questions he got to ask the jury.
    • Second, the jury instructions in Illinois are longer and more detailed than in the State of Missouri. We found the instructions in Illinois to be very helpful in trying to advocate for a good recovery of our clients.
    • Third, there are a number of other procedural differences in Illinois. Examples of these differences are that we get to put in the entire amount of medical damages rather than the amount of medical expenses and what was paid to satisfy those expenses like we normally see in Missouri. Also, we need a unanimous decision in Illinois rather than just 9 of 12 jurors in agreement as we are accustomed to in Missouri.

    • A bus/cyclist trial. Gary tried a case in the City of St. Louis in which he represented a bike rider that was hit by a bus. It is always a challenge in trying a case with a bike rider. The public, and hence juries, many times have a dim view of bicycle riders and have a tendency to put a higher duty of care on a bike rider than anyone else because they don’t have a lot of metal around them to protect them like people in cars do. Gary also is a bike rider and knows this first hand from being on the road and dealing with traffic. So remember, bike riders, just as we ask cars to share the road with bicyclists and be courteous, bicyclists must return the favor and be courteous and respectful to the bigger vehicles on the road.

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“Gary and his team provided us with effective, efficient and highly professional service. Gary provides sound advice and is a trustworthy and ethical attorney. I highly recommend the team!”

David and Fran Schneider

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