Posted by Gary Burger on May 22, 2019
We recently settled two cases during very different stages in litigation which teach good lessons on how to keep a case moving forward while also still negotiating settlement.
We settled Hannah’s case last week in a Mediation. Hannah was in a car accident in 2011. We got the case in 2016 and (since the statute had tolled until Hannah was 21) we had 2 months to file suit. We finally got an offer from the insurance company.
But it was too low so we filed suit.
The accident was caused when another driver failed to yield the right of way to Hannah – they turned left at an intersection in front of Hannah. The vehicles collided head on.
The family attempted to settle the case on their own, but Hannah began to have other health problems arise caused by the accident and came to us for help.
The defendant was young at the time of the accident also and had moved away for college, therefore, it took a VERY long time to track her down to obtain service. Our client answered discovery and gave her deposition.
However, the defendant would not cooperate and answer discovery or make herself available for deposition. We should not push the issue too much as lack of cooperation of a defendant can give the insurance company grounds to invalidate coverage. So we said, lets just try the case.
So, after 2 years of attempting to get the Defendant to cooperate, we set the case for mediation in an attempt to resolve the case. The case resolved at mediation.
Mediation is one tool used in negotiating a settlement. A neutral third party helps to talk to both parties about the realities of their cases in hopes that they can agree on a settlement that makes sense.
Mediation is just one tool of negotiations and can be done at different stages of litigation depending on the case. It made sense for this case to do it without having taken the defendant’s deposition or doctors deposition since the defendant was not cooperating.
We also settled a case for Heather and Ryan. They were traveling through their subdivision on their way home when the defendant sped through the subdivision and crashed into our clients – head-on.
A neighbor in the subdivision had a camera that caught this crash on video. Our clients were able to get a copy of that video from their neighbor. Check out the photos below — the other driver was going pretty fast, especially for a neighborhood:
We signed up Ryan and heather 5 days after the accident. Ryan sustained a serious concussion along with neck and knee injuries from this crash and was taken directly to the emergency room. Heather hit her head and also had pain in her back, left arm, and abdomen. Both clients treated with a chiropractor and Ryan sought treatment from a neurologist for his severe concussion.
We sent a demand to settle the case but the insurance company refused to response to that demand with an offer. Therefore, we filed suit in Jefferson County. Once we obtained service on the defendant and completed discovery, we asked about settlement but the defense lawyer said he stated that he had to take depositions prior to settlement discussions.
So, we scheduled the depositions on both Plaintiffs and the Defendant. The day before the depositions we received a call from the defense counsel who stated that he wanted to talk settlement.
The policy limits applicable to this claim was 25/50. We advised that we would not take anything less than the policy limits. We canceled the depositions and received a call that day with the policy limits offer $25k each
We had to go through litigation a bit before opposing counsel was willing to negotiate but after depositions and discovery,
We had a strong case and knew Heather and Ryan should get the policy limits.