It has been a very busy summer for me and there is no respite in sight. This is a good problem to have during a time when even large national law firms have been downsizing because of a lack of work.
I just finished a jury trial in Baltimore City against two defendants – the driver who struck my client and her uninsured motorist’s insurance carrier. This lady was hit by an uninsured driver. He was uninsured because he was an excluded driver on the insurance policy for the car he was using.
At first, it didn’t seem like a terrible accident. My client first noticed her back and leg pain at the scene that got progressively worse. She was taken to the emergency room by ambulance, and during her follow-up treatment she was diagnosed with two herniated discs from the accident. She was evaluated by an orthopedist who said that the two herniated discs were caused by the accident, and that her problem would be permanent. Her medical bills weren’t extreme—approximately $8,000.
The UM carrier only offered $3,000 to settle this case because the damage to the vehicles was not severe and because my client had some prior problems over the years involving back and leg pain. She had some pre-existing arthritis, but there was no evidence that she had ever had herniated discs before this accident. The insurance company hired one of “the usual suspects” to review her medical records and write a report saying that she wasn’t injured in the accident and that her problems were pre-existing. This doctor never even examined her.
The Baltimore City jury awarded more than ten times the last settlement offer—$37,000. I think that is much closer to a fair result. But my client wasn’t demanding anywhere close to $37k to settle the case. Rather than subjecting herself to a trial with an uncertain result, she would probably have settled the case for half that. The insurer could have saved itself a lot of time and money by making a fair settlement offer in the first place.
I guess I will never understand why UM carriers keep taking such hardline positions against their own insureds in settlement negotiations. I don’t think juries like it when plaintiffs have to sue their own insurance companies to get the benefits they have already paid for.