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Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
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Turning Down A Low-Ball Insurance Co. Offer and Winning In The End

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I had a great time and got a super result in an automobile wreck case recently in the Norfolk Circuit Court, Virginia. My client was involved in a low speed, low property damage rear end collision. She also had pre-existing conditions in her back and fibromyalgia. I was thrilled when the jury came back with a verdict of $25,000.00, plus interest. $25,000.00 was the maximum available insurance coverage for the accident.

The insurance company tried to low ball us by only offering $5,000.00 before trial. They were going to introduce pictures of the back of my client’s car showing minimal property damage. I moved the court to try to get the Judge to exclude the photographs as irrelevant because the amount of property damage does not indicate how much injury there was to the passengers. However, the court let the pictures in, as was expected.

Luckily for me and the client, her husband is an auto mechanic. He looked at the vehicle after the crash up on a lift at his shop. He came in and testified that there was some slight frame damage (unibody damage) to the vehicle. We got the Judge to allow him to testify as to what his estimate of the minimum impact speed would have been given that frame damage.

This forced the defense attorney to put on a Progressive Insurance Company appraiser who claimed there was no frame damage. That was a big mistake! I got to cross-examine the young appraiser showing that he worked for the very same insurance company that was defending this case and would have to pay any judgment.

Normally, the jury is not told anything about insurance. Although the jury instruction of the court tells the jury not to factor in the insurance or lack of any, obviously it makes a difference to the juries. Most juries know that there probably is automobile insurance or we would not be there to begin with. However, it was the most fun I have had in trial in a long time being able to expressly say the name of the insurance company and point to the defense attorney and say he works for them.

Another tough issue in this case that comes up a lot is where the Defendant hires an expert doctor to refute what the plaintiff’s treating doctor is saying. In this case, as in many other automobile wreck cases, they had only a doctor who did a medical records review. This means that the doctor simply looked at the medical records, but never really met the patient. The Defendant’s doctor had about the same credentials as the Plaintiff’s doctor but says there was nothing wrong with the Plaintiff that wasn’t already there before the car wreck. In fact, in this case, the client had been to the doctor to get treatment for her fibromyalgia and for another injury within a month before the accident in question. However, after discussing the facts carefully with her doctor, his deposition came across fairly well when he explained that the car crash worsened her condition from where it was before. He talked about having to change her medications, having to treat her more and some objective symptoms that she had like spasms.

The defense doctor said that she only needed to go to the emergency room. I was able to show that he was a hired gun by comparing what he knew and his role to that of the treating doctor. I showed that he had not only never met the injured plaintiff, but that he disagreed with other health care providers, including the physical therapist and the emergency room doctor. After the trial, the Judge told me that he thought I had done a pretty good job of proving that the defense doctor was not “independent” like they like to claim, but was instead biased.

After the trial, the client was very happy. I was glad that we were able to get her justice. She will be able to pay all her bills, and still have fair compensation. This was a case that many other attorneys might not have been willing to take on. It was one of those days that it felt good to be a Plaintiff’s injury lawyer.