A Personal Injury Case Study
This case study demonstrates many important legal issues regarding cell phone car accidents. We'll review the accident, liability, injuries, settlement negotiations, and the final case resolution.
James and Josh were in the car waiting for their mother to return to the vehicle from the bank. Josh was bored and pulled out a small retractable scooter, which he began riding in the parking lot of the bank.
Joe was talking on his cell phone having a heated discussion with his business partner about money, having just learned that large sums were missing from the corporate account. Distracted by the phone call, Joe did not check his rear-view mirror before backing out of his parking place.
As he jerked his car backward, he hit Josh knocking him to the ground and running over his arm. James screamed to the driver that he had just ran over his brother's arm at which time Joe jerked the car forward hitting the boys arm a second time.
In most cell phone car accidents, the driver is liable for negligence. Joe was distracted by his cell phone, failed to check his rear view mirror and as a result, hit a child pedestrian who had the right-of-way.
Joe's initial response was that the child should not have been riding his scooter in the parking lot. This is true in part, and in a contributory negligence state this would factor into liability. In most states however, where pedestrians always have the right of way, this would not be an issue.
Josh was severely injured by road rash to his back where he was slightly dragged under the vehicle. His arm was broken in two places from being run over twice and his head, back and legs were badly bruised. His brother also observed the collision and was emotionally distressed by the incident.
Josh incurred medical bills totaling $7,500 for the ambulance which transported him 48 miles to the nearest children's hospital and $35,000 for the emergency surgery to his arm. In addition, he had to undergo physical therapy for 4 months totaling $8,000 for a grand total of $50,500.
On behalf of the minor, Josh's parents submitted a minor's compromise claim for $170,000 to the insurance company. Josh's brother James did not incur any medical bills, however he was greatly distressed by what he saw. His mother submitted a claim on his behalf in the sum of $5,000.
Joe was driving a company vehicle with an insurance policy of $2 million when he had the cell phone car accident. However his company insurance company attempted to deny the claim at first saying that the child should not have been riding his scooter in the parking lot.
Josh's parents filed a lawsuit naming the driver personally and his company in the suit. Ultimately the insurance company did accept liability and settled Josh's claim for $150,000 and James's claim for $4,000.
When an attorney is used on minor's claims, they are usually limited to 20% for fees. Further, the settlements must be approved by the courts and placed in protected accounts that cannot be used, outside of by court order, until the minor reaches the age of majority.
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