Injured in hit and run caused by habitual drunk driver...

by Henry
(Roanoke, VA)

A drunk driver ran into my passenger door and kept on going. He was apprehended a short time later. I received a neck injury that has kept me from my driving job for six weeks, ultimately losing $5,400.00 in wages. My Dr. bills were $4,000.00 total.

It was this man's 4th DWI in ten years, and 3rd Breath/Blood test refusal in ten years. He was also charged with a Hit and Run, with an injury to me, the victim. Should I try and get 3x or 5x my medical bills, considering the extenuating circumstance of the accident and the driver's past DWI record?

What are the chances of the Insurance Company wanting to go to court on this one, if I tell them I won't settle for a penny less than $25,000.00? Any perspective you can give would be appreciated.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Injured in hit and run caused by habitual drunk driver...":

Henry (Roanoke, VA):

It is very unlikely the insurance company will take this case to trial. If your demand is too unreasonable, however, the insurance company may decide to take their chances. Here's why...

If the insurance company is forced into a corner by what they consider to be your unreasonable demand, they may well go to trial and just "stipulate" the crash occurred, and avoid having to go through testimony about the driver's past driving record, including his multiple arrests.

Instead, after stipulating to the event, the insurance company may want to try the case only on the amount of damages you sustained, and their actual costs.

While no one would ever accuse you of extortion, if the insurance company believes your final demand for settlement to be way beyond the boundaries of fairness, they may consider your actions as a form of "legal extortion." Insurance companies don't like getting bullied.

Now let's take a look at your damages, and what a reasonable amount of compensation might be...

Your medical bills amounted to $4,000 and your lost wages $5,400. Barring any permanent injuries, under most circumstance your initial settlement demand should be about three or four times your medical bills. At this point, your lost wages will not be part of the multiple.

The fact that the driver was a habitual criminal drunkard will have little bearing on the amount the insurance company will pay. If your injuries were primarily "soft tissue," including sprains and strains to muscles, ligaments or tendons, whiplash, minor burns, cuts, bruises, or abrasions, your claim might be worth about three (3) times the amount of your medicals.

With soft tissue injuries, four times medicals would be a stretch. Even if the insurance company "unofficially" took into account the driver's unconscionable behavior, they would likely not go past four times your medicals.

At four times medicals, your initial demand might be about $16,000 dollars, plus your lost wages, so $21,400 (add any out-of-pocket expenses on top of this number). But, this is just your initial demand. Chances are you'll have to negotiate from there.

You should also review this case with a few personal injury attorneys, as they may be able to leverage the at-fault driver's criminal record for a greater settlement. But, if the driver's insurance limits are only $25,000, it may not pay to retain an attorney. It's up to you.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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