A Personal Injury Case Study
The following case example results in a whiplash insurance settlement and demonstrates some important legal issues regarding car accident claims. We'll review the accident, liability, injuries, settlement negotiations, and the final case resolution.
Abby was driving northbound and Betty was driving southbound on the local four-lane interstate that ran through the small town in which they both lived. A deer entered the interstate and Abby, an avid animal lover, swerved to miss it.
When she did, she crossed the center divide and began accelerating directly toward Betty who was driving the speed limit and observing all rules of the road.
To avoid hitting Abby, Betty, in an evasive maneuver, swerved her vehicle and in so doing side-swiped Carl, hitting his driver side door and pushing his car off the interstate and into a ditch. Abby corrected her vehicle and came to a stop in the center median. Betty careened off the interstate and also landed in the ditch.
Though Abby was trying to avoid hitting the deer, she was at fault for swerving into on-coming traffic. When she did so, she caused a chain reaction whereby Betty side-swiped Carl and both Betty and Carl came to rest in a ditch. Even though Betty hit Carl, the reason she did so was to avoid hitting Abby.
In a comparative fault jurisdiction, both Betty and Abby would be assigned a percentage of fault for causing damage to Carl. However since this was a contributory negligence jurisdiction, Abby was 100% at fault for this collision.
Abby was completely unharmed other than relative shock about her own conduct. Betty had severe whiplash because her body was violently jerked to the right and then to the left when she hit Carl's vehicle. When she attempted to correct her vehicle by straightening on the interstate, her body was then jerked to the left again. When she ended up in the ditch, she jerked violently to the right. She also bumped her head on the driver's side window and got a concussion.
Carl had similar whiplash injuries in that his body jerked back and forth in the vehicle from being side-swiped and then again to the right when he collided with the ditch. Carl's airbags deployed and he had a severe burn type rash from the impact of the airbag to his face.
Abby's insurance policy was for $25,000 total. However, both Betty and Carl were transported from the scene by ambulance, treated in the emergency room and received four and six months of chiropractic care respectively.
Betty's total bills were $6,800 and Carl's bills were $8,900. While this would have been covered by the insurance in place, there was little left for their pain and suffering, which is part of any whiplash insurance settlement. Betty demanded a total of $18,000 and Carl demanded $27,000.
Neither Betty nor Carl hired attorneys. The insurance company decided to apportion the total $25,000 in the policy toward each party based upon the total amount demanded. They asked for $45,000 total.
Betty's settlement request was 40% of the total, therefore she received 40% of what was available or $10,000. Her medical bills were $6,800 and she negotiated them down to $4000, so she was left with $6,000 since she did not have to pay an attorney's fee.
Carl received 60% of the total settlement or $15,000. His medical bills were completely covered by his insurance company and they did not seek indemnification or reimbursement. Therefore, Carl received the whole $15,000 since he also did not have an attorney.
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