It’s the time of year when I like to review some of the more interesting cases I’ve handled and assess the results. One of my better cases this year concerned a young Navy medical corpsman. One evening a large SUV (sport utility vehicle, in this case a Cadillac Escalade) pulled out in front of him when he was driving home on his motorcycle. He tried to avoid a collision, but struck the rear of the Escalade. The driver of the Escalade admitted fault at the scene and received a ticket for failure to yield right of way.
My client was immediately hospitalized. He suffered a number of injuries, including multiple transverse fractures of the upper spinal vertebrae. He stayed at a local Sentara Hospital for seven days. Even after discharge, he had extreme limitations in his activities. He ultimately made a full recovery after lots of physical therapy.
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Many interesting points can be made about this case. From the personal injury attorney’s point of view, perhaps the most significant was the issue of liability insurance coverage limits. My client was allowed to “stack” two policies: the liability coverage from the negligent driver’s policy, and the underinsured coverage from the client’s significantly larger automobile liability policy. Even though the client’s automobile policy was not a motorcycle policy (he had a motorcycle policy that was much smaller) he was allowed to use it under Virginia law for underinsurance purposes.
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Citing Virginia Code section 38.2-2206, I first convinced the negligent driver’s insurance company to tender the limits of the entire insurance policy. Then I approached my client’s own insurance company and pointed out that they would be responsible for attorney fees if the case went to trial, and sure enough, we got a settlement that my client was happy with.
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I think this case show that even when there is clear-cut negligence accompanied by serious bodily injuries, one should always contact an attorney in order to maximize recovery. To most people, the concepts and laws behind underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage are not familiar. I would advise every driver to have as much liability insurance as possible and to contact a lawyer if they are injured by another’s negligence in an automobile accident.
Disclaimer: every personal injury case is different; no specific dollar value or results are guaranteed.
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