Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Single Father's story of Justice

Another Story of justice from lawyer S. Simmons:

1. My client is the single father of two teenage boys. He had recently gotten primary physical custody of them when he was suddenly hurt. He left college as a young man because he wanted to invest himself in his career delivering for UPS (aka "a major package delivery service".) Many years ago he suffered an on the job injury - a herniated thoracic disc - that took him out of work for several weeks. But he went through a work-hardening form of physical therapy, and got back to work. His supervisor testified that after returning to work he was a top notch employee, and that he made an amazing number of deliveries in a day during peak Christmas times - sometimes 300 per day. Client attributed this to his dedication to "working smart" - using proper body mechanics and safety to avoid getting hurt again. UPS had even made a video using him for training new workers on job safety. Clearly my client loved his job and enjoyed talking about it. He was used to making a good living and being able to provide for his sons. 2 teenage boys can eat a lot. He had a pension and good benefits. The wreck cost him this job. He got back on his feet and worked in real estate immediately, but the volatile market, independent contractor status, total lack of benefits....well no surprise he ended up cashing in his 401K before long just to put food on the table.

2. My client was the victim of a hit and run driver, so at least by the time we got to court, the case really was against Allstate, his own UM carrier. Our client didn't even talk to a lawyer until near his statute of limitations, so after we filed suit we had to dismiss and refile when called to court because we were still getting medical bills together,

and the client was still seeing his doctors. The teenagers who caused the accident spun out and then T-boned our client straight in the driver's side door of his SUV, causing a lot of damage to the car. They were apparently joyriding. The owner of the car settled by paying their 25K policy limits, so assuming the UM carrier could take credit for that 25, we only demanded 25 more from Allstate. There were about 25K of medical bills at that point, though the client was still treating.

Allstate offered, early on 5K. But at trial we acknowledged that there was no way we could prove the owner of the car was driving the car, we consented to a directed verdict as to his liability, so there was then 50K of UM coverage. During trial Allstate offered 25K. By the time we got to trial, some 4 years after the wreck, the client had just shy of 40K in medical bills. We only had one doctor's deposition, with a pain management physician who had treated him fairly recently. He discussed the aggravation of the pre-existing herniated disc, and also the treatment for a new herniation in the neck, and also problems in the low back. He said it was not unusual to have pain from a traumatic back injury that went on for years. This was something that several members of the Gwinnett County jury pool confirmed from personal experience during voir dire.

3. Obviously we filed because Allstate had no intention whatsoever of paying a fair amount to our client. We had 10 years of the client's W-2s and I-9 forms to show his earnings history and capacity. He had earned about 50K in the first half of the year before the wreck in June 2005. So we asked for another 50 K for lost earnings based on the evident logical inference. We also argued loss of earning capacity, and stressed that this is a proper and logical element of the pain and suffering damages, particularly in the case of this hardworking father who had been so devoted to a job that was now out of the question. The supervisor also testified that he was sadly the one who had to tell him that UPS couldn't keep him on the job delivering packages with a new and debilitating back injury.

4. We concluded the trial in two days, including deliberation time of about 2 hours. The good people of Gwinnett County awarded our client 200K in general damages and 327,994.10 in special damages, for a total of just under 528K. We understood from talking to some of the jurors that we had undervalued the loss of the job in their opinion.

For more:

Sara Brown, Esq.
The Law Offices of David W. Hibbert
2302 Brockett Road, Suite C
Tucker, GA 30084-4455

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