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Woman receives UIM benefits after workplace wreck

Type of action: Automobile – Personal Injury
Injuries alleged: Fracture of tibia and fibula
Case name: Confidential
Case number: Confidential
Court: Wayne County Superior Court
Tried before judge or jury: Confidential arbitrator
Name of judge: Confidential arbitrators
Verdict or settlement: Arbitrated verdict
Settlement date: April 12, 2010
Amount: $550,000
Experts: Christopher C. Hasty, M.D., treating orthopedic surgeon ( Greenville)
Plaintiff’s attorneys: Robert E. Whitley (Raleigh)
Submitted by: Alicia Delamere

Description: Plaintiff, age 47, was at her place of business when a vehicle ran over the curb and through the front glass window, pinning and crushing her against the wall. She sustained a displaced fracture of her fibula and a fracture of her tibia.

Plaintiff underwent two different surgeries, the second of which was to remove a screw placed in the first surgery. Plaintiff incurred total medical expenses of $66,354 and was given an impairment rating of 20 percent to her lower extremity by her treating orthopedic surgeon.

She did not claim any loss of income as she was self-employed and her business (approximately 50 employees) continued to operate during her recovery time. She was able to manage and do the bookkeeping necessary for her business at home and while she was recovering. She also had some gratuitous help from family members on maintaining her business throughout her recovery.

The carrier for the responsible driver had tendered and paid its $100,000 coverage before plaintiff retained counsel. State Farm, plaintiff’s carrier, had offered $35,000 of its underinsurance coverage to settle the claim. Plaintiff did not think that was adequate and thereafter retained counsel.

Prior to retaining an attorney, plaintiff had been informed that the total amount of the applicable underinsurance coverage was $500,000, the coverage on her commercial vehicle. However, plaintiff’s attorney discovered two additional family policies providing additional underinsurance coverage. Plaintiff thereafter received $4,000 in medical payment coverage provided by the two “new” policies.

Plaintiff was very active and enjoyed outside activities. She was a water- and snow-skier, she played volleyball regularly, rode horses, ran, had her pilot’s license and was extremely active with her family and friends. Some of her activities had been curtailed for several years prior to the date of her injury because she was caring for her ailing father. The defense contended that she was not nearly as active just before her crush injury and therefore it should not be considered as elements of her damages.

At the arbitration hearing, plaintiff testified that she experienced some constant leg pain in the area between her knee and thigh. She testified that her favorite commercial on television was the one in which the 80-year-old grandmother was water-skiing and water-skied onto the shoreline. She testified that before this accident, she maintained that that was going to be her — that is, water-skiing at age 80. Additionally, she testified that most all of her physical activities had been significantly limited by her injury.

State Farm did not increase its $35,000 offer prior to the arbitration hearing; however, after counsel was retained, they advanced the 35,000 offer without prejudice.

From the arbitration award of $550,000, State Farm was credited with the $100,000 previously paid by the liability carrier, the $35,000 offer and advance and the $4,000 paid in medical payment coverage. Plaintiff received the difference of $411,000, plus pre-judgment interest from the date the complaint was filed against the responsible party.