Our Georgia car accident attorneys recently settled a case for an Atlanta woman who was injured in a car accident with a drunk driver. The settlement was for $25,000, which was the entire amount of the drunk driver’s Progressive insurance policy. This case is a good example of how an accident caused by a drunk driver can turn a small case into a bigger one.
Mrs. F. was driving home from work on Johnson Ferry Road. The drunk driver was driving on the wrong side of the road and sideswiped Mrs. F’s car, doing over $3,000 in damage. The drunk driver fled the scene of the accident and was stopped by the police several miles down the road. He was arrested for DUI and pled guilty to the charge.
Immediately after the accident Mrs. F didn’t think she was hurt and declined to go to the hospital. However, several hours later her neck and back began hurting and she went to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with strains and sprains of her neck and back muscles. The ER doctor referred her to an orthopedist, who confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed her physical therapy. She had several months of physical therapy and made a good recovery, though she still has the occasional flare-up of neck and back pain. Her medical bills totaled approximately $5,000.
Normally, with only $5,000 in medical bills Mrs. F’s case would settle for less than $25,000. This is because juries tend not to award big jury verdicts to people who, like Mrs. F, have relatively small amounts of medical bills and have made good recoveries from their injuries. Based on our experience, a jury verdict for Mrs. F’s case would be in the $7,500 to $20,000 range, though there’s a chance a jury would award a verdict larger than that. Insurance companies know that juries usually don’t return big verdicts in cases like this and as a result the settlement would typically be in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.
However, since Mrs. F’s accident was caused by a drunk driver it made her case different. The fact that the other driver was DUI allows a jury to award punitive damages against him to punish him for driving drunk. Even if a jury didn’t award punitive damages, juries tend to return bigger verdicts in cases involving drunk drivers.
Just as insurance companies know that juries don’t award big verdicts in cases involving small amounts of medical bills, they also know that juries will award punitive damages in DUI cases, award bigger verdicts and as a result will pay more to settle cases involving DUI drivers.
We sent a settlement demand letter to Progressive outlining Mrs. F’s injuries. We informed Progressive we would seek punitive damages against their driver for driving drunk. We demanded that Progressive pay Mrs. F. the drunk driver’s $25,000 insurance policy and gave Progressive 30 days to respond. We informed Progressive that if it did not accept our demand we would go to trial, obtain a verdict for more than the drunk driver’s $25,000 insurance policy and then collect the excess portion from Progressive.
Several weeks before the deadline, Progressive accepted our settlement demand and the case is now closed.