In a Spartanburg, South Carolina motorcycle accident, here's how an experienced attorney got a much bigger settlement than expected from knowing how to find extra insurance coverage and up-to-date legal knowledge.
Twenty-four-year-old John came to us through a referral from a motorcycle accident client. I met him and his mother at the hospital, where he was laid up after a motorcycle crash that wasn't his fault. While his condition was their primary concern, they were worried they wouldn't have enough money to pay his mounting medical bills. Luckily, they hired me, I got involved and did a lot of digging into their insurance policies, and the case turned out better than we had hoped.
How the Motorcycle Accident Occurred
On July 3, 2022, around 1:45 p.m., John drove his motorcycle down Hwy 56 just outside Spartanburg. As he approached the intersection of Center Drive, the at-fault driver pulled out in front of him to make a left turn, failing to yield the right of way to John, who slammed into the front driver side of her car at 45 miles an hour.
The impact was devastating, reducing John's motorcycle to a mangled mass of metal. The at-fault driver's airbag was even deployed.
John's Grave Injuries and Enormous Medical Bills
As a result of the crash, John required a 19-day hospital stay before they transferred him to a rehab hospital. His diagnosis included:
- Concussion with repetitive questioning
- Broken left wrist
- Broken and dislocated left arm with broken ulnar styloid
- Right thumb broken
- Broken right leg, with a potential knee ligament injury
- Bruised left lung
- Right forearm laceration
In the hospital, John needed two operations to fix his shattered left wrist and right thumb. He left the hospital essentially armless because of heavy splints and was wheelchair-bound.
His suffering continued after that. About three months later, John required operations on both knees to repair major ligaments, like the ACL and LCL.
Medical bills for just his initial hospital stay, not including the two knee operations, exceeded $202,000. Luckily, John had health insurance from his job to pay those bills. But he worried he'd never get any settlement after the health insurance company got repaid through subrogation.
The motorcycle crash had a crippling impact on John and his family. Like any young adult, John prided himself on living an independent, active lifestyle. The crash reduced him to a helpless child, almost totally dependent on his mother. Fortunately for John, she is an angel who even supplied unexpected help in getting him a better settlement. More on that in a minute.
I went to work to protect him.
How an Experienced South Carolina Motorcycle Accident Attorney Helped
John was right to worry he wouldn't get enough insurance to cover his medical bills. The at-fault driver had nowhere near enough liability insurance to pay his medical bills. As is all too often the case, liability insurance was the South Carolina minimum, a pitiful $25,000.
But John didn't know four things I did, which I used to help him get a much better settlement:
- Thankfully, he had coverage on his policy that could help. It's called underinsurance or UIM. It's designed to be used exactly for this purpose – when an at-fault driver doesn't have enough liability insurance. Some injured victims don't even know they have it. Two bad things about UIM. First, they never volunteer to help. They hope you'll ignore it or forget about it so they don't have to pay. Second, when you try to use it, your own insurance company often turns against you, defending the at-fault driver like she paid the premiums. That's why serious accident victims need an experienced attorney to help them counterattack their own insurance company.
- UIM can be "stacked." That means you can use multiple policies until you use them all up or get a fair settlement. In John's case, he had UIM on the motorcycle and a car. The injury limits for those policies were $25,000, so that gave him an additional $50,000, but that wasn't all he got from these policies. Keep reading.
- Because of his living arrangement, John could use UIM from his mother's policy. If you live with a relative, you can use their UIM if you need it. John did, so I secured his mother's cooperation to use her policy, then started a case against that insurance company.
- In rare cases, UIM for property damage can be used to pay for injuries. A South Carolina Supreme Court case called GEICO v. Poole had recently come out. The case allows property damage UIM to be combined with bodily injury UIM to increase the settlement. But the court made clear these cases are scarce. Mostly, they are limited to cases where punitive damages are a real threat, like when you're the victim of a DUI accident.
John's case was even rarer because it didn't involve a DUI. However, I convinced John's UIM that punitive damages were a real threat since the at-fault driver totally ignored him when she pulled in front of him. They settled by adding the property damage to his injury limits, doubling his settlement from these policies to $100,000.
John's mom's policy paid its UIM limit of $25,000.
Overall, we settled the case for $150,000.
One last critical thing remained for me to do to maximize what John got in the end: negotiate the subrogation repayment with his health insurance company. These companies can be extremely hard-nosed about getting repaid. John's was no exception. I sent a detailed letter driving home the impact on John's life and how an insurance company with billions was in a better position to bear a loss than a 24-year-old barely getting started in life, now out of work for months with no end in sight.
We reached an arrangement everyone could live with that gave John a big financial cushion while he's out of work recuperating from his knee operations.
Nobody wants to get a motorcycle accident lawyer, but sometimes you just need one. Nobody said it better than John: "I couldn't have done this without you."
As for me, I reaffirmed my commitment to the principle that if I don't ask, my clients don't get. I worried John's UIM would turn us down for the extra amount, and I really worried his health insurance company wouldn't deal fairly with him. But I didn't let that stop me, and it paid off for John. And that's who this case was really about.