One of the greatest joys I know as an accident injury attorney is helping a child have a brighter future after a horrifying yesterday. Another one is restoring his parents' peace of mind, knowing his rights- and future- are protected. Here's a great example how I did both in the same case.
The Horror And What I Discovered To Help Get Past It
My 14 year old client- we'll call him Bobby to protect his identity- caught a ride home with the wrong driver, an older peer who took a curve in Spartanburg County at 60 mph in a 35 mph zone, causing him to lose control and slam into a tree. The crash devastated the car. Bobby suffered two broken legs (including one compound fracture, meaning the bone sheared through his skin), three broken fingers, and cuts to his face.
To help this terribly hurt young fella, I looked for any insurance policy I could find. Luckily, the driver’s policy had a $100,000 liability limit. I also discovered that car had at least $15,000 in underinsurance coverage (UIM). Bobby needed UIM because $100,000 was not nearly enough to cover his extensive medical bills or compensate him for the harm and loss he suffered.
I also researched Bobby’s parents’ insurance policies to see if they had UIM, since UIM policies also give you coverage even if you are riding in someone else’s car. Fortunately, Bobby’s parents had the wisdom to buy a $50,000 UIM policy. Long story short, I got the insurance companies to pay all $165,000.
Our Firm Didn't Stop There
Meanwhile, I also discovered the driver’s insurance agent may not have offered UIM as required by South Carolina law. I filed a lawsuit against the insurance company to get additional UIM coverage on that policy up to the liability limits of $100,000. That case settled for a confidential amount.
Dealing With Medical Bills That Could Eat Up The Settlement
Luckily, our client’s parents had health insurance coverage, which they wisely submitted to pay his medical bills. The health insurance company asserted a subrogation claim against our client’s parents for repayment of the amounts paid providers.
I settled this claim for less than the health insurance company paid on the medical bills. This helped get more money for Bobby's future, as his health insurance paid the doctor bills at a discount, then gave him a discount when he repaid them from this settlement.
Last Stop: The Justice System Forces A Day In Court
When a child’s personal injury case is settled, a judge must approve it. Part of the reason is to protect the child’s right to the money. One thing I did to protect this child’s rights is help his parents get a structured settlement, which would hold the money in low risk investments until the child reached adulthood. It also allowed his parents to control when he got the money after he reached age 18, protecting him from blowing it in youthful squandering.
Final Outcome and Lessons Learned
It took a long time and a lot of work, but in the end, we had a relatively healthy young man with an unusually secure financial future and two very relieved parents.
What this case shows is, you can't have enough auto insurance to protect you from the unexpected, and if you've got a seriously hurt child, you need a trained professional to:
- guide you through the treacherous waters of insurance coverage you could overlook,
- convincing tightfisted insurance companies to pay,
- fighting battles that need to be won, and
- helping you reach a settlement arrangement for your child that a judge will approve at a hearing.