Our firm helped Jane get a settlement on behalf of her mother, who got seriously hurt in a crash caused by the driver of a rented box truck. The case was especially complicated for three reasons.  First, Janes’s mother suffered from dementia. Second, she passed away before we finished the case. Third, Jane went it alone for over a year, representing herself against the rented boxcar insurance company, which hired a lawyer.

We were able to increase her settlement by 50% from the offer Jane and her sister originally agreed to accept when made by opposing counsel.

The Crash

On April 19, 2021, around 1:00 p.m., Jane's sister drove their mother on Hwy. 101 near Spartanburg. As they crossed over Abner Creek Rd., the driver of a rented Penske box truck disregarded a stop sign as he crossed Hwy. 101. It caused Jane's sister to slam into him in a T-bone crash. The investigating officer found him at fault.

The Injuries

Jane's mother's severe injuries required her to be hospitalized for two days, including admission to ICU.  A primary concern of doctors was: “flail chest.”  The Mayo Clinic tells us that’s “two or more contiguous rib fractures with two or more breaks per rib — is one of the most serious of these injuries and is often associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. It occurs when a portion of the chest wall is destabilized, usually from severe blunt force trauma.”

The multiple rib fractures also caused her to be deprived of oxygen, called desaturation.  

The crash left her with these diagnoses:  

  1. Five rib fractures 
  2. Left elbow fracture
  3. Broken bones in her back, T2 and T4 compression fractures 

Neurosurgery prescribed a back brace for the spinal fractures.  She also required home health care on release.  

For pain, Jane's mother required some of the most powerful painkillers known to humankind:  Fentanyl and Oxycodone. 

Jane Faces the Insurance Company on Her Own

For over a year, Jane took on the Penske insurance company alone. Even when they got a lawyer, she didn't. They even came to the brink of settling the case for $60,000 offered by opposing counsel. But Jane and her sister grew concerned they'd been shortchanged with a low-ball settlement. So, they came to see me.

Jane Hires Our South Carolina Truck Accident Attorney

It didn't take much analysis of their case for me to see that they were getting lowballed and that they needed an experienced South Carolina truck accident attorney. I agreed to help them, but first, we had to reach an arrangement on the fee.

South Carolina accident injury attorneys get paid from cases through a contingency fee. That means the fee is a portion of the settlement earned by the lawyer. In addition, the lawyer gets reimbursed for any money spent to help the case. It really is the best way for injured folks to find a lawyer. This arrangement makes hiring the lawyer affordable because you pay nothing out of pocket. If you've got an honest, hardworking personal injury attorney, it motivates the lawyer to earn the maximum settlement for your case, allowing you to trust the lawyer in his or her evaluation of whether a settlement offer is good to take.

Because Jane and her sister had already negotiated a settlement, I wasn't going to act like the insurance company and shortchange them by charging them a full fee, including the part of the settlement they already got. So, I adjusted my typical contingency fee retainer agreement to reflect that my fee would only come from the portion of the settlement over $60,000. That way, I got paid only for what I earned.

Overcoming Challenges Presented by a Client With Dementia Who Passes Away During the Case

One of the biggest hurdles we faced initially was a non-communicative client. By the time we got hired, Jane's mother's dementia had overtaken her, leaving her unable to express herself meaningfully. That meant we couldn't get any reports from her about her pain and suffering, stripping us of our ability to fully tell her story about her human loss.

Luckily, Jane and her sister were faithful daughters who stayed close by their mother in the weeks and months after the crash. They witnessed her suffering and were able to describe it. 

The next hurdle emerged unexpectedly. Sadly, Jane's mother passed away before we could negotiate a final settlement. An experienced lawyer bases a settlement amount on what he or she thinks a jury might do with the case at trial. Whether it's right or not, the absence of a living client a jury can witness as another human who sustained real suffering can have a negative effect on settlement.

I overcame this by quickly drafting a demand letter pointing out the strengths in the case, especially how Jane and her sister could testify compellingly about what their mother underwent from the crash.

After receiving the demand letter, the opposing counsel agreed to a settlement of $90,000, an increase of 50% over what Jane had previously negotiated for her mother. In addition to the payment, the opposing counsel agreed that the insurance company would separately repay Jane's mother's Medicare in subrogation for the medical bills it paid.

Because Jane's mother passed away, the settlement required court approval-which would have been required if she were living because she was considered incapacitated by her dementia.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.