Initial Offer Doubled: $20,500 Settlement Reached
I recently represented a hardworking client that was hit by an unknown driver in the middle of the night as he drove home from work. The accident occurred at 4 in the morning on Highway 55 in Saint Louis City. My client was rear-ended, causing his car to roll over multiple times.
The person that hit my client fled the scene. She turned herself into the police 2 days later. She did this only after discovering that she had left her license in the car. We were able to find out that she was insured through Nationwide.
Fortunately, my client escaped with only minor injuries and leg bruising. He sought very little medical treatment for such a violent collision. He was checked out by the emergency room the day of the accident and went to one chiropractic appointment. At the time we made the demand, there was only $243.70 in medical bills along with some lost wages.
The insurance company initially fought hard. They told me that their insured was also on her way home from work and left the scene because she was scared. They sent over the following initial offer in response to our demand:
I didn’t buy that the at fault driver was on her way home from work. If she were, why would she have fled the scene? Given her age and the time of the collision, I thought it more likely than not that she fled to avoid being charged with a DUI.
Despite not having any physical evidence of her intoxication, I replied to the insurance company with a counterdemand for $25,000 (the policy limits) and threatened to pursue punitive damages against their insured if we filed suit. I told the insurance company to forward our counterdemand to their insured so that she was aware of our position.
The insurance company came back and doubled their initial offer. We settled for $20,500.
For a case with very little damages, I believe that this was an excellent result. The key to success here was pushing the insurance company to communicate to the client what her potential liability for punitive damages may be. This likely made the insured put pressure on the insurance company to resolve the matter within the policy limits to avoid being sued for punitive damages. The at fault driver would have been liable for those personally. Even though they had no duty to pay punitive damages, I was essentially able to get the insurance company to pay for them through this tactic.