Robinson & Henry’s knowledgeable attorneys give their professional insight on the firm’s ongoing series “From Our Perspective,” which takes a closer look at cases won by them. From time to time, we’ll also share our thoughts about other cases and legal issues in Colorado.
In this episode, Robinson & Henry Personal Injury Partner, Jon Topolewski, discusses a recent $1.5 million personal injury settlement.
Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. Jon fought the insurance company to recover the client’s rightful benefits. Jon explains how he negotiated the settlement and the additional case he’ll be pursuing against the insurance company.
Past results afford no guarantee of future results; each matter is different and must be judged on its own merits. Facts are those of an actual Robinson & Henry litigation case.
Question: Jon, thank you so much for joining me today. Tell me more about our client and the car accident that led to his injuries.
Jon: It was a pretty tragic situation. It was the day after Christmas. He was driving home one evening and another vehicle failed to stop at a stop sign, and struck him, T-boned him at full speed. The impact was so significant it caused his vehicle to spin and roll over at least two times. He ended up right side up on the embankment next to the roadway. Obviously, his body was significantly jostled in the flipping and spinning. He was able to extricate himself. He was wearing a seatbelt, but he was pretty significantly injured. He had what was diagnosed as a subdural hemorrhage, which is the space between the brain and the skull, so a brain bleed. He also had a significant neck injury.
Question: In this accident, the other driver was at-fault. What was their policy coverage?
Jon: Yeah, that was a big issue in this case. Most insurance policies have an underlying liability coverage that you have that can be anything from in Colorado, $25,000 up to $500,000, millions of dollars. And that’s usually easy to determine for the insurance company. Where it can become a bit cloudy for them is what’s called an umbrella policy, so an umbrella policy is something that is just that. It’s an umbrella over all of your liability coverages. In this particular case, the at-fault party had a $500,000 liability policy, but later we discovered a $1 million umbrella policy. So fortunately for our client, there was $1.5 million in insurance coverage available.
Question: You touched on it, but were there any challenges you encountered in negotiating the settlement and what was the total amount of compensation?
Jon: Yeah, so that was a challenge because throughout the course of this case, we’ve been talking with the insurance company, as we do in every case, making sure that they were aware of the severity of the injury so that they could properly set their reserves and not be surprised when they’ve got a very big claim presented to them. Throughout this time, they represented that there was a $500,000 policy, knowing that in this case it wouldn’t be enough coverage for our client. We advised the carrier, look, we could try to settle this case for $500,000, what you’ve disclosed is your policy limit. But we’re going to need verification that there is nothing more and that all of a sudden set off, I think internally within Allstate, some alarm bells that, okay, let’s get the paperwork to demonstrate that there’s no more insurance, in doing so they found this other policy. So had we not been persistent in that, it’s possible that you know, this person handling this on their own or through another firm may have left $1,000,000 on the table.
Question: You will be pursuing another case against the carrier. Tell me a little bit more about that and why you feel this is necessary as well?
Jon: It’s a bit technical, but the legislature in Colorado has recognized the importance of making sure that people who are injured understand the amount of insurance that’s available to them. There’s a statute that says an insurance company must disclose all the insurance coverages that are available upon receipt of a written request by a claimant. In this case, our client or us on behalf of the client. And if they don’t do so, they can be penalized. And there’s a penalty of $100 a day until they properly disclose the amount. We submitted a request pursuant to this statute and received a response to that request, which inaccurately only listed a half million-dollar policy. And then a year later they presented this. We’re going to be seeking it on top of the $1.5 million we recovered for our client, an additional $100 per day penalty pursuant to the statute.
Question: If someone is in a similar situation in a car accident, they think they may have suffered a traumatic brain injury. What are some important steps that they take?
Jon: Making sure that you get the proper testing done, get immediate treatment done so you can start to develop a baseline to see where you’re at. Our client’s case, there was a frank diagnosis of a brain bleed. But oftentimes you see concussions, there’s no way to really diagnose that, a CT scan or an MRI, they typically don’t show concussions.
You can consider a concussion like a bruise on the brain. And the way that I talk to people about it, you know, not as a doctor, but just as somebody who looks at these is that creates a muddyness in your brain in terms of sending signals. So, as soon as a signal where you normally have, oh, I have to pick this up or I have to put this down, that signal in a normal brain is easy, but in somebody who’s had a brain injury, it gets a little muddy and you may not be able to get to that point as fast. That can lead to frustration, obviously, confusion on the part of these individuals.
Oftentimes it’s not the person who has the injury, who is able to really understand and appreciate the effects. It’s people around them, spouses, children, and friends. When I’m talking to a client, that’s usually one of the things that I talk about. If there’s suspicion of a traumatic brain injury, what are your friends saying? What is your spouse saying? How do they think you’re doing? And if there is a problem there typically are things you can do. There are doctors called neurologists or neuropsychologists who specialize in treating and diagnosing these types of injuries. Getting a diagnosis is important because then you can start working to correct the problem.