Christensen & Hymas recently received a $147,000 arbitration award on behalf of a man that broke his wrist and injured his neck and back in a t-bone collision.

1-29-2014-1 Client Wins Settlement after insurance refuses to pay outOur client was driving his car westbound through the intersection of 200 South and 400 East in Salt Lake City when a careless driver ran a red light and t-boned the driver’s side of our client’s Toyota Camry, causing more than $6,700 in damage. The impact spun our client’s car around four to six times before the car hit the curb, barely missing a telephone pole. As a result of the accident, our client fractured his wrist and ruptured the scapholunate ligament.  This injury required surgery and a lot of recovery time.

The Research

As soon as we received the case, Russ Hymas and I started investigating causation (whether all our client’s injuries were caused by the car accident). Insurance companies regularly accept liability for the actual car accident, but argue that the accident did not cause the injuries claimed, then refuse to pay all of the victim’s medical bills.

In anticipation of this common insurance tactic, we immediately requested medical records, police reports, and researched medical literature on possible causes of the scapholunate ligament ruptures in our client’s hand. Initial research revealed that rapid rotation of a steering wheel causes compression of the wrist joint and can result in a torn scapholunate ligament. This is exactly what happened to our client while his hands were on the steering wheel and his car spun in circles.

Making a Claim

Armed with this research, our attorneys successfully received the full $50,000 policy limits from the careless driver’s insurance company (Travelers) and then made a claim under our client’s own underinsured motorist coverage with Bear River Mutual Insurance company. (Underinsured Motorist Coverage is optional coverage you can buy to protect yourself to pay for damages or medical costs if you are in an accident that is not your fault and the other driver does not have adequate insurance). Even though Bear River Mutual was our client’s insurance company, they argued that the accident didn’t cause the wrist injury. Therefore, when Bear River refused to make a settlement offer for our client, we took the case to arbitration.

Fighting For Our Client

Bear River Insurance went so far as to hire a medical doctor and an accident reconstructionist/biomechanical engineer to examine our client’s wrist and the evidence from the accident – hoping to conclude that the wrist injury wasn’t caused by the car accident. This must have cost Bear River nearly $7,000 to hire both experts. Fortunately, after our attorneys took their depositions, both hired experts agreed that the wrist injury was the result of the car accident and not something else.

Despite our extensive research as well the statements obtained from Bear River’s experts through depositions, Bear River Insurance still tried to argue that our client didn’t break his wrist in the car accident. After hearing all the testimony and reviewing the evidence, the arbitrator ruled that our client’s injuries were indeed caused by the car accident and awarded our client $147,000. Bear River Insurance, who initially offered zero, had to pay our client $97,000 in addition to the $50,000 that he received from the other insurance company.

Four Important Lessons to Take From This Case

Oftentimes, car accident victims are not aware of all the insurance coverage and benefits that are available to them. Frequently, (like in this case with Bear River Insurance) accident victims can recover additional benefits from their own car insurance company. Unfortunately, many insurance companies are not willing to give you the amount of money you need to cover all of your costs, even when they know that your claim is valid.  If you find yourself in this position, remember these four points that can be learned from the above case.

  1. Call an attorney as soon as possible after an accidentThis does not mean that you absolutely need an attorney. Not every case requires one. However, because our client had called us within the first week of his accident, we were able to advise him, contact witnesses, preserve evidence, and make sure our client was able to receive the medical care that he needed. In the end, we were prepared for the insurance company’s tactics.
  2. If you do hire an attorney, hire a good oneUnfortunately, there are a lot of attorneys and law firms that run high volume practices where numerous quick settlements are more important than being thorough and making sure that each client receives the full value of their case. At Christensen & Hymas we limit the amount of cases that we accept, so that each case receives our full attention.  If we see that your case will not result in a reward that is greater than the time and cost that it will require, then we will let you know.
  3.  Carry good Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) Because our client carried high underinsured motorist coverage, we were able to get an additional $97,000 after the at-fault insurance company tendered their driver’s $50,000 policy limits. Had he waived or carried really low underinsured motorist limits, our client would not have been able to cover all the medical bills and lost wages that he incurred as a result of the accident.
  4. Don’t accept the insurance company’s offer before seeking a professional opinion.    Too many people assume that the insurance company’s offer is the most that they can get, so they settle before speaking with an attorney. Don’t forget that insurance companies are multi-million dollar businesses. They must pay out as little as possible on claims if they want to protect their bottom line. An attorney specializing in car accident cases can give you an opinion on the value of your case and also explain all of the insurance benefits that are available to you.

Let Us Help You

7 Biggest MistakesIf you or someone you know are hit by a careless driver while driving, call our top-rated attorneys to discuss the potential of filing multiple insurance claims. We will provide you with a free consultation as well as a copy of our free book 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Utah Accident Case and How To Avoid Them. I wrote the Utah Accident Books because I believe Utah residents deserve more than what the big TV law firms offer.

Today it is more difficult than ever for people to get honest answers to their questions following an accident. You cannot expect the insurance company to fully answer your questions! It goes against their primary objective to pay out as little as possible on each accident claim. It is important to research your rights before making important decisions like accepting a settlement or hiring an attorney after an accident. This book provides straightforward answers to important questions following an accident. I want you to have this information to ensure that you do not accept a bad deal or give up fighting for your rights simply because you did not know how to proceed.

 

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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