D.K. v. C.M.
Posted on April 15th, 2008 by Zane Cagle
$475,000 DAMAGES IN NO-DAMAGE MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT CASE
Plaintiff alleged that she came to a stop at a stop light in front of the entrance to Ft. Zumwalt North High School in O’Fallon, Missouri. Plaintiff was subsequently rear-ended, and her vehicle suffered no apparent damage.
Plaintiff developed neck and back pain as the day progressed and was treated at the local emergency room several hours after the accident. Plaintiff was later diagnosed with two herniated discs at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels. After undergoing months of physical therapy and conservative treatment, she underwent a discectomy and a two-level spinal interbody fusion at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels.
Plaintiff sought coverage for medical costs and damages and demanded a settlement equal to the defendant’s policy limits of $25,000, as well as damages through her underinsured motorist coverage since the medical bills at the time already exceeded $100,000.
Defendant’s experts admitted a causal relationship between the herniated disc and motor vehicle accident. However, defendant denied the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, arguing that the plaintiff had pre-existing neck pain and that the accident was not the proximate cause of her surgery. Although the insurance carrier did not initially respond to Plaintiff’s demand for payment equal to the policy limits, it offered a $25,000 settlement during discovery prior to trial.
The case proceeded to trial in St. Charles County (Missouri) Circuit Court, and Plaintiff was awarded $400,000. Plaintiff subsequently petitioned the court for pre-judgment interest and taxable cost, and the motion was granted in the amount of $36,173.37. Defendant moved for a new trial; however, a settlement agreement was reached in which the defendant’s insurance agreed to pay the $400,000 jury verdict, despite the fact that the policy limits were only $25,000.
At the time of the accident, Plaintiff had auto insurance that contained an underinsured motorist (UIM) provision with a $100,000 per person policy limit. As Defendant’s single-person policy limit was $25,000, Plaintiff’s counsel argued her underinsured motorist policy provided coverage even though Defendant’s insurance carrier agreed to pay $400.000, Plaintiff’s insurance carrier agreed, and Plaintiff obtained an additional settlement in the amount of $75,000 from her auto insurance carrier.