A pedestrian will be killed in a car accident every 111 minutes. Some of these fatalities will give rise to a wrongful death case. These are sophisticated cases which are generally aggressively defended by insurance companies and include complicated medical, accident reconstruction and legal issues.
Plaintiff attorneys know that with any vehicle accident case, insurance company adjustors, if they recommend any settlement offer at all, are going to calculate the value of the amount dependent not on the plaintiff's damages but instead on the financial risk faced by the insurance company. There are several ways in which insurance companies attempt to minimize their risk. For example, liability is often denied by blaming the victim. There are often multiple defendants (including drivers, others who contributed to the accident, employer, and vehicle owners). There are also often insurance issues that arise including a responsible driver with no insurance or insufficient insurance, multiple policies, excess policies, and even assets that can be reached. The lawyer also needs to be able to properly value the case. A lawyer handling one of these cases thus should have the skill and experience to deal successfully with the many challenges that might come up in the lawsuit. Consider:
A vehicle which was observed speeding by a witness at about 6:00 in the morning slammed into a pedestrian briefly afterward. The vehicle was poorly maintained as, as per the police, was low on brake fluid, and had no windshield wiper fluid even though it was being driven with a dirty windshield that could reduce visibility.
The victim in this case was 66 year old female who was trying to cross a street. The female pedestrian was thrown 27 feet by the force of the accident. The impact and her fall left her with a fracture to her ankle, fractures to several ribs, a fracture to her clavicle, and fractures to her skull. Following the accident she was transported to a hospital where she died from her injuries. She was survived by her family that consisted of a husband, five children, and six grandchildren. The law firm that represented the victim's family was able to report reaching a settlement in the amount of $725,000.
This case involved a pedestrian accident that happened during the early of the evening. The female driver of the vehicle involved did not stay at the scene of the accident. The person she hit, a male pedestrian, was killed due to the accident. He was survived by two children. He worked at a part time job. The female driver was located and arrested by the police. She was arrested. She was charged for leaving the scene and for the negligent operation of a vehicle resulting in a death. A settlement in the amount of $1,150,000 was reported by the law firm that handled the matter
A number of significant commonolities and differences can be found in these 2 lawsuits. In both cases a motor vehicle accident led to a death. In both cases the plaintiff was survived by family members. In both cases the law firm representing the families was able to reach a considerable recovery for the family. In both cases a settlement was reached prior to trial. Now consider the following information contained in the reports of these cases. The settlement amount in the second case was $400,000 larger than that in the first case.
A different factor that may have played a role is the amount of insurance coverage available in each case. Finally, the jurisdiction where each case would be tried could also have been a factor. Attorneys know that juries in certain jurisdictions award far less amounts that juries in other jurisdictions.
The smaller the risk an insurance company adjuster believes is faced by taking the claim to trial, the lower the offer they will make, if they make an offer at all. Handling pedestrian death matters requires experience and skill. A lawyer representing the victim's family should not be in a rush to settle the case. Indeed, typically the best way to approach these cases is to conduct a complete investigation, have a deep understanding of the accident scene, know the way in which witnesses describe the accident, have a sense of how the parties and the witnesses will be perceived by a jury, and have a good awareness of the range of awards generally awarded for similar cases by juries in the jurisdiction where the matter will need to be tried.
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