Here is a video about this settlement:
On April 22, 2018, Jeremy was stopped at a red light in a left turn lane. He was in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida.
Specifically, he was in the eastbound lanes of SR 838 (W Sunrise Blvd) on the I-95 overpass. (His car is vehicle 2 from the actual Florida crash diagram below).
Another driver with a similar name, Jerry, was driving south on the I-95 Southbound Off Ramp approaching SR 838 (W Sunrise Blvd). Jerry was driving vehicle 1 in the crash diagram below.
Jeremy told the investigating officer that the SUV came off of the southbound l-95 off ramp at a high rate of speed. Jeremy said that the SUV failed to turn either east or west onto SR 838 (W sunrise Blvd), ran over the positive median that splits east and west traffic on SR 838 (w sunrise Blvd) and the front of vehicle 1 crashed into the driver side of his car.
He took this photo of his car after the accident. The photo is below:
Jeremy told the officer that his car was hit with so much force that the collision caused his vehicle to slide sideways. He said that it caused the passenger side of it to crash into the driver side of vehicle 3.
After the crash, the SUV fled the scene without stopping to render aid or provide information. A K-9 officer was first on scene. That officer put a hit & run vehicle BOLO (Be on the Lookout) out over police radio of a black in color SUV with heavy front end damage.
Another officer responded to the area and located the SUV with heavy front end damage parked next to a gas pump at the Shell gas station located at 2701 W Sunrise Blvd.
Officer Salah (who wrote the crash report) went to 2701 W sunrise Blvd and made contact with a white male. They identified him as Jerry by his Florida drivers’ license. Jerry was outside of his vehicle looking at the damage to his vehicle which is registered to his mother.
Owner of Car That Drunk Driver Was Driving Is Liable
Why does the at fault driver’s vehicle registration matter?
In Florida, the owner of the car (whose driver’s negligence causes an accident) is liable. In most cases, there are limits on the owner’s liability. But most personal injury cases settle for less than the limitation.
While Officer Salah was talking with Jerry, he observed that he had bloodshot and watery eyes and appeared to be disoriented. Jerry told Salah that he had just been driving the vehicle and had lost control. However, Jerry stated that he did not know that he had been involved in a crash.
While Jerry was talking to Officer Salah, the officer smelled the odor of alcohol coming from his breath. The officer requested a DUI unit over the radio. DUI means driving under the influence (of alcohol or drugs).
DUI Officer Carter came and conducted a DUI investigation. Jerry was cited for the crash and for hit and run. Both Jerry and Jeremy’s vehicles were towed due to damage.
When a police officer arrests a driver for DUI, he creates a complaint affidavit. The injured person needs to get a copy of this.
The complaint affidavit contains a lot of useful information that isn’t on the Florida traffic crash report. It can greatly increase the full value of the injury case.
Juries don’t like drunk (or drugged) drivers.
Arrest Records Say That Other Driver Was Drunk and On Drugs
Here, the complaint affidavit said that Jerry had an indication of alcohol influence and drug influence.
The complaint affidavit contains a probable cause affidavit which gives the basis for the arrest. Jerry refused to provide a breath sample.
DUI officer Carter made contact with Jerry and read him the Miranda Warning. The Miranda warning is the line that you hear in movies:
You have the right to remain silent, anything that you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…
Why does the Miranda warning matter?
Because Florida’s accident report privilege prevents the injured person from using anything that the at fault driver says (to the police officer) in the injury case.
For example, let’s say that the at fault driver admits (to the officer) that he wasn’t paying attention when driving his car. In Florida, this can’t be used against him in the injured person’s lawsuit.
To make things worse, a traffic ticket can’t be used in the personal injury case. This is true even if the at fault driver is cited for causing the crash.
Are there any exceptions to Florida’s accident report privilege?
Yes, an exception is anything said after the at fault driver receives a Miranda warning.
Drunk Driver Was Given Miranda Warning, And Admits to Drinking and Drugging
Once the at fault driver is read a Miranda warning, anything that he says can be used against him in the injured person’s case. This is a big deal!
After reading the Miranda, Jerry admitted to driving the vehicle and hitting something. However, he wasn’t sure what he hit. Jerry also admitted to drinking 2 long island iced teas (an alcoholic drink). He also admitted to taking his Klonopin (a prescription drug).
While speaking with Jerry, Officer Carter said that his speech was slurred, and his eye lids were droopy. Carter could smell the obvious odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath and person.
Based on his observations, Officer Carter believed that Jerry’s normal faculties were impaired while operating a motor vehicle. Thus, he asked if Jerry was willing to take the Standard Field Sobriety Tasks (SFST’s). Surprisingly, Jerry agreed.
In short, Jerry failed the field sobriety tasks. An officer took him to BSO Main Jail. He was charged with D.U.I. and issued these citations:
- Failure to use due care F.S.S. 316.185
– Crash leave scene w/o giving information F.S.S. 316.061-1
– D.U.I. first offense F.S.S. 316.193-2A2A
– D.U.I. property damage (2 counts) F.S.S. 316.193-3c1
Jeremy didn’t take an ambulance to the hospital. Taking an ambulance to the hospital usually increases the full settlement value of an injury case.
Days after the accident, he began to feel pain in his back and neck. He began looking for South Florida car accident lawyer to represent him. Jeremy called my law firm.
He told me that he wanted to get medical treatment for his back and his neck.
I told him that we could represent him. He hired us. Jeremy had car insurance with State Farm. We referred Jeremy to a doctor’s office.
Fort Lauderdale Police Wouldn’t Quickly Give Us the Body Cam Footage
After Jeremy hired me, I emailed the Fort Lauderdale police department and requested their entire file on the arrest. This can help maximize the settlement value of a drunk driving accident case.
Within one day, the police department sent me the complaint affidavit, and the incident/investigation.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department emailed me back saying:
In reference to your request please be advised that the body worn camera video and records you are requesting cannot be released at this time in accordance with 119.071(2)(c).
Once the video and records have met discovery we will be happy to provide you those copies. Please be advised that the videos will cost $30.00 per hour to review and do any necessary redactions. Video request can take up to 14-21 business days. Please feel free to re-contact my office once discovery has been met.
Basically, they wouldn’t send me the body worn camera video (and other records) until they turned this information over to the drunk driver’s attorney in the criminal case. A personal injury case takes place in a different court than the criminal case. They are two different cases.
First Medical Visit Was 11 Days After the Accident
Jeremy did not go to the hospital. His first medical appointment was 11 days after the accident. Waiting days to go to the doctor decreases the settlement value of an injury case.
I once heard a personal injury attorney say that he won’t take a case if the injured person waited over 7 days to get medical treatment. However, I disagree with his blanket approach.
The doctor’s office billed Jeremy’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage in his State Farm insurance policy. Since he treated within 14 days of the accident, he was entitled to $10,000 in PIP benefits.
This means that the PIP insurance from his State Farm policy paid his doctor’s up to $10,000 for his medical bills.
If he would’ve waited more than 14 days to get medical treatment, he would have lost his PIP coverage. This would’ve put much less money in his pocket from the settlement. I’ll discuss the settlement shortly.
Jeremy was 27 years old. His medical visits consisted of 9 days of therapy. He also had an MRI of his back and neck. Each MRI revealed at least one herniated disc.
Neck MRI Showed 3 Herniated Discs
His cervical (neck) MRI said that he had:
1. At C3-4, there is a right paracentral disc herniation with no significant neuroforaminal narrowing, but there is mild spinal canal stenosis.
2. At C5-6, there is a central disc herniation abutting the ventral aspect of the cord. There is no significant neuroforaminal narrowing, but there is mild spinal canal stenosis.
3. At C6-7, there is a broad-based disc herniation with no significant neuroforaminal narrowing, but there is mild spinal canal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people with spinal stenosis are over the age of 50. Though degenerative changes can cause spinal stenosis in younger people, other causes need to be considered. These include trauma, such as a car accident.
Neuroforaminal narrowing refers to a reduction of the size of the opening in the spinal column through which the spinal nerve exits. As this opening narrows, the nerve becomes compressed, which in turn can lead to pain that radiates along the path of the nerve.
Back MRI Showed 1 Herniated Disc and 2 Bulging Discs
His lumbar spine (back) MRI showed:
1. At L3-4, there is a broad-based disc bulge with mild bilateral neuroforaminal narrowing, but no significant spinal canal stenosis.
2. At L4-5, there is a broad-based disc bulge, more eccentric to the right. There is mild bilateral neuroforaminal narrowing, but no significant spinal canal stenosis.
3. At LS-51, there is a broad-based disc herniation, more eccentric to the right. There is no significant neuroforaminal narrowing or spinal canal stenosis.
GEICO insured the car that the drunk driving was using at the time of the accident. I sent GEICO a written request to tell me the amount of bodily injury liability insurance on the policy. Under Florida Statute 627.4137, GEICO had to provide this information in writing (and under oath) since we requested in it in writing.
GEICO sent us their insurance disclosure information.
GEICO’s Insured (the Car Owner) Only Had $10K of BIL Insurance
The car that the drunk driver was driving had a $10,000 bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance policy. GEICO assigned claims adjuster Christa Androski to this personal injury claim.
Unfortunately, the drunk driver (Jerry) didn’t own a car. Additionally, the drunk driver didn’t live with any relatives (other than his mother). Jerry was driving his mother’s car at the time of the accident. Thus, the only available BIL insurance was GEICO’s $10,000 policy.
If an at fault driver is driving a car that he doesn’t own, his resident relative’s BIL insurance may pay the injured person compensation. This would be in addition to the car owner’s BIL insurance.
We sent the drunk driver and his mom (the car owner) financial affidavits. The affidavits asked them to list any other available liability insurance. The affidavits also asked them to list their assets. The drunk driver and his mom claimed to have no other insurance or assets.
Like most Florida car owners, my client didn’t have underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance. Thus, we couldn’t make a UIM claim with State Farm for additional compensation.
GEICO Pays Us Its $10K BIL Insurance Limits Just 37 Days After the Crash
Here is GEICO’s settlement check:
GEICO paid us the $10,000 BIL insurance limits just 37 days after the accident. Normally, I would have reviewed the actual MRI CD so that I can see the herniated disc(s). Then, we label the herniated discs and show them to the responsible insurance company.
However, this case settled so fast that we didn’t request the MRI disc.
Why did this case settle so fast?
When looking at how long it takes to settle a personal injury case, there are many factors. The two biggest factors are often how badly the injured person is hurt, and the amount of the available BIL insurance coverage.
Here, Jeremy’s injuries (4 herniated discs) were worth more than the $10,000 in available insurance coverage. Additionally, we also made a punitive damage claim because the driver who caused the accident was drunk.
GEICO has a duty to settle if it could and should. Here, GEICO made the right choice and settled. If they didn’t, they may have exposed their insured to an excess judgment.
Most of the Settlement Was for Pain and Suffering
Jeremy’s chiropractor agreed to reduce his medical bill. The only bill that he owed was $250.00 to the chiropractor. And this was after we got this bill lowered.
The MRI facility and the orthopedic doctor agreed to waive their balances. Thus, he didn’t owe them any money.
This meant that almost the entire settlement was for his pain and suffering.
After my attorney’s fees and costs, and the doctor’s bill, Jeremy received a check for $6,408.
The best part?
He wasn’t left owing any medical bills.
Most importantly, he was very happy with the settlement.
What Would the Result Have Been if Another Insurance Company (Not GEICO) Was Involved?
I think that many insurance companies, like USAA and others would’ve quickly paid the $10,000 limits.
Here is a photo of Jeremy and me:
As I mentioned earlier, this accident happened in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida.
My office is in Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County, Florida. Here, I represented Jeremy for his accident.
Thus, you can call me a Miami car accident lawyer, or a Florida accident attorney.
I represent people injured anywhere in Florida. This case is one of my many Fort Lauderdale accident settlements, and Broward County injury settlements. I’ve also settled many claims with GEICO.
Hurt in an Accident in Florida?
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