I settled an Uber driver’s personal injury claim for $260,000. The car accident was in Miami, Florida.
Here is a video about this $260K settlement:
Here is the actual crash diagram from the police report:On August 14, 2017, Ray, was an Uber driver with a passenger in his car. Ray was in Vehicle #2 in the above diagram. He had a passenger at the time of the crash.
A company van (vehicle #1 in the diagram) was heading in the opposite direction. The van made a left hand turn.
The front of the van collided with the left driver side of the Uber driver’s car. You can see the damage to the car that Ray was driving (below):
The van wasn’t as badly damaged. Check out the photo below:
Why does the damage to the vehicle(s) matter?
All things equal, insurance companies offer more money for pain and suffering if a vehicle in the crash was badly damaged. This is because they have an easier time relating the injuries to the accident.
Police Report Said Uber Driver Had No Injuries
The crash report said that the my client (the Uber driver) had no injuries. The Uber driver received a ticket for driving without insurance. The Uber passenger wasn’t injured.
The driver of the van received a ticket for failure to yield to oncoming traffic while making a left turn. American Casualty Company of Reading Pennsylvania insured the company whose employee was driving the van.
American Casualty is a subsidiary of CNA Insurance.
But let’s make one thing clear:
Even though CNA pays above average, they are still an insurance company. They will offer as little as possible to settle the claim.
A tow truck towed the car that Ray was driving from the accident scene.
Ray went home after the accident. However, he had severe back pain. He called our office. We told him to go to the hospital if he felt that he needed it. He then went to the hospital.
At the hospital, doctors put a cervical collar on his neck. He is wearing the C collar in the photo below.
Doctors admitted him into the hospital. This means that he was given a room in the hospital.
While in the hospital, he decided to Get a Free Consultation to see if I could represent him.
Moments after speaking with me on the phone, Ray hired me as his Uber accident lawyer.
Here is what Ray looked like when I visited him at the hospital:
Doctors put an IV line in his arm, and an oxygen tube below his nose.
Always take photos of your injuries. They can be very helpful when attempting to settle with the responsible insurance company. If the insurance company won’t offer you a fair settlement, photos can be effective with a jury.
At the hospital, doctors gave Ray a CT scan of his cervical spine (neck).
CT Scan Showed a Fractured Lamina of a Vertebra
Here is what the lamina of a vertebrae looks like:
The CT scan showed a fracture of the left lamina of the T3 vertebra. The image below shows where the T3 vertebra is located.
There was minimal displacement at the fracture site. Minimal displacement means that the fracture was well aligned.
All things equal, insurance companies offer less money for the pain and suffering component of the claim if there is minimal displacement.
Also, all things equal, a fracture of the lamina of a vertebra isn’t worth as much as a compression fracture of the vertebrae.
At the hospital, doctors took an MRI of Ray’s neck. The MRI did not show the lamina fracture. It also did not show edema at the T3 level. Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues.
If you have edema, doctors are more likely to agree that the accident (trauma) caused the lamina fracture. I’ll talk about this more in a little bit.
Doctors also took an MRI of his lower back.
MRI of Lower Back Showed 2 Disc Protrusions
The MRI of Ray’s back showed two disc protrusions. I’ve labeled them here:
They showed a L4-5 left paracentral disc protrusion with some indentation on the thecal sac with moderate subarticular recess stenosis on the left.
It also showed a L5-S1 left paracentral disc protrusion, which abuts against the thecal sac and may abut against the exiting nerve root on the left.
Why does this matter?
All things equal, a herniated disc is worth more than a bulging disc.
In total, Ray spent six days in the hospital.
All things equal, the longer the hospital stay the higher the full value of a case for settlement purposes. This is because the medical bills and pain and suffering component are both higher.
The main reason for his long hospital stay was so that doctors could observe him.
Ray followed up with his primary care doctor. His primary care physician referred him to a neurosurgeon.
Now, I want to quickly talk about getting the car fixed. Then, I’ll talk more about Ray’s injuries.
CNA Takes A Very Long Time to Authorize Fixing the Car
It took a long time to get the car that my client (Ray) was driving fixed. CNA told me that they needed to take my client’s statement in order to accept liability and consider paying for his car.
I disagreed. I told the adjuster that I wouldn’t let her take my client’s statement. Typically, I don’t let the other vehicle’s insurance company take my client’s statement.
Approximately 40 or so days after the accident, CNA still hadn’t agreed to pay for the car damage. They told me that they were still investigating liability.
My patience was running low. I filed a consumer complaint with Florida’s Department of Insurance. Shortly thereafter, CNA agreed to pay for the repairs.
Neurosurgeon Says No Surgery Needed
The neurosurgeon reviewed the CT scan done at the hospital. He said that there is a “linear break in the cortex just medial to the pedicle lamina junction on the left side towards the pedicle at T3.”
Thus, he confirmed that Ray had a a fracture.
The bad news for the case?
The neurosurgeon said that he cannot really tell if this is truly an acute fracture.
This means that the neurosurgeon couldn’t tell if the fracture was recent. In other words, he couldn’t say whether the car accident caused this fracture.
Uber Driver is Entitled to Aggravation of Pre-Existing Injury
However, in Florida, the injured person is still entitled to compensation for an aggravation (worsening) of a pre-existing condition.
The neurosurgeon did not recommend surgery to the lamina fracture. (If the doctor would’ve recommended surgery, this would’ve increased the settlement.)
He said the lumbar MRI showed degenerative disc changes at L4-5, and at L5-S1. This meant that Ray’s disc protrusions may have existed before the accident.
On a positive note for the case, the neurosurgeon said that Ray appeared to have suffered trauma from motor vehicle accident. He thought physical therapy would be the best treatment option.
Ray then received a couple of months of physical therapy for his lower back pain.
However, Ray still had lower back pain. The neurosurgeon recommended that he see a pain management doctor. Ray had Molina Medicaid.
It was virtually impossible for him to get a referral from his primary care doctor to a pain management specialist. He had delay after delay after trying to get a referral from his primary care doctor.
Therefore, I referred him to a pain management doctor. The doctor agreed to treat Ray with no money up front. However, the doctor agreed to be paid from the settlement. This is perfectly legal in Florida.
The pain management specialist gave Ray one epidural steroid injection to his lower back. This is an image of an epidural steroid injection.
Ray said that this helped him relieve some of his lower back pain. He also followed up with one visit with a chiropractor.
Medicaid Wouldn’t Pay the Hospital Bill
Since the Uber driver was engaged in a ride, he wasn’t entitled to personal injury protection (PIP) benefits through Uber. At the time, Uber’s insurance company was James River Insurance Company.
Here is their letter saying that there is no PIP. (I’ve blocked or taken out information that isn’t relevant.)
Unfortunately, Progressive now insures Uber in Florida. Progressive is terrible when it comes to paying for personal injury claims. I wish Uber would’ve at least used Travelers, USAA or Nationwide. They are all much better than Progressive.
Ray was driving an uninsured vehicle that he didn’t own. Since he didn’t live with any relative who had a car, he wasn’t entitled to PIP.
If Uber is Engaged in a Ride, You Don’t Need a Permanent Injury
The good news?
Since Ray was engaged in a ride for Uber, he didn’t need to meet Florida’s tort threshold to get compensation for his pain and suffering. Thus, he didn’t need a doctor to say that his injury was permanent.
Molina Healthcare received and paid his bills related to his treatment at the hospital.
Molina initially paid the hospital $2,900 of a $99,000 bill. Since this was a Medicaid plan, the hospital was required to write adjust the balance to zero. This means that Ray wouldn’t owe the hospital.
However, we would still need to pay back the Medicaid plan, subject to the applicable law, from his personal injury settlement.
It gets worse…for a little bit.
Molina then took its payment back from the hospital. The hospital then adjusted its bill. The hospital said that the $99,000 total billed charges were due!
To help get the hospital billed paid, I filed an appeal with Molina Healthcare. I also filed a complaint with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). I’ll talk about what happened in a moment.
CNA’s Makes a First Offer of $150K to Settle the Personal Injury Case
I have to give credit where credit is due. American Casualty Company (CNA) gave me an opening offer of $150,000 to settle Ray’s personal injury claim.
His personal injury claim was against the company whose driver caused the accident. From my experience, CNA’s opening offer of $150,000 is much more than State Farm, Allstate, GEICO and Progressive would’ve offered.
When CNA made its $150,000 offer, the adjuster asked me for a recorded statement regarding the accident and his injuries.
She also asked for an affidavit stating that Ray did not own a motor vehicle at the time of this accident nor did he live with a resident relative who owned a motor vehicle at the time of this accident.
I created an affidavit of vehicle non-ownership for him to sign. Here is what it looked like before I filled in the claim info:
Why did the CNA adjuster want this affidavit showing that there wasn’t any PIP insurance available?
She wanted to confirm that there wasn’t PIP insurance available that would pay the hospital bill. If there was PIP available, then it could pay some of the hospital bill. This would lower Ray’s claim for outstanding medical bills.
Also, if Ray was entitled to PIP, he may then need a permanent injury in order to get compensation for his pain and suffering.
I could have demanded the $1 million limits. However, that would’ve just delayed the settlement since my client’s case wasn’t worth even close to $1 million.
After about a month of negotiation, and several offers and counteroffers, CNA offered $200,000 to settle. The adjuster’s arguments were that:
- There were no injuries were noted at scene.
- Ray waited until later at night to go to hospital.
- They put him in ICU but he had no fractures, no stitches, no bleeding, no loss of consciousness.
CNA’s adjuster admitted that the x-ray noted a fracture of the T3 on the left but said that there was no prevertebral soft tissue swelling. She also said that the CT scan notes normal anatomic alignment, no acute fracture or dislocation.
The adjuster said that there were degenerative changes. She was implying that his injuries existed before the accident. She also said that the MRI of thoracic also notes no fracture to the lamina of T3.
When CNA offered $200,000, the adjuster said that she had “a little room” to increase her offer.
We Settled for $260K
I negotiated with CNA for almost two months. We then settled the Uber driver’s personal injury claim for $260,000.
On May 29, 2018, CNA issued the settlement check. Here it is:
This is a great result given that he didn’t have surgery. A very, very small percentage of personal injury cases without surgery result in a $260,000 settlement.
This settlement shows you that sometimes if an adjuster says they have “a little room” to increase their offer, that could mean as much as $60,000. Or maybe more…or less.
Another takeaway is that it takes time to negotiate a settlement in a larger personal injury claim. If my client would’ve been more desperate and tried to rush the settlement, I don’t think CNA would’ve offered us $260,000.
It gets better…
Molina Finally Paid the Hospital Bill
After numerous conversations with Molina’s attorney (and AHCA), Molina told my office that they paid the hospital the amount owed per law. Hopefully, this will result in an extra $96,000 in my client’s pocket.
This is because Ray should get the benefit of the huge adjustment to the hospital bill. In other words, the after the hospital accepts Molina’s Medicaid payment, they likely won’t be allowed to charge him for the balance.
We are waiting on the hospital to give us the final amount owed in writing. Unfortunately, the hospital is disorganized.
The Uber driver should get benefit of the hospital adjusting his balance due to Medicaid. Thus, I estimate that about $255,000 of the entire settlement is for pain and suffering. In other words, about 98% of the settlement is for his pain and suffering.
How much of this settlement should Ray get after medical bills and my attorney’s fees (and costs) were paid?
This is not the norm.
It is almost impossible to find Uber accident settlement amounts online. However, I think this $260,000 settlement is much larger than the average Uber accident settlement.
This is, in part, because most Uber accidents don’t result in a six day hospital stay.
If the Uber Driver Would’ve Had a Fusion Surgery, Would That Have Increased the Settlement?
In my client’s case, doctors did not recommend spinal surgery.
However, let’s assume that they did. In this hypothetical, let’s assume that the Uber driver also had a one level fusion surgery after his inpatient hospital stay.
In that case, I think CNA Insurance would’ve offered at least an additional $250,000 for the pain and suffering associated with a fusion surgery.
This is because past Florida jury verdicts generally put the full value for the pain and suffering component of a single level fusion between $250,000 and $350,000. This assumes that the fusion is a success.
I think CNA would have also added value for any additional out-of-pocket medical bills (and lost wages) associated with that surgery. Thus, if the Uber driver would’ve had a fusion surgery, I think CNA would’ve offered at least $510,000.
This is in addition to out of pocket medical bills from the surgery. That assumes that the fusion surgery was a success. It also assumes that the Uber driver received about 10 months of treatment in total.
If he had a poor result from the fusion surgery, the value further increases.
What Commenters Have Said About this Settlement
My video (on Youtube) about this settlement has received several comments. One commenter thought that we should have held out for $10 million.
My response is that in my next lifetime, perhaps insurance companies, juries and judges will be that generous. But not in this one.
To get $10 million, my client would’ve needed to be rendered quadriplegic from this crash.
Do you think this $260K settlement was a good result? How much would you have awarded the Uber driver?
Please let me know in the comments below.
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Editors Note: I’ve updated this article since the settlement.