On April 23, 2007, Eva Cordova-Rodriguez (“Cordova”) was driving a car that was owned by her husband, Peter Rodriguez (“Rodriguez”). This isn’t my case.
Cordova drove her car into a car being driven by Eunice Acosta (“Acosta”).
Careless driver was arrested for DUI
Cordova was arrested for driving under the influence at the scene.
Injured Lady Offers to Settle for $25,000 Limits
On October 2, 2007, Acosta’s lawyer sent a demand letter to GEICO, in which he offered to settle Acosta’s claim against Cordova and Rodriguez in exchange for the bodily injury policy limit of $25,000.
She had complaints of back, neck and elbow pain
Doctor also said she had sprained/strained shoulders
Dr. Mathieson’s initial assessment included:
- cervical (neck), thoracic and lumbar (lower back) sprain/strain;
- bruises on each elbow; and
- sprain/strain of both shoulders.
Dr. Mathieson placed Ms. Acosta on a conservative therapy program and limited her activities.
While receiving medical attention Acosta’s physicians ordered diagnostic tests.
MRI of her elbow reveals fluid in the bone
The right elbow MRI revealed minimal medial epicondylitis marrow edema in the medial epicondyle.
Fact: Medial epicondylitis is also called “golfer’s elbow.” Marrow edema is a condition where fluid is found within the bone.
Neck x-rays show straightening of spine from muscle spasms
The cervical x-rays showed straightening of the cervical spine due to muscle spasms. He sent copies of the diagnostic reports to GEICO.
Acosta completed treatment. On August 15, 2007, her treating physician wrote a final report.
Dr. Mathieson restated the previous findings and acknowledged that Ms. Acosta had reached maximum medical improvement.
Her attorney said that she had:
- chronic post traumatic cervical thoracic and lumbar sprain/strain;
- chronic post traumatic bilateral elbow medial epicondylitis; and
- chronic post traumatic sciatica.
Chronic means lasting for a long time or constantly recurring. Traumatic means relating to a physical injury.
Sciatica starts in the lower back and travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. You can see the sciatic nerve in the image below.
As a result of receiving medical treatment for the injuries, Acosta incurred substantial medical bills totaling $13,478.78.
Future liability for treatment was yet to be determined. However, additional visits would be required to control exacerbations that will occur from time to time.
Her attorney said that Acosta has sustained a serious injury as a result of GEICO insured’s negligence in this case.
She was only 29 at time of accident
He demanded the policy limits based on his client’s life expectancy, and age of only 29 years at the time of the accident, as well as everything else.
He left his offer to settle open for a period of thirty (30) days. Her attorney included her medical records with the demand letter.
Medical records say her injuries are chronic post traumatic
The medical records described Acosta’s injuries as being “chronic post traumatic” injuries. However, the records don’t specifically state that Acosta’s injuries are permanent.
GEICO offers $3,500 to settle her bodily injury claim
On October 31, 2007, GEICO responded to the offer by stating that Acosta’s injuries appear primarily soft tissue in nature. GEICO offered $3,500.00 to resolve Acosta’s bodily injury claim.
The amount GEICO offered was based on the fact that Acosta’s PIP coverage had already paid almost $10,000 towards her $13,478.78 in medical bills.
In this case, the only applicable condition would be if Acosta had suffered a “permanent” injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability.
GEICO’s $3,500 counteroffer was based on its belief that Acosta’s injuries were not permanent. Acosta did not accept GEICO’s counteroffer.
Victim sues the DUI driver, and car owner
Almost four months later, on February 22, 2008, Acosta (through her attorney) sued Cordova and Rodriguez.
In October of 2008, Acosta admitted to having two other car accidents in 2007—one on April 11, 2007 and one on December 26, 2007. Acosta said that she was not injured in those other two car accidents.
However, it appears that she said that in the December car accident, her car received a t-bone impact and that she had bruising in her buttocks and left hip.
Acosta told GEICO that she had seen another doctor on March 17, 2008—Dr. Martinez.
Acosta gave GEICO her medical records, in which he concluded that she had suffered a permanent injury from the car accident with Cordova. Dr. Martinez said that she had an overall 23% permanent impairment rating to the body as a whole.
Dr. Martinez also said that continued medical care costs would be approximately $3,000 per year (which included doctor visits, medication, physical therapy, a TENS unit, epidural blocks, and home therapy.
The image photo below shows what a TENS unit looks like.
At the top of this page is an illustration of an epidural block injection.
Finally, her doctor said that Acosta might consider surgery for her elbows, which would cost approximately $5,000 each.
How the car accident affected her life
Acosta said that her life had been limited by her injuries from the car accident. Those limitations included that she was limited in giving her special needs daughter therapy on her legs and feet and picking her up when needed.
Tip: The fact that Acosta’s injuries interfered with her ability to take care of her special needs child increases the full value of the case.
Claimant offered to settle with Cordova for $50,000 and with Rodriguez for $25,000
On January 19, 2009, Acosta offered to settle with Cordova and Rodriguez. Specifically, she offered to settle her claim against Cordova for $50,000 and to settle her claim against Rodriguez for $25,000.
On February 9, 2009, Rodriguez countered with a settlement offer of $3,500 to settle the claim against him only. Acosta accepted Rodriguez’s $3,500 counteroffer.
Claimant decides to have neck surgery
By March 24, 2009, Acosta had decided to have cervical spine surgery for her injuries. She said that she was willing to settle her bodily injury claim with Cordova for the remaining policy limit up to the time when she had surgery.
Her attorney lets GEICO know that she had cervical spine surgery
On July 14, 2009, Acosta’s attorney told GEICO and Cordova that Acosta had undergone cervical spine surgery.
On July 17, 2009, GEICO attempted to pay the remaining $21,500 bodily injury policy limit to Acosta to settle her claim against Cordova. However, Acosta rejected the settlement offer.
Jury Awards Victim $539,850.00
The case went to trial, and on December 4, 2009, the jury awarded Acosta $539,850.00 in damages.
Cordova Dies; Her Personal Representative Sues GEICO for bad faith
Cordova, the at fault driver, died. Her personal representative, Hines, sued GEICO for bad faith.
The case is currently in federal court in Tampa, Florida. The case is Hines v. GEICO Indemnity Company, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2015.
On November 24, 2015, the court refused to dismiss the bad faith case.
It is on its way to trial.
A jury will determine if a reasonably prudent person, faced with the prospect of paying the total recovery, would have paid the $25,000 policy limit (or the remaining $21,500 policy limit after Acosta accepted Rodriguez’s offer to settle the claim against him for $3,500) to settle this claim prior to March 24, 2009.
If the jury finds that the case should and could have been settled for the policy limit before March 24, 2009, GEICO will be on the hook for the entire jury award.
I have settled several cases where my client claimed that a DUI driver caused his/her neck injury. Some of those cases were with GEICO.
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