Butler Kahn recently obtained a $519,010.50 settlement for Mr. Juan Ramos*, a 23-year-old man who was involved in a very serious motorcycle accident. Despite limited coverage and some tough facts, we were able to get a great result for our client using a demand pursuant to Rule 68 and Georgia’s Unliquidated Damages Interest Act.
Here’s more about the case.
Facts of the Motorcycle Wreck
On the morning of the accident, our client was riding his motorcycle down a residential road in Gwinnett County, Georgia. The at-fault driver was at a stop sign waiting to exit her neighborhood. Suddenly, the at-fault driver pulled in front of our client. Witnesses at the scene said Mr. Ramos laid down his motorcycle in an attempt to avoid the collision, hit the at-fault driver’s vehicle, and slid under the at-fault driver’s car.
Police diagram showing the point of impact
Damage to at-fault driver’s vehicle
Damage to at-fault driver’s vehicle
After speaking to witnesses and looking at the scene, the police officer cited the at-fault driver for failure to obey a stop sign. The officer also noted Mr. Ramos did not have a license or permit to operate the motorcycle.
Personal Injuries Sustained by Our Client
When the ambulance arrived, the EMTs found Mr. Ramos lying on the side of the road. Mr. Ramos was clearly in pain and bleeding from his leg. At the hospital, it was clear Mr. Ramos was severely injured. He had internal bleeding from a liver laceration, a broken wrist, and a large open wound on his thigh. He stayed in the ICU for several days and underwent two surgeries. After about a week in the hospital, Mr. Ramos was discharged home. While Mr. Ramos recovered from most of his injuries, he was still limited in strength and flexibility nearly a year after the wreck. Additionally, Mr. Ramos incurred over $160,000.00.
Highlighting the extent of Mr. Ramos’ injuries was an important part of the case. To do that, we hired a medical illustrator to draw Mr. Ramos’ injuries and surgeries. In total we had three illustrations done.
Mr. Ramos’ injuries
Mr. Ramos’ first surgery to repair his broken wrist
Mr. Ramos’ second surgery to repair his large leg wound
These three illustrations were intended to show the jury what Mr. Ramos’ injuries and surgeries really looked like.
Insurance and Getting in a Wreck When Driving a Friend’s Vehicle
It was important for us to find all the car insurance policies that applied to the wreck. First, was the at-fault driver’s policy. Second, we had to find what, if any, underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage would apply.
Here, because Mr. Ramos had borrowed the motorcycle that he was riding at the time of the collision, there were two possible sources of UM coverage. First, any UM policy that Mr. Ramos had purchased for himself would apply. Then if that still wasn’t enough coverage, any UM policy that covered the motorcycle could apply to benefit Mr. Ramos.
Here, however, there was no UM – Mr. Ramos had no UM coverage of his own, and there was no UM coverage on the motorcycle. This meant we were limited to the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
Early in the case, we offered to settle the case for the liability insurance limits – but the liability insurer failed to accept our offer. Because we had made a valid offer to settle within the limits but the insurer did not accept, we were later able to leverage a settlement with the liability carrier for above the liability insurance limits. That is a rare situation, but we were able to make it work here.
Getting in a Wreck with No Motorcycle License or Permit
When driving a motorcycle in Georgia, you are required to have a motorcycle license or permit. See O.C.G.A. § 40-5-24. Mr. Ramos did not have a motorcycle license or permit. The police officer noted this in his report and explained that Mr. Ramos did not receive a citation because he was taken by the ambulance.
This fact was concerning for us because a jury could find Mr. Ramos was negligent or at fault for driving a motorcycle without a permit or license. At trial, if plaintiff is found to be 50% or more negligent, that plaintiff is barred from receiving any money. In other words, if a jury found Mr. Ramos to be more than 50% negligent or at fault because he didn’t have a motorcycle license or permit, he would not receive a single dollar. This was a threat to the case we had to keep in mind.
$519,010.50 Motorcycle Accidence Settlement
Our client’s case was strong. He was seriously injured, and the police officer found the other driver at fault. But there were risks going to trial. Mr. Ramos was young, on a motorcycle, and did not have a license or permit to drive that motorcycle.
We discussed the case with our client and decided to make a demand. An offer pursuant to the Unliquidated Damages Interest Act (“UDIA”) and a Rule 68 Offer are two effective tools to settle a case. An offer pursuant to the UDIA puts the defendant and insurance company at risk of paying pre-judgment interest. A Rule 68 offer puts the defendant and insurance company at risk of paying attorney’s fees and case expenses.
A UDIA offer allows a plaintiff to make a demand in a tort action. The defendant or insurance company has thirty days to respond to a plaintiff’s demand. If the defendant or insurance company does not accept the demand and the plaintiff receives a judgment for more than the demand, the plaintiff is entitled to interest on the judgment. The interest is the prime rate plus 3%. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-14. When we sent our demand in Mr. Ramos’ case, the prime rate was 7.5%, meaning the defendant and insurance company risked 10.5% pre-judgment interest on the judgment.
Like a UDIA offer, a Rule 68 Demand allows a plaintiff to make a demand and requires the defendant or insurance company to accept the demand within thirty days. If the Court’s judgment is 125% over the demanded amount, then the plaintiff is entitled to attorney’s fees. See O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68.
We combined these two tools to make a powerful offer to the defendant and insurance company. We offered $519,010.50 to settle Mr. Ramos’ case. Twenty-nine days after making our offer, the defendant and insurance company accepted.
Our client was thrilled with the result and was very grateful for his personal injury settlement. You can see Mr. Ramos’ testimonial here:
* The names in this writeup have been changed for the privacy of those involved.