Our client, 69-year-old John Bedford, was on his way to pick up breakfast when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Our client’s pickup truck overturned, leaving him trapped upside-down. Despite it being almost 8 a.m., the drunk driver had a nearly half-empty bottle of vodka in her purse and was unable to follow basic instructions from the police.
A breath test at the county jail revealed her Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was 0.254—over three times the legal limit for DUI.
Mr. Bedford suffered a broken collarbone, which required surgery to piece together the multiple fragments of bone with a metal plate.
The orthopedic surgeon told Mr. Bedford that he will likely never regain full mobility in his shoulder and that he may need a second surgery in the future to remove the metal hardware.
Before the collision, Mr. Bedford was active and healthy for his age with no significant medical history. After several months of painful rehabilitation, Mr. Bedford slowly regained his ability to do routine activities of daily life.
Now almost a year after the collision, Mr. Bedford is still unable to do the things he used to enjoy, like playing catch with his grandchildren. Despite the pain he continues to deal with on a daily basis, Mr. Bedford considers himself lucky to be alive after the head-on DUI collision.
Butler Kahn was able to quickly obtain a settlement for the full insurance limits of $100,000. In addition to compensatory damages, which are intended to repay damages like medical bills and compensate the victim for his pain and suffering, Georgia law allows victims of drunk driving accidents to recover punitive damages, which are intended to punish and deter reckless conduct.
In drunk driving cases, there is no limit to the amount of punitive damages that a jury can award. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f). The drunk driver, in this case, was also facing felony criminal charges for causing these serious injuries while severely intoxicated. For these reasons, the drunk driver’s insurance company had a strong incentive to settle the case.
Unfortunately, the drunk driver only carried $25,000 of liability insurance coverage. Because the drunk driver was underinsured, Butler Kahn turned to Mr. Bedford’s underinsured motorist insurance coverage before making any settlement offer for these minimal insurance limits.
Although Mr. Bedford only carried $25,000 of underinsured motorist insurance coverage on the pickup truck he was driving, Butler Kahn was able to combine or “stack” this coverage with additional policies of insurance for other residents in Mr. Beford’s household.
These policies of resident relatives allowed Butler Kahn to recover an additional $50,000 for Mr. Bedford. By reaching a settlement with Mr. Beford’s insurance company first, before offering to settle with the drunk driver’s insurance company, Butler Kahn preserved our client’s claims for punitive damages and maximized our client’s financial recovery.