Butler Kahn recently settled a car accident case for $300,000. The at-fault driver and her insurance company admitted fault for the accident but refused to make a reasonable pre-suit offer. The insurance company’s main claim was that Ms. Smith’s medical bills—something over which she had no control—were unreasonable. Unfortunately, this a common insurance company tactic, which underscores the importance of hiring a lawyer who is not afraid to litigate.
We filed a lawsuit and used a statutory tool called an “offer of settlement” to force the insurance company to pay a fair price. The details of the case follow, but we changed the parties’ names to maintain privacy.
The Worst Day of Ms. Smith’s Life
On January 7, 2020, Ms. Nancy Smith was on her way to run some errands. As she was driving southbound on Roswell Road, Jodie Osborne wasn’t paying attention and darted out into the busy road. Ms. Smith plowed into Ms. Osborne’s car going about 35 miles per hour. Ms. Osborne admitted that there was nothing Ms. Smith could have done to avoid the collision.
The front-end of both cars were destroyed, as seen below:
Ms. Smith broke several ribs and spent multiple days in the hospital. During those first several weeks following the accident, every breath felt like a punch in the chest.
Despite serious injuries, the insurance company refused to make a reasonable offer. We’re seeing this stubborn behavior from insurance companies a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic since they know it might be years before a case is ever presented to a jury. Without the ability to use trial to leverage a settlement, it’s important to hire an experienced litigator who has other tools in his or her toolbox, such as a Rule 68 Offer of Settlement.
Using an Offer of Settlement under O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68
Georgia law allows a plaintiff to make an offer to settle a case with a defendant, with real consequences, by exposing the insurance company to attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation. Specifically, if the defendant rejects an offer under Rule 68 and the plaintiff “recovers a final judgment in an amount greater than 125 percent of such offer of settlement, the plaintiff shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation” from the time of rejection through entry of judgment.
The trick to using offers of settlement is finding a number that you know you can beat at trial, but that fully compensates your client (and makes them happy!). That’s what we did—we met with Ms. Smith and came up with a number that she was happy with, then sent the offer to the lawyers the insurance company was paying to defend the case. Within a few weeks, the insurance company paid $300,000 for Ms. Smith’s injuries.
Hire a Lawyer Who Will Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse
This case is an example of why you need an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney to handle your case. Even when fault and liability are clear, insurance companies often refuse to negotiate by employing tactics such as challenging the “reasonableness” of the injured person’s medical expenses. This tactic makes no sense and is unfair to the victim of negligence who has no say in what the hospital charges them for a surgery or other treatment.
When you or someone you love are involved in a car accident, time is of the essence. It’s important to hire lawyers who will put in the work to build your case for trial, so you don’t settle your case for less than its true value. It’s equally important that your lawyer be familiar with the tools at their disposal, such as offers of settlement. At Butler Kahn we have experience using offers of settlement or, in the words of Vito Corleone, “making them an offer they can’t refuse.”
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