Butler Kahn recently settled a fatal pedestrian accident case for $1.25 million, the full insurance limits. Our firm had the privilege of representing the family of Mr. Roy Goss in this wrongful death case. Mr. Goss was killed while crossing the street in his electric mobility scooter in rural southwest Georgia.
We have changed the names in this written description of the case, but it is otherwise accurate.
Facts of the Pedestrian Accident
On April 26, 2021, just before 4:30 p.m., Mr. Goss was crossing US Highway 27 from the exit of a Circle K convenience store in a rural town in Southwest Georgia. Mr. Goss was disabled due to a below-the-knee amputation, so he used an electric mobility scooter to get around.
Mr. Goss lived just a short distance across the street from the small-town convenience store, where he was a regular customer. On this occasion, Mr. Goss was being careful and cautious as usual. Witnesses saw him look both ways before he began to cross the street. There was no crosswalk anywhere nearby, meaning that Georgia law allowed him to cross the street where he exited the Circle K as a pedestrian. Georgia law, of course, does not prohibit people in wheelchairs from crossing roads the same way anyone else would. Georgia law does, however, require drivers to keep a proper lookout ahead for potential hazards.
The driver who struck Mr. Goss was a college student passing through on her way home to Atlanta from Florida. She hit Mr. Goss with her car, knocking him to the ground and critically injuring him. Mr. Goss was conscious for some time at the scene but died before the life flight helicopter arrived. The driver stated several times to an eyewitness, “I didn’t see him.”
Gathering Evidence in Wrongful Death Case
We knew we faced an uphill battle from the beginning of this case because the police report Mr. Goss as the at-fault party in the collision. We moved quickly to gather important evidence, including the surveillance footage that showed the white sedan speeding and colliding with Mr. Goss. Attorney Jeb Butler also met with several witnesses, one of whom testified by affidavit that the driver of the white sedan was “flying” as she approached the Circle K.
The driver’s saying she “didn’t see him” was not a very good excuse. It was broad daylight on a clear, sunny day. When Mr. Goss first entered the roadway, the driver was several hundred feet down the road, which would have given her plenty of time to stop or otherwise avoid hitting him. We suspected the driver was distracted in some way, so we made sure that the driver’s cell phone and cell records were preserved as evidence. We also hired an accident reconstruction expert to inspect the scene and vehicles involved.
The accident reconstruction expert we hired was able to determine from analyzing the Circle K surveillance video frames that the driver was speeding more than 15 miles per hour over the 35 mile per hour speed limit. The driver’s insurance company resisted our requests to allow our expert to inspect the car she was driving, likely because the insurance company knew she was speeding from their own inspection.
Wrongful Death Settlement
The driver’s insurance company initially tried to get Mr. Gosss’ family to settle the case for just $250,000 without disclosing the fact that there was also a million-dollar umbrella insurance policy. When we called to request to inspect the driver’s vehicle, the insurance adjuster invited us to send a settlement offer for $250,000 with the suggestion that the insurance company would consider paying that amount without the need for an inspection. Based on our experience dealing with insurance companies and our knowledge of how insurance policies are sold, we strongly suspected there was something the insurance company was not telling us. We warned the insurance company that we intended to file a complaint with the Georgia Insurance Commissioner after it failed to disclose all policies of insurance that did or may have provided coverage for the collision, in violation of the clear requirements under Georgia law. Our suspicions proved correct, and the insurance company then reluctantly disclosed the $1,000,000 umbrella policy.
We sent the insurance company a carefully and strategically written settlement offer giving it one chance to pay the full policy limits of $1.25 million. This put the insurance company in a difficult position because if it refused to pay, it would then place its customer at risk of losing everything. Had the insurance company failed to pay when it should have, we would have proceeded to take the case to trial and obtained a judgment against the driver. The driver, who would be person
ally liable for any amount above the $1.25 million insurance limits. Here, the insurance company recognized that we had a strong case and paid the full policy limits of $1.25 million.