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Auto accident cases with minimal vehicle damage: To try or not to try?

September 20, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Injury attorneys often avoid trying auto accident cases with minor car damage

Attorney Kevin Seiferheld, Michigan Auto Law
Attorney Kevin Seiferheld

Every injury attorney who litigates car accident cases has heard the horror stories about how tough it is to get a fair and full jury verdict for your client in low vehicle damage cases.

The insurance adjusters and defense insurance lawyers thump us over the head with it every time we’re in court.  It may sound counter intuitive, but settling these cases based upon supposedly how hard it is for your client to get a fair trial verdict could be short changing your injured clients.

It actually often pays to try low vehicle damage cases in the face of an insurance company’s low ball offer.

Attorneys Kevin Seiferheld and Joshua Terebelo will tackle the subject today, during the Michigan Association for Justice 2013 No Fault Institute in Southfield, Michigan.

Attorney Joshua Terebelo
Attorney Joshua Terebelo

Kevin and Joshua will share their own experiences from their recent jury trial Hannosh v. Varadi, et al., which started as a $10,000 State Farm offer of settlement and ended in a $1.485 million verdict, including case evaluation sanctions. State Farm later paid the full verdict, even though the wrongdoer had only a $100,000 insurance policy limit.

In the third party auto negligence case, Plaintiff Vikin Hannosh sought compensatory damages from defendants. In July 2008, Hannosh was rear-ended by Colomon Varadi at a red light. He sustained a lower back disc herniation that required surgery. Liability was admitted.

The Defendant had a $100,000 liability policy limit with State Farm Insurance Co., yet at the time of trial, no money was offered. Before the accident, Hannosh had worked as a restaurant manager in Hazel Park, and has been unable to work since.

The defense argued that Hannosh’s vehicle did not sustain enough damage to cause injury. They further argued that whatever damage did exist could not have been caused by this accident.

Kevin and Josh use a similar example of an auto accident case with a $100,000 policy limit and a $20,000 insurance company offer. Given that scenario, most lawyers wouldn’t spend the $50,000 to $60,000 to try the case, assuming it will not pay. But again, that’s not necessarily the case.

They will also use examples from Steven Gursten’s previous low vehicle damage case. In that case, the jury returned a $2.5 million dollar verdict on a very minor damage car accident case, where the plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Why? Ultimately insurance companies care more about their insured customers than they do about the people they injure. And insurance companies won’t do well leaving their insureds with million-dollar judgments against them.

Kevin and Josh will give creative tips on ways to combat standard defenses like low impact and minor vehicle damage car accidents, and preexisting conditions, i.e., spinal degeneration  He will also provide alternative non economic damage arguments.

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