Articles Posted in Car Accidents

One thing I think we can all universally agree on it that there are just too many pedestrian accidents and deaths. Clearly, Chicago is not an exception. A report of pedestrian and vehicle crashes released by Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) in 2011, focused on this problem and the types of crashes involving pedestrians. The authors of the study reviewed pedestrian accident data from police reports in the Chicago metropolitan area to determine how each incident occurred.

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fatal school bus accident lawsuitA fatal school bus accident last week has prompted a lawsuit alleging unsafe conditions for the bus’ lack of seatbelts.

The details here are sad. The 60 year old school bus driver and a five-year-old little girl were killed in the crash. The bus, which struck a bridge, was carrying approximately 50 children, ages 5-16.

A suit has now been filed by the family of three of the injured children, with injuries ranging from a broken leg to claims of post-traumatic stress. The suit claims that the bus company failed to inspect the school bus for defective and unsafe conditions, including the lack of seatbelts, though a state police investigation determined that the bus was in fine working condition. The suit further alleges that the company failed to “discover, determine, and /or monitor the health conditions” of the school bus driver, though an autopsy revealed no signs of a medical condition that may have caused the driver to strike the bridge.

This is obviously only one of many more suits to come. The accidental death of anyone, especially a child, prompts frustration and anger, but I’m not sure how the unsafe claim for the bus’ lack of seatbelts will play out.

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Medicare continues to make efforts to try, post Haro v. Sebelius, to make for an easier solution for dealing with Medicare liens. The latest? In very small cases, they are more likely to be handled by injury victims themselves as opposed to personal injury lawyers, Medicare will offer a 25% gross payment alternative to dealing with Medicare on a lien.

It is certainly not the deal of a lifetime by any stretch. More importantly, it is only for cases that do not exceed $5,000. But the option applies in:

  • Cases after November 7, 2011
  • Involve physical injury
  • $5,000 or less
  • The option is selected in a to-be-determined time frame
  • Medicare has yet to make a final demand
  • The beneficiary does not expect to receive future third party injury payments

If these conditions are satisfied, a beneficiary will resolve and satisfy Medicare’s lien by paying Medicare 25% of the insurance settlement. While the primary application will now, more than likely, be small soft tissue car accident claims, a successful run might lead to larger scale implementation down the road.


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The average car/truck/motorcycle accident verdict in New York is $837,020, which is stunningly high compared to most other jurisdictions.

Why is this? Are New York jurors just that much more generous than, say, jurors in Maryland?

The answer is that New York’s no-fault accident law requires that plaintiffs suffer a “serious injury” before a lawsuit can be brought against the at-fault driver. While there is some question that having a magical threshold that needs to be crossed is going to be fraught with great flaws, there is no question that this New York scheme, as desultory as the justice it might bring, keeps minor personal injury car accident cases out of court.

What’s my point? My point is that this completely distorts average car accident verdicts in New York. I read Metro Verdicts Monthly and Mealey’s which provide a lot of individual verdicts in car accident cases in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. It is amazing how many jury verdicts there are for $10,000 when, if you look at the case, is really not such a bad result. New York has none of these cases deflating their average.

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A recent Jury Verdict Research (JVR) study found that the average verdict in a New York motor vehicle accident case is $837,020. The median verdict is $150,000. This data does not include defense verdicts which, if considered in the data, would obviously reduce the average award.

To be sure, $837,020 is a lot of money for the average car accident case. But you have to keep in mind that in New York because of the threshold level of injury requirement, juries are more likely to hear a serious injury case than a jury would in, say, for example, Maryland.

Rear-end accidents accounted for 21% of the successful verdicts in the study. Pedestrian lawsuits were 17% of the verdicts and intersection accidents made up 15%.

state car insurance costsMSN provides the average annual premium for car insurance by state. The numbers are provided below.

The numbers are interesting for their relativity but not for their absolute values. Because the numbers are based on a male driving a 2010 vehicle with slightly better than average coverage (100 (per person)/300 (per accident)/50 (property damage). Why not shoot for a more average driver who is not driving a brand new car? These are insurance company statistics and insurance companies want us to read this and say (1) my insurance company is not charging me that much, it must be cheap, and (2) rates are high all over so we must need tort reform to lower car insurance.

With those caveats, here are the numbers:

There is a fundamental problem with soft tissue injury cases that few plaintiffs’ lawyers will admit: some percentage of soft tissue injury plaintiffs are either completely faking the injury or exaggerating the symptoms.  Maybe you are not, dear reader.  But many do and the key – and the hard part – is figuring out who is who, both for lawyers considering taking a case and for judges and juries.

soft tissue injuries
Make no mistake: judges, juries, and even insurance companies struggle with these cases. Whiplash. Car accident. What comes to mind when you hear these three words?   Now, wait.  Make sure you answer this question as you would before you got hurt.  It is probably a much different answer.

Most people—and more important to this conversation, most jurors—conjure up some version of someone in a neck collar pretending to be more hurt than they really are. Clearly, the worldview that most jurors have causes them to lean towards the insurance companies and doubt victims with soft tissue injury claims. How do I know this? Jury verdicts.

Personal injury victims want a calculator or formula to determine what their settlement should be. “How much is my case worth?” seems like a fair question. The human brain is averse to uncertainty. In lab experiments, our wiring in this regard is underscored: we prefer physical pain to uncertainty.

Regrettably, there is no formula or calculator that shows how much money you will get in your accident case. The real world is too complex for a personal injury settlement calculator. A car accident case is worth what a judge or jury would give the injury victim.

There are a lot of resources and statistics to look at values of particular injuries.  Here are some examples:

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar was named in a lawsuit following a fatal alcohol-related car crash. In the lawsuit, plaintiff claims the bar over-served a man on the night of the accident and was negligent in the death of her daughter.

This is an awful case. The man’s pickup truck collided with a car occupied by three teenagers, killing two people of them and seriously injuring the third. The drunk driver was also killed in the car accident.

As tragic as this case is, I have some concern with dram shop laws that hold bars accountable in these cases just because I think it is so difficult to track who has been served what at a bar.

A student at Missouri University was awarded $450,000, a jury in Missouri found this week. The student was struck on a bike while crossing an intersection and then hit a second time and dragged by a Columbia Water and Light truck. Jurors determined that the driver of the first car and the City of Columbia were to blame for 25 percent of the accident.

The verdict was for $1.8 million but under Missouri’s comparative negligence law; the defendants are responsible for their portion of 25% of the fault.

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