By David Peel
While all injuries are regrettable, not all are compensable. There are at least three ingredients that must be present for a winning case:
1. First, you need “Liability,” sometimes called “fault.” Liability results from negligent acts or omissions of another, such as someone running a stop sign, or a doctor mistakenly cutting off the wrong leg.
2. Secondly, a case needs “Damages,” such as injuries, death or lost wages, that were proximately caused–or exacerbated—by the negligent act or omission.
3. Finally, there is “Collectability.” A judgment against a person or company may be for millions of dollars, but that is not the end. A judgment or claim that cannot be collected, either due to lack of insurance, poverty or bankruptcy, is still essentially worthless.
A strong case must have all three. Imagine you do my job, and here are a couple examples to consider, and see if you notice what is missing:
A). At midnight, a young man with a history of problems with the law, without a driver’s license or car insurance, who was always unemployed, was doing 107 m.p.h. in a stolen Corvette the wrong way on the interstate. He also had no lights on when he struck a family in an older minivan head on. The impact injured the single mother and child in the old van. The Mom had a fractured shoulder and was in a walking boot, so that she could no longer do her job, cleaning houses. The struggling single mother had recently had her auto insurance cancelled for non-payment. The child had a broken jaw. Do you take the injured family’s injury case?
B). Minutes later, a tractor trailer tried to stop, as traffic screeched to a halt. Unable to stop he crushed in the rear of a delivery van. While the van driver was spared injury, the tractor trailer driver hit his face, probably on a visor, and still suffers intermittent vision problems in his left eye that ended his driving career. Do you take the van driver’s injury case? Do you take the tractor trailer drivers’ injury case?
The right answer is to take none of these cases. While our hearts go out to the single mom and child, in example (A), neither are covered by Uninsured Motorists coverage. This is critical, because the car that hit them was stolen, therefore the car owner’s insurance will not cover it, as a non-permissive user. The driver himself was uninsured, and sounds like he is broke, so collectability is your issue here. In example (B), the van driver was not at fault, but was not injured, therefore, while the van should be fixed by the truck driver’s company, there were no bodily damages. The truck driver, on the other hand, was hurt and suffered losses, but was at fault. There is no one else with liability.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.
By David Peel