Bob, the owner of a construction company, was in the passenger seat of his own pickup truck being driven to his office by an employee when the employee fell asleep at the wheel. The truck went off the road, rolling over several times. Bob was badly injured, with compartment syndrome setting in below his right knee requiring surgery and resulting in severe and permanent disfigurement. Eight other lawyers had turned the case down, telling Bob that Worker's Compensation would be a bar to recovery because he'd have to sue a co-worker - his driver - in order to recover. We asked Bob if he had waived Compensation coverage for himself, a cost saving measure many small business owners use. None of the other attorneys had asked him that question. In fact, he had. Since he had waived coverage for himself, he was not covered by his company's Compensation policy and was therefore not barred from suing a co-worker. The insurance policy limit on the truck - Bob's own truck -- was $500,000. We settled for $490,000.
Ed, a carpenter in his forties with two children, was not provided with appropriate safety belts while working on a second story deck. As a result, he fell fourteen feet, landing upright. He broke the os calcis, or heel bone, of both feet. We brought suit under Labor Law Section 240, which protects workers working at heights. On the morning of jury selection, the insurance company's opening offer to settle was $600,000. Our client immediately instructed us to take the money and close the case. However, we pointed out that his injury was not only serious, but progressive. We reminded him that this was his only chance to get any kind of financial recovery, and that years from now, when the daily pain he was experiencing worsened, we would not be able to come back to court to ask another jury for more. He allowed us to continue negotiating. His case settled for $1.4 million.
Federal Court, Northern District of New York
Alan, a chiropractor, had a disability policy with a Connecticut insurance company. After suffering bilateral fractures of his wrists in a biking accident, his doctor told him he could no longer practice his profession, but the disability carrier refused to pay. We requested their file and were provided with approximately 1,000 pages that had been scrambled so that no two pages were in consecutive order. It took us three days to reconstruct the file, but we were then able to determine that the insurance company had decided not to pay Alan's claim because in its view, Alan was "overinsured," which meant it felt he had taken out too big a policy to begin with. However, the time for contesting his claim on those grounds had expired long before he'd made his claim. The case settled for $275,000.
St. Lawrence County
Evelyn, age 45, was operating a machine that glues the binders to the separate halves of notebooks. Her hair got caught in a section of the machine that should have been protected, and as her head was wrenched to one side, she suffered a partial scalping. Suit was brought against the machine's manufacturer. She made a better than expected recovery from the injury to her scalp, but continued to complain months and even years after the accident about pain the then weakness in her right arm. Yet there was no medical explanation for it and no connection to the accident. The insurance company for the manufacturer wanted to settle for an amount commensurate with the injury to her scalp alone. We advised against it, as the arm injury had become, by far, the greater of her problems. We encouraged her to seek additional medical attention until she received a definitive diagnosis for her arm. Two years went by. Finally, a chiropractor suggested that when Evelyn's head was wrenched, damage may have been caused to a disc in her neck, and ordered an MRI. The MRI confirmed a herniated disc pressuring the nerve root extending from Evelyn's neck down into her right arm. A neurosurgeon operated immediately to relieve the pressure, which relieved the pain. However, permanent damage had been done. The strength in her right arm, her dominant arm, would never return. The case went to trial. After two weeks of testimony, we settled for $1.2 million, which, at the time, was the largest settlement ever in St. Lawrence County.