A District of Columbia jury recently awarded our client $175,000. The Defendant in the lawsuit was insured with State Farm Insurance Company. The Defendant only had $100,000 in insurance coverage. This means that the Defendant is personally responsible for payment of the verdict in excess of his policy limits. It also means that the Defendant may have a claim against his own insurance company for bad faith . The insurance company is supposed to protect its insured from personal exposure when there is a reasonable likelihood that the verdict will exceed the insured's policy limits.
Our client was a bicyclist who was proceeding on 16th Street on the right side of the roadway. The Defendant was parked on 16th Street, and "doored" her. When the Defendant opened his car door our client struck the door and went flying over her bicycle, landing in the street. She suffered 3 non-displaced fractures on the left side of her pelvis. She did not require surgery or any treatment for the pelvis fractures. She used crutches for about 3 months, and was told to avoid weightbearing on the left side. The client also had back pain after the incident and was diagnosed with a disc bulge in her back. Our client t was also diagnosed with a labrum tear on the right side approximately a year and half after the incident. State Farm hired a doctor that said the labrum tear was not related to the incident because our client had no complaints of pain on the right side after the incident and if she had a labrum tear at the time of the accident, that it would have been extremely painful. Our client was an avid runner. State Farm's doctor said that the labrum tear was likely caused by years of running, and not the bicycle incident. Our client started running again approximately 6 months after the incident, and noticed that her hip felt like it was popping out of the socket when she would run, but did not report this to a doctor until about a year later, when the labrum tear was diagnosed.
State Farm only offered our client $23,000 despite the fact that she had $18,000 in out of pocket expenses which included her medical bills andlost wages. In other words they only offered her $5,000 for pain and suffering even though their insured's negligence caused 3 pelvis fractures, a disc bulge and a labrum tear. State Farm was counting on the jury believing its paid expert, and chose to expose their insured to significant risk by offering such a nominal amount of money. Their insured paid for insurance, so that if he ever made a mistake, and hurt someone, his personal assets would not be exposed. He expected State Farm to act in his best interests by protecting him. Instead, State Farm played games by with his financial security, by not being reasonable, and low-balling the Plaintiff. State Farm certainly did not "act like a good neighbor" in this situation. However, the saga will continue. Now, the Defendant has a right to make a bad faith claim against State Farm insurance company. In other words, when our client seeks to collect $75,000 from the Defendant (the amount over State Farm's insurance policy) the Defendant can turn around and sue State Farm for bad faith. The Defendant would not only be allowed to collect the $75,000 from State Farm but also may be entitled to collect punitive damages, which are damages designed to punish State Farm for its bad faith behavior.