My condolences for your loss. You do need to consult with and hire an attorney without delay if you have not. If you have an attorney, of course, direct your questions to him or her. If not, I wanted to raise two things that I don't think I saw in my colleagues' other posts: 1) Underinsured Motorist Coverage; and 2) Creating leverage by a Policy Limits Demand. First, one thing you might not have thought about during this difficult time is the possibility of more than $1M of insurance. Please gather all of YOUR motor vehicle insurance policies without delay. Yes, YOUR policies (even for vehicles not in the tragic wreck). You have "underinsured motorist coverage" and need to determine what type of UM insurance it is (there are two types: one adds on top of the liability limits, one does not. So the actual available insurance might well exceed the $1M. That must be reviewed carefully. Second, time and leverage. You raise the issue of "how long will it take?" Sadly, while you are likely still in the grieving process, the insurance company has likely devised its strategy on the case (which often seems to be delay, deny, and minimize your loss or their responsibility). An attorney can create leverage against the insurance company (which equates to pressure for them to settle sooner rather than later) by sending a "time limited policy limits demand" that forces them to put their duty to THEIR INSURED on equal footing with their concern about their pocket book. How? Well, if the insurance company does not pay your policy limits demand, and makes you fight tooth and nail, and you get a much larger verdict (hypothetically, $2M just to make the example), then THEIR insured has to pay that extra $1M. THEIR INSURED will likely be very mad at his insurance company for not settling for the $1M within the time you demanded. If that person has a $1M policy, he likely has personal assets to protect. This might create a serious claim by him AGAINST his insurance company. But why do you care about that? Simple. Instead of him having to pay his assets to you, he can "assign" his bad faith claim against his insurance company to you so that you can go after his insurance company for the excess amount (plus possible attorney fees and punitive damages). You might rather have a claim against a solvent insurance company for a large amount rather than pursuing the other driver and all his assets. That is not always the case, and you might very well wish to pursue the driver's assets. But if speed in resolution is the concern, leverage against the insurance company is needed. In conclusion: a) hire an experienced attorney, b) carefully consider all possible UM policies that might "stack", c) discuss creating leverage by a time limited policy limits demand. If the insurance company cannot properly value your wife's life (and their insured's interests) ahead of its own pocket book, a jury can level the playing field.
I'm sorry for your loss and this tragedy.
I'm assuming you have an attorney and that you, personally, didn't take the driver's deposition, right? If so, you should be asking your attorney these questions and relying upon his/her advice. Don't go around your attorney and solicit case-specific advice on a general-information forum like this. No one on this forum can possibly know your case better than your attorney. And if you don't have an attorney for a serious case like this, get one immediately. Good luck.
If you find this answer helpful, please mark it here on AVVO as helpful. In answering you, I am attempting to communicate general legal information and am not representing you (and am not your lawyer). Do feel free to call me at 404-668-3790 if you wish to discuss actual representation (the phone call also does not retain counsel; that requires an office visit and appropriate paperwork). In that a forum such as this provides me with limited details and doesn't allow me to review details and documents, it is possible that answers here, while meant to be helpful, may in some cases not be complete or accurate, and I highly recommend that you retain legal counsel rather than rely on the answers here. (You can also email my office at don@HawbakerLaw.) An email also does not retain my office, but can help you get an appointment set if you prefer not to call). I am happy to discuss possible representation with you. Any information in this communication is for discussion purposes only, and is not offered as legal advice. There is no right to rely on the information contained in this communication and no attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in my answer should be considered as tax-advice. To ensure compliance with IRS Circular 230, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party a partnership or other entity, investment plan, arrangement or other transaction addressed herein. I am also required to advise you, if your question concerns bankruptcy, that the U.S. Congress has designated my Law Office as a debt relief agency that can help people file bankruptcy.
I'm terribly sorry for your loss. However, Mr. Hawbaker is exactly correct, these are questions that should be directed to your attorney if you have one. If you don't have one, you need to obtain one immediately. To add to those comments and to answer your question: no, the insurance company is not obligated to pay that amount just because you made a claim. The insurer is simply responsible for protecting its insured for claims made against him/her up to the limits of that policy. If you obtain a judgment at trial, the insurer would be responsible for paying it up to those limits. Or, the insurer could attempt to settle the case before trial within those limits.
If you are not represented by another attorney and have other questions I can help answer, feel free to call me at (770) 427-5498.
I'm terribly sorry to hear about the loss of your spouse under such tragic circumstances. I am a little confused about your question though - you mentioned the driver was deposed and stated he ran read light unintentionally? Does that mean you have an attorney on this case? If so, these questions are best directed at him/her since they are going to know your case the best. Assuming you do not - it is much better for you that the driver stated he ran the read light "unintentionally" because that is the only way insurance comes into play. If he stated he ran the light 'intentionally" his insurance would not cover him because they almost never cover intentional acts (only negligence, which is accidentally running a red light). As far as whether they will pay the full policy limits, it depends on many factors - just because it is a wrongful death case, does not mean they will value it at $1M. They may only decide the case is worth $100,000, or they may even try and deny coverage under various theories. I certainly understand you would want to retain as much of the settlement as possible, but you may be shooting yourself in the foot by not talking to an attorney. Reason being, there are ways to exact leverage against insurance companies to set them up to pay as much of the policy possible. It has to be done artfully and it has to be done in accordance with the statutes and case laws. The reason most unrepresented people don't get nearly what they are entitled to is because they are not familiar with the statutes and laws and don't know what they're entitled to, how to go about asking for it, and how to put the fear in the insurance company (and the insured!) to get them to pay. I know this because I spent a few years representing insurance companies in these exact situations, and I know how we treated people with attorneys and people without attorneys - there is a vast difference.
All of us offer free consultations and we don't earn anything unless we get you a recovery. There is nothing to lose by talking to one of us, and everything to gain. Keep in mind there are statute of limitations issues that are likely 2 years if it is a private individual, and as short as 6 months in some instances involving city or state entities, so be mindful of that too. That being said, I wish you the best as you heal and move forward.
For more information, contact us at Fareesh@SarangiLaw.com or (770) 984-5380. The initial consultation is always free. This post is intended to provide general guidance, and should not be construed as legal advice. While I am an attorney, unless we sign a retainer agreement, I am not your attorney, and any information shared on Avvo does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please mark this answer as "Helpful" or "Best Answer" if you like it.
I'm very sorry to hear about your loss. Every case is different in terms of settlement. Compensation is typically based on the value of the lost financial support from your spouse as well as the loss of love, companionship, affection, etc. The value of your claim is potentially very high but no insurance company will take you seriously without legal representation. I suggest contacting good Atlanta personal injury attorney that can advise you based on the specific facts of your case.
You should hire an attorney immediately to assist you with this case. The insurance company will do just everything possible to avoid offering you the policy limits. I would be happy to assist you with this matter.
The above is just my opinion based upon the limited facts provided. It is not intended to be offered as legal advice nor is it intended to establish an attorney client relationship. You should seek a consultation either in person or over the phone to discuss any legal issue that you may have raised.
Several attorneys have offered good counsel here. You should talk to the attorney that currently represents you for answers to your questions. From what I gather, you are concerned about how long the case is taking. I know it's tough to handle, but you should be patient. Cases like these can take years to progress. The choice as to whether to settle the case will ultimately be yours. Good luck
*Attorney Thomas Andrew Miller (678-807-9519) provided this Reply which is intended to be helpful to the Asker and the Avvo Community, but it does not constitute legal advice and does not create any attorney-client relationship. You are urged to seek the advice of an attorney or, in some cases, a tax professional, before taking any action. **Was this Answer helpful? Please click to give the Answer a Helpful Vote or make it the Best Answer!
I am sorry for your tragic loss. If you do not have a lawyer, you need one ASAP and I'd be happy to offer you a free consultation (404-768-3509). If you do have counsel, that is the person you need to ask these questions to.
If you find this answer helpful, please mark it here on AVVO as helpful. In answering you, I am attempting to communicate general legal information and am not representing you (and am not your lawyer). Do feel free to call me at 404-768-3509 if you wish to discuss actual representation (the phone call also does not retain counsel; that requires an office visit and appropriate paperwork). In that a forum such as this provides me with limited details and doesn't allow me to review details and documents, it is possible that answers here, while meant to be helpful, may in some cases not be complete or accurate, and I highly recommend that you retain legal counsel rather than rely on the answers here. (You can also email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org . An email also does not retain my office, but can help you get an appointment set if you prefer not to call). I am happy to discuss possible representation with you. Any information in this communication is for discussion purposes only, and is not offered as legal advice. There is no right to rely on the information contained in this communication and no attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in my answer should be considered as tax-advice. To ensure compliance with IRS Circular 230, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party a partnership or other entity, investment plan, arrangement or other transaction addressed herein. I am also required to advise you, if your question concerns bankruptcy, that the U.S. Congress has designated Ashman Law Office as a debt relief agency that can help people file bankruptcy.
It sounds as though you already have an attorney, in which case you should be asking him/her these questions. If you are not represented at this time there are many Avvo wrongful death attorneys, including me, that will consult with you personally and privately at no charge. Responding to your tragic and very legally involved situation is not appropriate on a public forum like Avvo. Be sure your attorney (existing or new) is a true plaintiff-minded lawyer (ie: never worked for the insurance companies, etc.) and has proven experience handling wrongful death cases. Good luck with your case.
Law Office of Robert G. Rothstein - Atlanta
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Disclaimer: This response is provided to you by attorney Robert G. Rothstein (404) 216-1422 for educational and informational purposes only.No attorney-client relationship has been created hereby. Other attorneys may have different opinions or responses. If you found this response helpful, please indicate Best Answer to Avvo. Thank you.
First off, I am sorry for your loss. I strongly recommend you hire an attorney knowledgeable in wrongful death claims are there are different claims to be made by different entities, i.e., you as surviving spouse can bring claims for the full value of your late spouse's life (you did not say whether there were any children, if so, any recovery must be shared). Additionally, the executor or administrator of your late spouse's estate can bring claims for your late spouse's medical and funeral bills, as well as any pain and suffering experienced. It sounds like you have some very favorable testimony in support of your claims and if the insured has testified he ran a red light, I can't see the insurance company lowballing you with an offer of 50k, but it's possible. As far as trial, getting into court can take a couple years, but hopefully a good wrongful death attorney can put together the type of demand that would be accepted and settle the case in a much shorter period of time. It sort of sounds like a civil suit has been filed. If this is the case, your attorney should be answering these questions for you. If suit hasn't been filed, again, contact an attorney experienced in wrongful death claims. Best of luck and again, I am sorry for your loss.
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