Articles Posted in Settlements

Between our auto accident inquiries and my criminal law partner, Richard James, inquiries for moving violations and other vehicle related crimes/tickets, we sometimes get accident scenarios where the client looks at fault or clients seriously injured in car accidents but were given a citation or even arrested for reckless driving.  When this happens, and it has happened quite a bit recently, we always separate the parts of the case and attack them individually.  Then we see what happens.  Sometimes, as with the cases below, we can turn lemons into lemonades.


Rich signed up a client who was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and multiple moving citations following a very serious auto accident on Route 95 near Westerly.  He was very badly injured in the accident including an airlift by rescue with multiple fractures and a collapsed lung.  The police completed an accident reconstruction but in so doing jumped to conclusions and used junk science to show our client was speeding and driving recklessly.  We retained our expert witness, an accident deconstructionist, who was able to prove that the science the police used during their reconstruction was completely false.  With his help we were also able to show that while our client was driving too fast, the accident was caused because the other vehicle changed lanes, sideswiping our client and causing him to lose control of his vehicle.  Even though the police report was completely against our client we were successful in reducing the charges against him and able to obtain a personal injury settlement against the driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash.

If, God forbid, your child is seriously injured in an accident of any kind – bike accident, dog bite, auto accident, etc., and the settlement exceeds $10,000 in value there will be some additional steps that you will be required to take on behalf of your child. Rhode Island state law holds that any settlement over $10,000 for a minor child must be approved by a Judge.

The law is meant to protect minor children in a couple of ways. For one, the Judge will be looking to confirm that the settlement is fair to the child for the injury sustained. Second, the Judge is looking to ensure that the money will be secured for the minor child and not used by the parents.

A guardian ad litem will be appointed for your minor child. This person, an attorney, does not work with your personal injury attorney, nor does he work with the insurance company. The guardian ad litem is solely interested in assuring the best interest of the minor who can not speak for himself. He or she will do this by ensuring that the settlement offer is fair and that the parents have made necessary arrangements to put the money into a trust fund or other savings account that can be used by the minor for his or her benefit. Often, the money is designed to be accessible to the minor when he or she comes of age.

Your attorney will need to file whats called a “friendly suit”. In almost every way this is a normal lawsuit, except that both sides have already agreed to a resolution. You will not have to go through the discovery process and you and your child will not be deposed. Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney will file a Motion to have the case heard before the Formal and Special Cause Calendar. At that hearing, the Judge will hear from both the plaintiff and defense attorney and will also review the report of the guardian ad litem. If the Judge is satisfied that the interests of the minor child have been protected, the settlement can finally be approved.

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The “good hands” company which is anything but “good” has found itself in another public relations nightmare regarding a Superstorm Sandy commercial. The company which endlessly bombards the airwaves in an attempt to convince the world that Allstate cares about its customers has recently released a commercial about their efforts to “help” the victims of Sandy. As it turns out, however, Allstate did not get the permission of their clients to use their likeness or home in the commercial. The couple did not want to participate in the commercial because they are yet another victim of Allstate’s nonsense and have been ripped off by the company.

Dominic and Sheila Traina evacuated their home in advance of Superstorm Sandy. While they were away, a neighbor notified them that the roof had been torn off their house. Amazingly, Allstate determined that the damage to the house was due to FLOODING! and therefore not covered under their policy. The Traina’s do not have flood insurance. Allstate has not yet explained how flooding reached levels tall enough to tear the roof off a full size house. Despite well over $200,000 in damages, Allstate has offered their customers $10,000. And yet their commercials tell us that “cut rate” insurance might not protect you from dangers! Embarrassing!

To add salt to the wounds, the Traina family was absolutely shocked to find their home as the backdrop for an Allstate commercial. The bad publicity has forced Allstate to pull the commercial, but the damage to the company has already been done. Of course, this is absolutely no surprise for Allstate, in fact, it is their business model. Whether dealing with a property damage claim from a storm or a personal injury claim from a car accident, Allstate will do everything possible to avoid paying a fair and reasonable settlement. If they can make any argument in their favor, no matter how implausible, they will hang on to that argument until the very end forcing countless delays and forcing plaintiff’s to spend tens of thousands of dollars to obtain the money to which they are entitled.

It seems the most obvious and important question and one that I am asked in every personal injury case, namely, how much is my personal injury claim worth? Regardless if resulting from an auto accident, motorcycle accident, slip and fall, or medical malpractice, all clients are curious what their case is worth.

The only easy answer to that question is to say: Your case is worth the amount a jury of your peers says that it is worth. Unfortunately, juries are wildly unpredictable and can return with a shockingly high award or an embarrassingly low judgment. Furthermore, waiting for a jury verdict requires several years of waiting and a long and expensive litigation process.

That said, experienced personal injury attorneys such as myself, consider a number of variables in determining a fair settlement value of your case. Attorneys and insurance companies consider recent jury verdicts in the State, recent settlements in the State, along with other variables to determine a fair value for the injury suffered. Therefore, attorneys and insurance adjusters will assign a value to the neck or back injury, fractured arm, or concussion. For instance, if a jury recently awarded $160,000 to a man who broke his leg in a truck accident, this may be a starting point for negotiations if you suffer a similar broken leg in an auto accident.

What are the other variables to consider? Among other things:

  • the strength of the liability case
  • cost of litigation
  • amount available through insurance
  • nature and severity of the injury

Of course, you are also entitled to lost wages and medical bills, future medical bills and permanent disability, if applicable.

If the injury you sustained is soft tissue in nature (neck and back pain) then your settlement will depend largely on the length and severity of your disability and whether there is diagnostic evidence (i.e. an MRI report showing injury) to help substantiate the claim. An experienced personal injury attorney, will know how to negotiate with an insurance company to obtain the highest value possible.

This should be understood as a shorthand version of how the value of your personal injury claim is determined. There are literally hundreds of variables that have to be considered and only a skilled and experienced attorney can use all of these variables to obtain the highest amount possible in settlement. Furthermore, the negotiating skills of an attorney are important as well as the attorney’s reputation for success.

The next time you ask your attorney: What is my case worth? do not be surprised if he or she is afraid to answer. It is because each personal injury case is so unique that it is hard to determine, especially early in the case, how much the injury is worth.

As a former insurance adjuster I have settled hundreds of personal injury cases of all levels of severity. I understand the full value of your case and how an insurance company will try to poke holes in your case to lower the final value. As a personal injury attorney, I have succeeded in obtaining excellent settlements for my clients often exceeding the amount they were hoping to receive.

Therefore, part of the answer to the question: How much is my case worth? depends on whether you hire the right attorney.

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Despite several weeks of litigation, the jury will not make a determination in the case of Michael Woods vs. Kent County Hospital. Prior to closing arguments, the two sides have agreed to settle the matter.

Actor James Woods and his family brought the lawsuit against Kent County Hospital alleging that their emergency room staff was medically negligent and ultimately caused the death of Michael Woods in 2006.

The full details of the settlement were not released to the public, however, the Providence Journal reports that the settlement will include the creation of the Michael J. Woods institute at Kent Hospital. Per the settlement agreement, the hospital has promised to invest 1.25 million dollars over the next five years in the institute with the intent of improving hospital care and procedure, particularly in the emergency room. In addition, the settlement provides financial support to Michael Woods surviving children, which according to James Woods, will leave them financially secure.