Trucking accident

Michelle was a 33-year-old resident of Puyallup and a long-term T-Mobile employee when she was rear-ended on Interstate 5 by a Dodge Ram 5500 tow truck that was carrying another vehicle. The force of the impact was so great that Michelle’s brand-new Jeep SUV was totaled.

Truck accident injuries

Michelle was taken by ambulance to a local hospital with symptoms of concussion, shock, and back and neck pain. Michelle took a medical leave of absence from work to seek treatment for her injuries. She worked hard at trying to get better over the course of the next year, but it became apparent that Michelle’s injuries were permanent, and she was unable to return to work.

Insurance does nothing

Rebeccah filed suit promptly and informed the defense attorney that she would demand his insured’s policy limits of $1,000,000. Rebeccah provided the medical records and other documentation of Michelle’s injuries from the truck accident. It is common to give the insurance company time to evaluate the claim. Rebeccah agreed to 45 days.

Over the course of 45 days, the insurer, Progressive Insurance, did nothing. Finally, on the 45th day, Progressive asked for additional documentation. Rebeccah considered this a rejection of the policy limits demand.

The road to trial

Taking a case to trial is a major undertaking. Rebeccah Graham has extensive experience with trials, given her background trying cases frequently as a criminal defense attorney and as a successful plaintiff’s attorney. While preparing for trial, Rebeccah realized that an expert disclosed by opposing counsel had not provided any opinions regarding Michelle. Rebeccah eventually asked the Court to compel the expert’s opinion and learned that the opposing counsel had never retained or even spoken to the expert, even though opposing counsel had gone so far in the charade as to accept a subpoena on behalf of the expert for records that the attorney knew full well did not exist as the expert had never been consulted about the case. Rebeccah brought a motion to the Court for sanctions against the attorney and won, the Judge ordered sanctions of $24,000.

Working with experts and medical providers

Michelle received treatment from medical providers who were well known and respected in the medical community including the brain injury unit at Harborview Medical Center and a world-renowned spine surgeon, who all agreed that Michelle’s injuries were debilitating and caused by the collision. These providers had agreed to testify on Michelle’s behalf and were scheduled to do just that in Pierce County Superior Court. Rebeccah also retained experts to quantify Michelle’s economic losses and testify regarding Michelle’s future medical needs. We had also scheduled Michelle’s friends, family, and former colleagues to testify.

Opposing counsel had asked to have Michelle examined by one of a few different experts with reputations for being biased against injured people and in favor of insurance companies. Instead, Rebeccah was able to use the opposing counsel’s mishandling of the case as leverage to have the opposing counsel retain an expert to examine Michelle who had a reputation for honesty. Michelle was examined by this expert who agreed that Michelle had suffered a traumatic brain injury that precluded her from working. Progressive knew that relying on the opinion of this expert would not work in their favor. So instead, they chose to rely on a biased expert who had never actually met or examined Michelle. This expert had a profoundly different opinion than that of the expert who had evaluated Michelle. Rebeccah filed a motion to strike this expert’s opinion as speculative and provided too late.

$2,000,000 truck accident settlement

A few days before the hearing on the motion to strike the defense’s main witness and two weeks before trial, Rebeccah got a call from the general counsel for Progressive Insurance. This file had landed on his desk and he saw what a disaster it would be for Progressive to go to trial. He offered to settle the case for $2,000,000, plus pay all the sanctions. This was more than double the insured’s policy. Michelle opted to accept this offer. Progressive sent a check five days later for the full amount owed. 

Michelle used some of the money to buy a lovely, two-story home with a fenced yard for her dogs. She is getting settled in her new home and new life. Michelle will never be the same person she was before this crash, but thanks to Rebeccah’s efforts her future is secure and Michelle can spend her time and energy focusing on her recovery instead of worrying about her financial future.

A note about the relevant insurance law: Most of the time, a person injured by another’s negligence is limited in what they can expect to receive by the limits of the at-fault party’s liability insurance and/or their own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. In this case, skilled lawyering created a risk that Progressive would have to pay out any verdict obtained on behalf of Michelle because they failed to protect their insured (the tow truck business and the driver) by paying out the policy limits when Rebeccah demanded them and provided sufficient evidence that Michelle’s claim value was in excess of the available liability insurance. This is referred to in the industry as “opening up the policy”. 

While it is unusual to open up a $1 million policy and receive a settlement that is twice that, this is the kind of tenacity we bring to every case at Maxwell Graham.

Michelle Falk, pictured outside her new home with her personal injury attorney, Rebeccah Graham, who represented Falk after a truck accident.

Some geeky law stuff: If a plaintiff (injured person) gives an insurance company the opportunity to settle their claim for the policy, and the insured refuses, then the policy is considered “open.”

This means that if the plaintiff goes to trial and gets a verdict substantially higher than the policy, the insurance company is likely on the hook for the excess.

This is a complex area of practice and requires skill and finesse. If you have a claim, it is best to find a competent attorney to handle it. This is all we do at Maxwell Graham, PS.

Disclaimer: This is the fine print, but our fine print is regular size and in clear language. These client quotes and settlement/verdict figures are examples of the results we have obtained for others. Their cases were different from yours, so your result is sure to be different. We post these results for you to see that we have a track record of hard work, client service, and trial success. We won’t guarantee the results of your case, but we will guarantee to bring the same passion, skill, and experience when we fight for you.