Lowball offer by State Farm in UM rear-ender. $382K. Nevada County.

Summary

UM claim in rear-ender goes to arbitration when State Farm offers only $13K against a $250K UM policy. Plaintiff was 51 years old and self-employed. Large loss-of-earnings claim.  

The Case

  • Case Name: Peterson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
  • Court and Case Number: Nevada County; Case No. CU20-084797
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, December 18, 2020
  • Date of Arbitration Award : Friday, December 18, 2020
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, September 03, 2019
  • Type of Action: Underinsured Motorist, Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto, Vehicles – rear-ender
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. David D. Abbott, Ret.
  • Plaintiffs:
    James Peterson, 51, construction business owner
    Rhonda Peterson
  • Defendants:
    State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
  • Type of Result: Arbitration Award

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $382,165.00
  • Net Verdict or Award: $268,955.20
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    The arbitration award was for $382,165. It was modified to reflect the applicable amount remaining on the UM insurance policy, $237,300, plus claimants’ recoverable costs, $31,655.20, for a final award amount of  $268,955.20.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None
  • Economic Damages:

    Past lost income: $60,579 

    Lost earning capacity: $80,720 

    Past loss of household services: $28,688 

    Future loss of household services: $12,178 

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past : $75,000 

    Future : $75,000 

    Loss of consortium: $50,000 

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 2 full days
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Claimants' Petition to Modify Arbitration Award (to include recoverable costs)

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Maurer Law Corporation by Jordan W. Maurer, Auburn.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Tiza Serrano Thompson & Associates by Henry Williams, III, Sacramento.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Paul Nottingham, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Walnut Creek.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Robert Henrichsen, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Rancho Cordova.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Thomas Shelton, accident reconstruction.

    Richard Barnes, CPA, valuation of time and services.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Sean D. Shimada, Ph.D., biomechanical engineering.

    Kenneth Heichman, accident reconstruction.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Claimant James Peterson was injured in a motor vehicle collision on September 19, 2018. The collision occurred when Mr. Peterson was driving his 1989 GMC flatbed truck hauling a 2005 Carson dump trailer loaded with gravel. He was on his way to a jobsite.

    The uninsured defendant driver was driving behind Mr. Peterson at a speed of about 45 miles per hour. He failed to observe Mr. Peterson’s vehicle in front of him moving at a slow rate of speed and crashed into Mr. Peterson’s trailer. Mr. Peterson was thrust forward from the force of the impact and there was substantial damage to his trailer.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    The evidence collected during discovery and accepted at arbitration showed that this was not a typical low-speed, low-impact collision. This collision involved a large bullet vehicle moving at a high rate of speed crashing squarely into a slower moving, but bigger target vehicle that was very rigid and stiff.

    Mr. Peterson’s trailer experienced substantial damage. The entire steel frame was bent and pushed off center and the scissor lift arm bent. The force of the impact traveled through the tow hitch into Mr. Peterson’s truck, where the force of the collision knocked the rear speaker from its mount. The evidence showed that Mr. Peterson’s car seat only had a lap belt and provided very poor lumbar and cervical support.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    State Farm disputed that Mr. Peterson experienced any injury as a result of the collision.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Mr. Peterson experienced injuries following the collision including chronic headaches, neck pain, lower back pain, and an injury to his left upper extremity. Objective findings included a disc protrusion and severe stenosis at C4-5 and disc herniation at T1-2.

  • Mr. Peterson owned and operated a successful concrete construction company. His wife, claimant Rhonda Peterson, helped him run the business. Mr. Peterson's annual income significantly diminished as a result of his injuries and his wife had to seek employment with a different employer to supplement their income. Claimant Rhonda Peterson brought a loss of consortium claim.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Waived.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: Waived.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $60,579
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $58,637

Additional Notes

Claimants presented a demand to State Farm for the $250,000 policy limit of the underlying UM policy on August 5, 2019. State Farm offered $12,700 plus the $10,000 medical payments policy. No other offers were made before arbitration.

Claimants served a demand pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 998 for the $237,300 remaining on the UM policy. It was ignored. Plaintiffs’ recoverable costs as the prevailing party totaled $31,655.20.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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