M. Blake Heath recently obtained a $320,000 settlement for underinsured motorist benefits for his clients. The case stemmed from a car crash that occurred in December of 2016.
In the crash, Mr. Heath’s clients, a mother and her adult son, were severely injured. The crash occurred in St. Clair County, Missouri when another driver crossed the center line and struck Mr. Heath’s client. Due to their injuries, both of Mr. Heath’s clients had to be life-flighted to a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
Sadly, the other driver only had liability policy limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per occurrence. These limits did not cover the medical bills. Fortunately, the clients had underinsured motorist coverage.
At first, the clients tried to negotiate with their underinsured motorist carrier without any attorney. The carrier made minimal offers of $30,000 and $40,000, so the clients retained Mr. Heath.
Mr. Heath filed a claim for underinsured motorist benefits, and he also filed a claim for vexatious refusal to pay against the insurance carrier arguing it unreasonably denied the clients’ claims. Mr. Heath sought a complete copy of the claims file as well as manuals held by the carrier that trained adjusters on how to handle underinsured motorist claims. The insurance carrier refused to turn over the material. Mr. Heath successfully argued to the court that Missouri law allowed for such material to be produced in discovery.
The insurance carrier then tried to argue the clients’ underinsured motorist claims were barred by a release signed with the negligent driver. Mr. Heath emphasized that this new defense was further evidence of the vexatious attitude towards his clients’ claims.
After an all-day mediation, Mr. Heath settled the claims for $155,000 and $165,000. This case highlights why it is important to speak with a lawyer familiar with underinsured motorist claims, and claims against insurance carriers who wrongly deny valid claims.
Past results afford no guarantee of future results and every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.