There a long-standing reluctance of many injury plaintiffs to pursue claims against their friends or loved ones. Part of this is a natural instinctual reaction when we know someone didn’t truly mean for us to get hurt and they feel awful about it. However, our Orlando truck accident attorneys know it’s also partially fueled by the long-term successful campaign by tort reform advocates to paint personal injury claims and lawsuits as little more than efforts by injury lawyers to exploit your misfortune or tragedy, with many seeking damages far in excess of actual losses.
The truth of the matter is, advocates of tort reform (which aims to raise the bar on the standards claims need to meet AND impose damage caps) are almost always those shrilling for the insurance industry and large corporations. It’s been proven time and again that larger claims sought by individuals who are severely hurt do not typically have a substantial impact on these sizable entities. It also hasn’t proven to be an effective means to compel more doctors or businesses or to lower insurance and health care cost rates. What it does do is cause the people most profoundly affected to suffer the most. A fair amount of those costs get passed on to taxpayers too. Injury lawyers DO need to make a living, but given that we all work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we aren’t paid attorneys’ fees unless we prevail in the case, we must carefully vet each case to make certain it’s likely to be worth our time – and yours. This alone significantly undercuts most instances of “frivolous claims.”
As for lawsuits against friends and family members, it’s important to point out that you aren’t actually seeking monetary damages from the individual. What you are after is the insurance compensation – theirs, yours and/ or third parties, depending on the circumstances. This compensation comes direct from insurance polices that are bought and paid for to cover losses in these exact circumstances. Most individuals don’t have the assets to pay what these claims are worth anyway, but you can’t name an insurer directly in a car accident lawsuit (unless it’s a bad faith claim). Instead, the named defendant is your friend or loved one. However, it is the insurance company that covers the cost of their defense and ultimately pays the damages if awarded.
All that brings us to a case involving a widow who sued her decedent husband following a truck accident in Mississippi. It’s the sort of case that might be used to write a judgmental headline, but again, it’s not about marring the name of the named defendant. It’s about receiving the compensation to which you are entitled.
The Mississippi Supreme Court was asked to consider whether plaintiff widow was judicially estopped from pursuing her claim against her late husband’s estate because she’d already signed a release involving another defendant. The court answered no.
Plaintiff had been in the passenger seat while her husband, who was driving, pulled the vehicle out onto a highway in front of a log truck, which then collided with the car. The husband/ driver died, and his wife/ plaintiff suffered severe and permanent injuries. She filed a lawsuit against the log truck driver alleging his negligence caused her husband’s death and her own personal injuries. Defendant truck driver moved for summary judgment, arguing evidence showed decedent to be the sole cause of the truck accident. The judge denied this request, noting plaintiffs had not disputed decedent’s potential contributory negligence. Both parties settled and plaintiff signed a release of claims and the case was dismissed.
Plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against her husband in state court, alleging his negligence by failing to yield the right of way and pulling out extremely slowly caused the crash and her injuries. Although the trial court ruled plaintiff was estopped from bringing this claim, having signed a release in the truck driver’s case, the state supreme court determined the trial court was wrong on this because the agreement was between the widow and the truck driver. Decedent, obviously, had not signed it.
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Clark v. Neese, August 16, 2018, Mississippi Supreme Court
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