In 2005, the US Department of Justice estimated that 8,527 motor vehicle accident cases involving personal injuries went to trial.
That’s back when Brad and Jennifer were still married! Alas, the DoJ isn’t great at updating its numbers but we’ve got a point to make, so bear with us.
It’s an oft-repeated fact in legal circles that only 4% of personal injury cases actually go to trial. So, with some high school algebra we can estimate that 213,161 motor vehicle accident cases were settled out of court in 2005.
Usually, it’s cheaper for a defendant to pay for the plaintiff’s injuries than it is to spend several months arguing in court. However, that is not the case when a plaintiff is threatening a lawsuit based on shoddy legal arguments -- three of which we’ve highlighted below!
A negligent getaway driver
The simplest motor vehicle lawsuits involve one or more people being injured by a negligent driver who failed to operate a vehicle within reasonable parameters, such as obeying speed limits, traffic signals, etc.
Negligence is difficult to define when the injured parties are passengers of the driver at fault though. Distracting the driver could mean sharing liability for an accident, which is almost certainly what happened when Kenneth Kirkwood Jr. hit two cars and injured his passengers.
Kenny was probably distracted by his passengers screaming at him to “DITCH THE 5-0!”
You see, Kenny and his passengers were burglars fleeing the scene of a crime.
His passengers -- who were tried and convicted alongside Kenny before this case -- sued him, claiming his reckless driving was the reason for their injuries.
Seems like it would’ve been best to argue that Kenny’s passengers were 100% liable for his bad driving, seeing as he wouldn’t have needed to drive like a madman if his passengers hadn’t been seen, but California already prohibits suing for damages if injuries were incurred while committing a felony.
An uninjured victim
Lawsuits require evidence, and after a certain amount of time the reliability of that evidence comes into question. That’s why victims must file a personal injury case before the “statute of limitations” has passed, which is three years from the date of the accident in Washington.
Other states have shorter timeframes. The statute of limitations in California, for example, is only two years. And if that seems like plenty of time to close a case, just talk to Mary Jo Diliberti.
In 1988, MJ and her sister Francine were in a car accident. Francine came out unscathed but Mary Jo sustained serious injuries, so she hired a team of lawyers.
We use the term “lawyers” loosely here, because a high school senior litigating a mock trial in Civics class would’ve been more useful than MJ’s legal team.
Her lawyers filed hundreds of forms on her behalf, and every single one -- regardless of which attorney had filled it out -- had her sister’s name on it.
This went unnoticed for more than two whole years of court proceedings.
In fact, the documents could have been amended to swap Mary Jo’s and Francine’s names, but MJ wasn’t even listed as a passenger. From the judge’s point of view, she wasn’t involved in the accident in any way.
By the time the mistake was found, the statute of limitations had been reached and her case was thrown out.
Thankfully, negligence isn’t applicable solely to personal injury cases. Professional negligence is also grounds for a lawsuit and fingers crossed MJ picked better lawyers when she took her first team to court for wasting her time and money.
An on-duty repo man
Suing someone who drives a vehicle for their job also complicates the issue of liability. For example, is a repo man really at fault for injuries he causes while trying to repossess someone’s car? Or is his employer liable?
Let’s take a look at William Clawson’s case. William thought he owned a Chevy Cavalier -- but he did not. In reality, he owed so much money to GM Financial that the car had been repossessed.
William believed the car was his, so he stopped making payments. When a man hopped into the Cavalier and started to drive away, Mr. Clawson assumed “his” car was being stolen. He did what any reasonable person would do -- he hopped into his golf cart and blocked the driveway.
Undeterred by a few hundred pounds of battery-powered luxury, the repo man plowed through the golf cart.
William sued the repo man and GM Financial for injuries he sustained and the jury agreed with his claim...sort of.
The jury deemed the following entities responsible for Clawson’s $111,118 in injuries:
- William Clawson: 48.35% responsible
- The tow shop who hired the repo man: 25.35% responsible
- GM Financial: 25.35% responsible
Because the repo man was on the clock, the tow shop paid $28,168 for his share of the liability.
We wish we could explain why liability was calculated out to two decimal points, or who is responsible for the other 0.95%. But in a case that involves a man who owns a golf cart but doesn’t A) drive it to check his mailbox or B) sell it to pay the bills filling said mailbox, you can’t expect the verdict to make sense.
We can get you the settlement you deserve
Remember, 96% of personal injury lawsuits never go to court. As long as your accident didn’t involve committing a felony or making an idiotic accounting oversight, we can get you restitution.
Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams -- we’ve never filed a case for the wrong person, so why not call us today?