On January 24, 2005 in Lynnwood, Washington, Client was suddenly rear-ended by Defendant in a low speed low impact crash. Client suffered injuries to her neck and back for which she sought modest medical treatment primarily from one chiropractic clinic for approximately six weeks.
Defendant is insured by Allstate Insurance and was defended by Allstate in-house counsel. From the outset, Allstate did everything in its power to delay and deny Client fair compensation for her injuries.
Prior to filing suit, Allstate refused to make any settlement offers unless Client provided a recorded statement. This was a rear end accident and there was no need for a recorded statement. This was only a delay tactic by Allstate. We sent Allstate a settlement package in August 2007 with all of the relevant documentation, including Client’s medical bills and records. Client’s total medical bills were $2,890.00. Despite receiving more than sufficient information to adjust the claim, Allstate refused to offer anything unless they received a recorded statement from Client. We continued to try and negotiate with Allstate, but they would not act in good faith.
Allstate’s denial and delay tactics became all the more troubling when in late spring 2007, Client told us she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and that her oncologist advised her to remove all unnecessary stressors from her life – including this litigation. Client was not in a position to abandon the litigation as she had outstanding medical bills for the treatment she had received for her vehicle accident related injuries. She told us to get her claim settled and her only demand was that the settlement not leave her “in the red” for her medical bills.
Given Client’s situation, we agreed to provide Allstate with a recorded statement. After the statement was given, Allstate promised to have a settlement offer within a week. Almost two months passed before Allstate made its first (and only) settlement offer of $2,451. This offer fell short of the medical special damages Client incurred and would leave her “in the red”. We tried to get Allstate to offer enough to cover her medical bills, but they refused. The lawsuit was filed on December 31, 2007.
Once Allstate appointed in house defense counsel, we again approached the topic of settlement. We told Allstate counsel that Client would settle her claims so long as she could pay her outstanding medical bills. We also reminded Allstate counsel that Client was eager to resolve the case due to her cancer. Allstate counsel said he could not settle the case until he took a deposition of Client. This was nothing more than another delay tactic as Client had previously provided a recorded statement.
Weeks went by with no additional communication from Allstate. Given Allstate’s refusal to reasonably settle her claim, Client weighed the pros and cons of pleading damages of $10,000 or less. Such a pleading caps Client’s recovery at $10,000 but if successful, allows for the recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs. The purpose of the pleading is to motivate Allstate to reasonably settle small claims or face the potential exposure to much more costly attorneys’ fees and costs.
Allstate was unmoved by the Notice and the parties arbitrated the claim pursuant to mandatory arbitration. The arbitrator awarded Client the maximum amount allowed of $10,000. At this point Allstate could have paid the $10,000 arbitration award and finally put an end to this litigation. But once again Allstate chose to continue its delay and denial tactics. On August 13, 2008, Allstate served its request for trial de novo meaning Client would have to wait many more months for a jury trial to decide her case as trial was not scheduled to begin until May 11, 2009.
Between August 2008 and May 2009, we spent significant time and incurred significant expenses preparing our Client’s case for trial. Allstate initially denied it was liable for the rear end accident. As trial approached, Allstate put its focus on the nature and extent of our Client’s injuries and treatment. Allstate retained a medical expert to review Client’s medical records who opined 1) the accident could not have caused serious injuries to Client given the low speed impact and 2) Client’s medical treatment was excessive and she was not entitled to recover all of her medical expenses.
A few weeks before trial, Allstate counsel moved for a trial continuance. If successful, the trial would have been continued to 2010. We fought their request vigorously and ultimately the Court agreed with us and denied Allstate’s request. Realizing that their attempts to delay justice for Client were near an end, Allstate withdrew its request for trial de novo two weeks before trial was to commence. As such, Client would receive judgment in her favor of $10,000 per the arbitrator’s award. In addition, given the pleading of $10,000 or less that had been made in July 2008, we asked the Court to award attorneys’ fees and litigation costs incurred after the $10,000 or less pleading had been served. We further asked for a lodestar multiplier of the attorneys’ fees given the nature of the contingent nature of the case that had been dragged out, unreasonably, by Allstate for years.
The Court granted our request for attorneys’ fees, costs and a lodestar attorney fee multiplier. Client was awarded a total judgment of $49,100.67.
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