Verdict & Settlements: Motor Vehicle Liability

Chronicles of a Liability Dispute

Plaintiff, Gwen Stacy*, 32, was driving to work in a Nissan Altima on Minnesota Avenue and Eastern Avenue Northeast, Washington, D.C. at 11:55 a.m. on February 16, 2016 when Defendant, Julia Carpenter*, travelling southbound on Addition road, noticed a large amount of standing water. Trying to avoid it, she did not use caution changing lanes and collided into Gwen Stacy’s vehicle. Carpenter got out of her vehicle after the collision and walked to Stacy’s vehicle. She asked Stacy if she was okay and removed Stacy’s seatbelt. When the ambulance and police arrived, Julia Carpenter went back to her vehicle and alleged she had been injured. Stacy and Carpenter were both transported to the hospital for treatment. Gwen Stacy was injured in the accident and diagnosed with a sprained and dislocated cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae, left wrist, and right knee.

When the police report was released, it stated Julia Carpenter was at fault for the accident. Omena Law Firm, LLC sent a letter of representation to Liberty Mutual and the police report to speed up the investigation process. We received a letter denying liability from Liberty Mutual, claiming that their insured stated Gwen Stacy was at fault for the accident. Liberty Mutual was ignoring the police report because they believed their insured, Julia Carpenter. Gwen Stacy, frustrated at the decision of Liberty Mutual, would go on to seek treatment for about nine months, with most of her medical bills going to collections after exhaustion of her personal injury protection (PIP) policy limit. Her vehicle was also declared a total loss and she was unable to purchase a new car because the compensation she received from her own insurance was paid to the auto finance company.

We filed a lawsuit against Julia Carpenter on February 15, 2017 and served her in open court because she had moved from her last known address. Luckily for us, her previous roommate informed her that our process server came to serve her the lawsuit and she appeared in court for the trial date. On a few occasions, Carpenter came to court unrepresented because she didn’t realize insurance companies hired lawyers to represent their clients in the event they are sued for personal injury from a car accident. Liberty Mutual eventually sent their lawyers to represent Carpenter in court, but it was eventually discovered that Liberty Mutual had dropped her as an insured because she was driving for ridesharing purposes at the time of the accident and never disclosed this information. We went through the discovery stage of the lawsuit where we provided Stacy’s medical records, bills, and lost wages. During the entire lawsuit, Liberty Mutual continued to dispute liability, alleging that Stacy was at fault or contributed to the accident.

My client and I went for mediation in the Court of Appeals building in Washington, D.C. on January 30, 2018 and in a surprising turn of events, Liberty Mutual and my client reached a settlement that made my client happy.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the clients and individuals.

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