On February 16, 2019, Joseph Johnson, a 26-year-old logistics specialist at Mayo Clinic, was traveling west on Beach Boulevard on his way to the Humane Society to drop off some dog food he had purchased as a donation. As he approached the intersection of Southside Boulevard and Beach Boulevard, he brought his car to a stop behind traffic stopped at the stoplight. While he was at a complete stop, the driver approaching him from behind slammed into the back of Joseph’s car, catapulting Joseph’s vehicle into the back of the one stopped ahead of him. The force of the rear impact and then the front-end impact left Joseph with his car crunched between two vehicles and painful injuries.
Pain That Would Not Go Away
Following the crash, Joseph went to the emergency room with severe throbbing and burning in his neck, as well as shoulder and back injuries. He underwent CT scans of both his thoracic and cervical spine, which showed no fractures. After attempting to just take the muscle relaxer the hospital had given him to manage his symptoms proved unsuccessful, he pursued chiropractic interventions three times a week. Unfortunately, this did not help alleviate his symptoms. When Joseph’s pain failed to subside, his doctor ordered additional scans, so Joseph underwent MRIs of his thoracic, lumbar, and cervical spine. The MRIs showed disc herniations at multiple levels in his spine.
He was then evaluated by a pain management physician who diagnosed Joseph with facet injuries in his spine. Facets are the joints situated between the spine bones. The force of the crash caused the cartilage within these joints to become inflamed, triggering pain signals in nearby nerve endings. These injuries can be extremely painful but hard to diagnose because they cannot typically be seen on an MRI. Mr. Johnson’s injuries affected his everyday activities. He found himself living with uncomfortable pain. Through his pain management physician, Joseph attempted different types of injection-related treatment until his physician was able to offer him radiofrequency ablations to his thoracic facet joints. These are essentially nerve burning procedures that he could obtain once or twice per year. The problem with these procedures is the nerves eventually grow back over time, so the significant relief he would obtain from getting the ablation would eventually wear off, requiring him to return for follow-up care indefinitely.
The At Fault Driver’s Insurance Wasn’t Enough
The driver responsible for causing the crash had bodily injury coverage limits of only $25,000.00, which was insufficient to account for Joseph’s medical treatment, future care needs, and human damages such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish. Fortunately, Joseph maintained underinsured motorist coverage with GEICO in the amount of $100,000.00, which provides coverage in situations like Joseph’s where the injured person’s damages exceed the at fault driver’s coverage. In other words, it provides coverage to an injured person if the individual who caused the collision either doesn’t have any bodily injury coverage or doesn’t have enough bodily injury coverage to cover the losses, injuries, and damages of the injured person. Despite having been given multiple opportunities to resolve Joseph’s claim for his $100,000.00 policy limits and without the need for a lawsuit, GEICO refused to pay.
Coker Law Has To Fight Victim’s Own Insurance Company
When GEICO refused to pay him his policy limits, Joseph turned to the experienced legal team at Coker Law to ensure he received adequate financial resources to provide the medical care he needed now and may need in the future. Board-Certified Trial Attorney Fraz Ahmed and Experienced Personal Injury Trial Attorney Dana Jacobs felt GEICO had acted unreasonably and unfairly to Joseph, their own insured, by not paying his claim. Attorney Dana Jacobs recalled, “it seemed clear given our client’s young age of 26 at the time of the crash, the extensive medical treatment he had before we even filed the lawsuit, and the fact that he had no prior complaints of pain in his neck or back, that GEICO had been operating in bad faith by not paying his claim despite having been given multiple opportunities to do so. However, we also knew the insurance company would not easily admit their poor claims handling of his claim and would fight against Joseph’s claim as long as it could.”
“If Joseph had not had the foresight to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on his car insurance policy, he would have been limited to recover only the $25,000.00 injury limits of the driver who caused the crash,” said Shareholder Fraz Ahmed. “Having that coverage was crucial for a case like Joseph’s, where he will require ongoing care and treatment, including radiofrequency ablations to his mid back, to manage his pain and carry on his life as best he can.”
It was not until more than three years after the car crash that GEICO finally decided to offer Joseph his $100,000.00. At that point, Ahmed and Jacobs told GEICO it was simply too late. Following an unsuccessful effort to mediate the case, Ahmed and Jacobs served a proposal for settlement on GEICO in the amount of $775,000.00, an amount that Joseph and his attorneys felt would reasonably compensate him for his past and future medical care, and his past and future pain and suffering. Finally, GEICO acknowledged its poor conduct and accepted the proposal to resolve his case for that amount.
Ahmed said, “We felt vindicated for our client when GEICO agreed to settle for $775,000.00, but we were prepared to go the distance and try the case for Joseph, who had been dealing with the effects of this crash for almost four years before it resolved.”
Case Title: Joseph Johnson vs. GEICO
Attorneys/Staff Involved in Case: Shareholder and Board-Certified Trial Attorney Fraz Ahmed, Experienced Trial Attorney Dana Jacobs, Paralegal Cynthia White, Legal Assistant Kelly Anderson
Date of Settlement: 7/21/22
Amount of Settlement: $775, 000