The arbitrator agreed the total value of Mrs. Platte’s damages equalled the amounts I demanded from the insurance companies in the first place.

The arbitrator agreed the total value of Mrs. Platte’s damages equalled the amounts I demanded from the insurance companies in the first place.

There was never any question who was at fault – Jane Dose crossed over double yellow lines and crashed into the front driver’s side of a vehicle in which my client, Karla Platte, was a front seat passenger. Rather, there were disagreements as to the dollar value of Mrs. Platte’s injuries, the most significant of which were to her dominant wrist. These included Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis (i.e. a condition affecting the tendons), and painful, raised bumps on either side of the wrist. After physical therapy, steroid injections, and time did not resolve radiating pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness, Mrs. Platte had an endoscopic carpal tunnel release. The surgery resolved her wrist numbness but brought only temporary relief to her other symptoms. A year later, Mrs. Platte began returning to her orthopedic specialist for additional steroid injections.

Before getting to Mrs. Platte’s claim with her own auto insurer, MetLife, we first had to deal with Ms. Dose’s insurer, GEICO. I submitted a demand to GEICO for Ms. Dose’s $100,000 policy limit. Questioning the cause of Mrs. Platte’s wrist injuries, GEICO offered $32,350. GEICO argued the relative value of Mrs. Platte’s injuries were not even worth $50,000. Undeterred, I obtained written opinions from Mrs. Platte’s surgeon and her orthopedic specialist. Both doctors concluded that this incident was, in fact, the cause of Mrs. Platte’s wrist injuries. Moreover, her orthopedic specialist said the injuries were permanent. GEICO finally conceded that Mrs. Platt’s injuries were related to the crash and increased the offer to $70,000. That said, GEICO insisted that the value of these injuries did not warrant Ms. Dose’s policy limit. Mrs. Platte and I disagreed and so my demand remained at $100,000. Less than four weeks later and six months since negotiations began, GEICO finally agreed and offered the $100,000 policy limit.

Subscribers to our firm’s Newsletter know that we frequently write about the importance of increasing the Parts of their auto insurance that provide coverage for situations where the negligent third party is Underinsured (i.e. does not have enough insurance – this is Part 12) or is Uninsured (i.e. has no insurance – this is Part 3). Mrs. Platte’s case serves as a perfect example. Fortunately, Part 12 of Mrs. Platt’s personal auto insurance policy with MetLife provided her up to $250,000 for injuries caused by Underinsured drivers. Thus, after securing Ms. Dose’s policy limit, I demanded an additional $100,000 for settlement of Mrs. Platt’s Part 12 Underinsured claim with MetLife. Mrs. Platt quickly learned that although she was dealing with a new insurance company, her own, it was the same old story.

A month later, MetLife offered $1,000. I declined to reduce the demand. A few weeks later MetLife made its final offer, a mere $3,000. In hindsight, we were fortunate MetLife’s final offer was so low. This made the decision about what to do next very easy – demand arbitration. The sole issue in dispute would be the relative value of Mrs. Platte’s injuries.

Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we agreed to hold the arbitration via Zoom video conference with the arbitrator, MetLife’s attorney, Mrs. Platte, and myself all joining from different locations. Prior to the arbitration, the attorney hired by MetLife took Mrs. Platte’s Examination Under Oath (EUO), which is very similar to a deposition. The EUO was also conducted via Zoom.

Relying on video conferences to prepare Mrs. Platte for her Zoom EUO and Zoom arbitration, Mrs. Platte was confident and presented herself exceptionally well. The arbitrator even commented in his written decision that Mrs. Platte was a “believable witness”.

As for the technology side of things, there were no real issues with conducting the arbitration by Zoom. To the contrary, the arbitrator wrote that he was able to see “a noticeable bump or rise on her hand” when Mrs. Platte held her hand up to the camera.

In the end, the arbitrator determined the total value of Mrs. Platte’s damages to be $200,000, which is equivalent to the sum of the demands I made to GEICO and MetLife in the first place. MetLife was entitled to reduce the arbitrator’s award by the $100,000 previously recovered from GEICO as well as a small amount MetLife already paid under a different Part of Mrs. Platt’s policy. Thus, the arbitrator’s net award equaled $97,921.60.

I am very proud to have represented Mrs. Platte and I am grateful for her trust to fight for fair compensation. I am also grateful she trusted me to use video conferencing to prepare for and conduct the arbitration from remote locations. Without her willingness, Mrs. Platte’s case would have been indefinitely delayed until it was safe once again to hold in-person meetings.

To protect the privacy of all those involved, names and places have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended.

Jared N. Ballin, Esq.

Jared N. Ballin, Esq.