Bensalem Man Receives $19 Million Jury Award After Car Crash That Resulted in Leg Amputation
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on June 7th, 2013
A suburban Philadelphia man who lost a leg following a 2009 car crash has received a $19.1 million award from a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury.
Patrick Hennessey of Bensalem, Bucks County, who was 24 at the time of the incident on July 26, 2009, was severely injured as he helped to push a disabled car to the side of the northbound Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia, according to a May 28 story in The Pennsylvania Record.
Hennessey had been a passenger in the disabled vehicle, which was being driven by his friend, Ryan Caruso, the story reported. With Hennessey inside as a passenger, Caruso’s vehicle had moments earlier rear-ended another vehicle on the Boulevard, and then it wouldn’t restart after the crash. The two men began pushing it to the side of the road while the vehicle Caruso had rear-ended followed behind them with its emergency flashers on to try to protect them, the story reported.
Just then another vehicle, being driven by Shawn Robinson Jr., of Philadelphia, barreled into the car that was following them with its emergency flashers on, causing “a domino effect that sent that vehicle soaring into Hennessy,” the story stated.
Hennessy, who was hurt when he was essentially sandwiched between the two cars as they smashed together, sustained severe injuries that eventually led to an above-the-knee amputation of his right leg, according to The Record. Hennessey’s lawsuit was filed in early February 2011 against his friend, Caruso, and Robertson, who drove the car that plowed into the car that was following behind the men.
Robertson had no automobile insurance at the time of the crash, so the full award will be paid by Caruso’s insurer, Allstate, the report stated.
The jury’s verdict, which found that Hennessey’s injuries were caused by the negligent actions of both Caruso, the plaintiff’s friend, and Robertson, the driver whose vehicle struck the vehicle that eventually hit Hennessy, was reached after a three-day trial.
Interestingly, Hennessey’s attorney initially sought damages in the amount of $250,000 against Caruso’s insurance company, Allstate, but the company “declined to pay on more than one occasion,” according to a story in The Legal Intelligencer.
“This case changed from one that should have been settled and was in a position to settle simply by the exchange of a few letters several years ago, and it evolved into a classic example of how a large insurance company put its own interests ahead of the interests of its insured to the great detriment of its insured,” Hennessey’s attorney told The Legal Intelligencer. Two other previous damage demands, for $5 million before the trial and $10 million during the trial, were also allegedly ignored by Allstate, according to the story.
Hennessey’s damage award was made possible by Pennsylvania’s former “joint and several liability” doctrine, which at the time allowed the full amount of damages to be sought and recovered from any of several involved defendants, even if one of them had a smaller part in the crash. That law changed in 2011, requiring a defendant to be found liable by more than 60 percent before having to pay the entire damage award, but since Hennessey’s case occurred in 2009, it was grandfathered under the old law. Those changes in the joint and several liability law have unfairly left Pennsylvania drivers to be less-protected in cases of vehicle accidents.
The jury found Caruso 45 percent liable in the crash, with the rest of the responsibility due to Robertson’s actions, according to The Intelligencer.
In this case, unfair delays by Caruso’s insurance company apparently contributed to the jury’s large $19.1 million damage award. Insurance companies often seek to delay settlements and proceedings as they try to reduce their payouts by making it too difficult and expensive for plaintiffs to continue to seek their fair share of damages.
That’s called “bad faith” when insurance companies try to avoid their responsibilities to fulfill their obligations to their policyholders. It’s illegal and can cost insurance companies lots of extra damages, as it apparently did in this case.
One lesson to remember in this case is that no insurance company will protect and preserve your legal rights. It’s up to your legal team to be sure that you are compensated fairly when someone else hurts you or your loved ones. Choose that legal team wisely to ensure that your family’s interests are well-protected. These kinds of incidents and injuries happen every day when innocent victims are hurt in vehicle accidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others.
That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.
Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-(866) 352-4572 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.
When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.