Barbara Inman spent Christmas 2017 bedridden at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The 75-year-old Wisconsin resident had traveled to Florida with the intention of a routine family visit for the holiday season. Instead, she found her life upended in a Publix supermarket parking lot. While walking to meet her daughter at their vehicle, Inman was struck and run over by an SUV.
The accident left Inman with fractures along her right leg, hip, pelvis and right arm. It also cost her the use of her lower left leg, following a below-the-knee amputation.
Inman’s attorney, Adam Josephs of the Josephs Law Firm in Coral Gables, said his client underwent 11 operations in a single month to treat her injuries.
Now, with Josephs’ help, Inman can rest a little more comfortably about a year after the incident. On Dec. 5 she reached a pre-suit settlement of $4.25 million with American Family Insurance, her coverage provider. Although a complaint had been filed against the company as well as the vehicle’s driver and owner, the case never went to trial.
Read the complaint:
“Fortunately, Ms. Inman had an under/uninsured motorist coverage policy,” Josephs said.
In addition to that coverage — which totaled $250,000 — Inman also had a $4 million umbrella policy.
Although Inman’s suit was settled before going to trial, the proceedings were not free of conflict.
“Immediately after the accident, the defendant driver, together with at least one witness, suggested the plaintiff had tripped and fallen on the ground so that the driver missed seeing [Inman],” Josephs said. He described the argument as an attempt “to shift responsibility” for Inman’s injuries. “The plaintiff was adamant she did not fall at any time prior to being run over,” the lawyer said. “Moreover, she was carefully crossing the parking lot when the defendant came out of nowhere and struck her.”
The trajectory of Inman’s lawsuit changed once Josephs recovered video capturing the collision.
“The only reason this case resolved when it did was because we were able to locate and obtain video footage taken by a third party that captured the accident and clearly demonstrated it occurred in the manner the plaintiff reported,” he said. “She did not trip or fall before the impact. She was struck by the defendant in broad daylight.”
“It is rare that catastrophic accidents like this resolve at a pre-suit stage when the available policy limits are large,” Josephs continued. “Insurance companies tend to want to make plaintiff attorneys fight for every dollar and perform at least some discovery.”
Josephs said American Family tendered Inman’s policy after concluding “there was a high probability that she would obtain a verdict in excess of the $4,250,000 policy limits.”
“Discovering video footage that completely captured the incident was a big turning point from our perspective,” he said. “The video completely ended any argument that the accident happened in any way other than how the plaintiff vividly recalled it.”
In addition to the settlement, Inman got $100,000 from Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Co., the insurance provider for the driver and owner of the vehicle that struck her.
“The Knoerr & Emanuel law firm was brought in to defend the case in the event we did not accept the policy limits and could not resolve the claim with the UM/UIM insurer, American Family,” Josephs explained. The legal counsel for Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Co., Jacqueline Emanuel, declined to comment citing a lack of involvement with the settlement.
Josephs said Inman has returned to Wisconsin and is trying to “get back to normal as much as she can,” in light of “the catastrophic nature of her injuries” and “the manner in which they will continue to affect her in the future.”
Case: Barbara Inman v. Andrew Wichser, Felicia Champe Wichser, and American Family Mutual Insurance Co.
Case no.: 2018-022443-CA-01
Description: Auto negligence
Filing date: June 2, 2018
Settlement: Dec. 5, 2018
Judge: Judge Spencer Eig
Plaintiff attorney: Adam C. Josephs, The Josephs Law Firm, Coral Gables
Defense attorney: Jacqueline G. Emanuel, Knoerr & Emanuel, for Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Co.
Settlement amount: $4.25 million