A woman permanently injured when the brakes failed on an approaching pickup truck that crashed into her car has settled her claims for more than $1 million.
Nearly all of the settlement was paid by the insurer for the Ellaville garage, Southern Automotive, after an expert found the repair shop missed a leaky brake line in an inspection shortly before the wreck, said Brian Adams of Macon’s Adams Law Firm.
Adams said Julie Robbins, now 34, suffered a traumatic brain injury among other injuries, and her husband was told shortly after the wreck that, if she survived, she might remain in a permanent vegetative state.
Adams said Robbins’ recovery from the May 2014 crash has been “almost miraculous.”
“She’s able to interact and carry on a conversation, but her memory and motor skills were impacted and probably will be for life,” said Adams. “She’ll probably need another knee surgery, and she’s able to drive, but she’ll never be the same.”
According to Adams and documents in the case, Robbins and two of her children were traveling on Andersonville Road in southwest Georgia’s Schley County in a 2003 Chevy Cavalier when the accident happened.
A Dodge Ram was approaching and had stopped to turn left when a Ford Ranger driven by 16-year-old Jeffrey Deloach came up behind it, hitting the Dodge before barreling into Robbins’ car head-on.
In addition to her brain injury, Robbins suffered fractured bones in her face, foot, knee and legs, and was medevaced to the Medical Center of Central Georgia.
The children suffered relatively minor injuries, Adams said.
Robbins was hospitalized for several months, including three months at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, before going into a rehab center. She returned home nearly six months after the wreck.
Deloach told responding officers that his brakes failed, and as part of its investigation a Georgia State Patrol officer examined his truck, finding the brake fluid reservoir was empty and the right rear brake nonfunctional.
Adams initially filed suit against Deloach and his father, the Ranger’s owner, in Schley County Superior Court on behalf of Robbins, her husband and the two children.
“The defendants filed for bankruptcy because of this lawsuit, and the case was stayed,” Adams said. Deloach admitted negligence but testified that his brakes were not working.
The stay was ultimately lifted after Adams hired Scott Short of Gainesville’s Collision Specialists Inc., who determined Southern Automotive, which had serviced the brakes, performed negligent work. The garage was then added as a defendant.
In a November 2016 demand letter, Adams said Southern Automotive repaired the brakes seven months before the wreck and then inspected the truck two weeks prior, after Deloach complained about front end trouble.
The demand letter sought the $1 million limit of Southern Automotive’s Liberty Mutual policy.
“We were in the process of building Julie’s life care plan to use at trial when they decided to negotiate in good faith,” said Adams. Hobbs’ most recent medical bill total was $1.1 million, he said, and at trial “we would have had pretty intense economic damages; we would have asked for $10 million.”
Earlier this year, Adams settled with Liberty Mutual for $975,000. Deloach’s carrier, State Farm, later paid $46,750, and last week Robbins uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier, Allstate, paid $30,267 for a total settlement of $1,052,017.
Liberty Mutual was represented by J. Robb Cruser and Kathleen Hurley of Cruser, Mitchell, Novitz, Sanchez, Gaston & Zimet.
“They were super professional and pleasant to work with,” said Adams, adding that Allstate and State Farm had also been very cooperative.