Julia Beasley, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, represented Tyrone Powell Johnson and Thomasine Boyd-Johnson in an underinsured motorist (UIM) case that was tried in the Circuit court of Montgomery County, Ala., last month. Mr. Johnson was injured in a two-vehicle accident on Sept. 3, 2013. The driver of the other car was at fault in the crash. The liability insurance carrier for the tort-feasor (the at-fault driver) had paid its limit of $50,000. Our clients proceeded against state Farmer Insurance Company. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury awarded Mr. Johnson $260,000 in compensatory damages and Mrs. Boyd-Johnson, who had a separate claim, $25,000 in compensatory damages.
The Johnsons’ claim against State Farm was based on a policy of insurance that provided for “underinsured” motorist coverage. Mr. Johnson has been a policyholder with State Farm for 25 years and paid premiums for this type coverage. Mr. Johnson suffered a neck injury, which his doctors say will likely require surgery. Mrs. Johnson had a loss of consortium claim.
The jury verdict was important for several reasons – one being the nature of the claim involved. It’s unfortunate that State Farm would not take care of its policyholder and pay a valid claim. Instead, State Farm elected to put the Johnson’s through a trial. The jury’s verdict will do what State Farm should have done.
State Farm had offered $15,000 before jury selection, which was rejected by Mr. & Mrs. Johnson. Fortunately, the Johnsons had adequate underinsured motorist coverage with State Farm. Many people don’t realize how important underinsured motorist coverage is. Many drivers who cause motor vehicle collisions have either no liability insurance or carry the bare minimum limits. That makes uninsured motorist coverage very important. Each person reading this report should check their uninsured motorist coverage.
So many companies offer the minimum amount of uninsured motorist coverage to their policyholders. It’s important for persons to obtain as much uninsured motorist insurance in their policies as possible. We recommend that persons request the maximum amount of uninsured motorist coverage that their liability insurance carrier will write for them. The Johnsons case is a prime example of why this is so important. Julie did a very good job for her clients in this case. The total amount is $334,000 which including’s the tort-feasor’s liability coverage and the Johnson’s uninsured motorist coverage. Fortunately State Farm will have to pay the verdicts under the uninsured motorist coverage of the Johnsons’ policy. This will be in addition to the $50,000 received prior to the trial, making a total of $335,000.