Congratulations to my partner, attorney Jan Smolak, who recently settled a wrongful death case for $5,500,000! Although I am not at liberty to discuss the details of the settlement, nor any of the specifics regarding the injury (we signed a non-disclosure agreement with the insurance company), I can say that Jan, once again, did an outstanding job.
Such a large settlement for a motor vehicle accident case is unusual. There are two reasons why:
First, a negligent driver who causes an accident is extremely unlikely to have enough insurance (or personal assets) to cover such a large settlement. The minimal liability insurance for motor vehicles in New York is only $25,000, and a good chunk of New York auto owners carry only this bare minimum in coverage. Even well-off folks rarely carry more than $1,000,000 in coverage. Greater coverage is usually only available when the at-fault vehicle is owned by, or the driver of the vehicle was in the scope of his employment for, a large corporation. Personal injury lawyers refer to this as a “deep-pocket defendant”. In car accidents, “deep pocket” defendants are rare.
Second, cars have become so much safer over the years that it is now rare for auto-accident victims to suffer injuries serious enough to warrant a 7-figure settlement or verdict. The airbags and other safety features of modern vehicles have significantly minimized injuries. (Ironically, this evolution toward safer vehicles has been spurred by lawsuits against auto manufacturers. The industry has improved their safety record because of personal injury lawyers like us!)
When someone is killed in an auto accident (like in this case Jan settled), there are two claims: Wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering. The wrongful death claim is to compensate family members whom the victim was economically supporting (usually the spouse and children). With the help of an economist, we can calculate the total long-term loss of economic support the family will suffer over time.
The conscious-pain-and-suffering claim is to compensate for the suffering the victim endured between moment of the collision and his or her death. Although the victim is not alive to enjoy this monetary compensation, the law allows his family to receive it in his or her stead.
In Jan’s case, the victim had children who will benefit from both claims: the wrongful death and the conscious-pain-and-suffering claims. The $5,500,000 settlement encompasses both claims.
As I already mentioned, most personal injury and wrongful death cases do not have the devastating pain and suffering or loss of economic support to sustain that kind of verdict or settlement. Nevertheless, at Michaels & Smolak, we have handled a significant number of multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts, including:
$7,750,000 – Settlement for a man paralyzed in a car crash.
$5,200,000 – Verdict against the State of NY for an inmate who was “shanked” by a fellow inmate in Auburn prison as a result of the guards’ failure to properly supervise inmates.
$3,800,000 – Settlement for a construction worker’s permanent lung damage from inhaling dust at a demolition site.
$3,200,000 – Jury verdict for a woman scarred in a bonfire explosion.
$3,814,390 – Verdict (including interest) against the State of New York for elderly Parkinson’s patient paralyzed and brain damaged during negligent surgery at Upstate Hospital.
$2,500,000 – Medical malpractice verdict for failure to timely diagnose breast cancer.
$2,225,000 – Settlement for a construction worker who suffered a brain hemorrhage when he fell from an improperly secured ladder.
$2,225,000 – Settlement for a roofer who fell and suffered serious fractures in his lower extremities.
These “big” cases do not show up at our door by pure coincidence. Our reputation precedes us. Most people who are seriously injured, or whose family member dies in a preventable accident, don’t just call the first billboard they drive by or the first attorney advertisement that pops up on the TV. They usually check with other lawyers they know and trust to refer them to a top personal injury lawyer. We are proud to say that this is how these larger cases almost always come to us: through referral from other lawyers.
Congratulations to Jan Smolak for this fantastic settlement and to the entire Michaels & Smolak team for 30 plus years of outstanding results for our injured clients!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Syracuse NY Car Accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.