Case Study: Car Accident / Drunk Driver
Car Accident - Drunk Driver | $300,000 Settlement
- Our client was a state trooper who was attempting to overtake a suspected impaired driver when a second uninsured drunk driver collided with him. The impaired driver was coming from a local bar and had been stopped by a different police officer prior to his arrival at the bar for speeding. In the few hours he was at the bar he was able to reach a blood alcohol level of 3 times the legal limit. We were retained to pursue a dram shop action against the bar that overserved the driver. After the depositions of our client, the at-fault driver, and a corporate representative for the bar, we were able to reach a settlement after mediation.
Once retained, we began tracking down the at-fault driver, who was not an Oregon resident and convinced him to cooperate with our investigation against the bar. We also had to coordinate with our client's workers' compensation attorney to ensure that he was receiving all the necessary medical treatment and disability coverage while he was unable to work for a significant time after the crash. We had to overcome some unfavorable facts and develop a strategy to counter the argument that our client had comparable fault due to his traveling 30 miles over the posted speed limit at the time of the impact. This required research and obtaining training materials for officers on proper procedures and protocols for pursuing suspected impaired drivers and also coming up with a strategy to convince a jury that it was proper for our client not to have lights and sirens on despite his high traveling speed at the time of the accident. A lynchpin to our arguments required us to coordinate a deposition with the at-fault driver, who was unrepresented and apprehensive about reliving the events of that night at a deposition. Ultimately, with patience and persistence, we were able to complete the driver's deposition, which immediately led to a suggestion by defense counsel to try and resolve the case.
We were completely open and were happy to share information with the defense and the at-fault driver through the entire process; we treated all parties with respect and gave the feeling that we were all working together to reach a resolution rather than attempting to antagonize or bully anyone. We knew we had a challenging fact pattern, and all of our evidence proving over-serving was circumstantial at best. We had a large SAIF lien that we needed to overcome in order for our client to receive a significant amount in their pocket. At mediation, we were open to listening to what the mediator had to say and made sure to take into account their views throughout the process. When the mediation started, the mediator appeared to favor the bar's arguments against liability strongly; however, by acknowledging the flaws and working with the mediator instead of getting frustrated and digging our heels in, we made more significant steps early in the process, knowing that the process was a marathon and not a sprint. Sure enough, by the end of the day, the mediator had actually increased their valuation. At the end of the mediation, both the mediator and defense counsel ended up arguing on our client's behalf with the adjuster for the insurance company that they were evaluating the case too low and needed to increase their authority or risk an adverse result at trial.
"This was a case where patience and treating everyone with respect ruled the day."