Misrepresentation of insurance coverage resulted in a $10.1 million reward for our client, the victim of a pedestrian accident involving commercial vehicle

Misrepresentation of insurance coverage resulted in a $10.1 million reward for our client, the victim of a pedestrian accident involving a commercial vehicle.  Is this common practice when it comes to Hispanic accident victims?

Monday, June 17, 2024

Cruz & Associates and Cook Law Group, LLC, have successfully negotiated a settlement in a case involving a pedestrian struck by a commercial vehicle while crossing the street on her way to work. The accident resulted in permanent injuries to the pedestrian’s right leg.

The case is notable for two reasons: first, the settlement amount is substantial despite the incident not involving a fatality; second, the settlement was reached after a motion for sanctions was filed, highlighting the concealment of the actual insurance coverage available to the client.

For almost a year, IRG Ventures, represented by Hall Booth Smith, claimed that their insurance policy covered only $1 million. “Given the size of the Defendant’s business, we were suspicious of the low coverage, so we decided to file suit,” stated Ruben Cruz of Cruz & Associates. Again, the defense requested all insurance policies, only to receive the same representation that only $1 million of coverage existed.

However, when the plaintiff’s trial team began requesting and scheduling depositions of the roofing company’s executives, the narrative shifted: after months of discovery asserting there was only $1 million in liability coverage, the defense finally admitted there was actually an additional $10 million excess policy covering the plaintiff’s injuries.

Given the numerous requests made to the company and Hall Booth Smith, P.C., the plaintiff filed a Motion for Sanctions, asking the court to hold a hearing to investigate why the policy was not disclosed and to determine if similar “mishaps” had occurred in other cases involving the same parties.

The filing for the hearing triggered Hall Booth Smith’s departure from the case, resulting in the cancellation of the hearing. The firm was replaced by Dave Dial and Brannon Arnold of Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, who settled the case for $10.1 million, just under the total $11 million policy limit. 

“This case is a prime example of why thorough and complete discovery is essential,” said Matt Cook, lead attorney for the plaintiff. “Without pursuing full discovery and depositions, our client could have easily been misled into accepting what she believed was the full extent of the available insurance and would have never known about the excess policy.”

Josh Bearden of Cook Law Group, LLC, who authored the motion for sanctions, stated, “When such concealments are uncovered in litigation, we have no choice but to turn to the courts for answers regarding why the information was hidden and what other critical details might still be undisclosed.”

Matt Cook further added, “Had we trusted the opposing counsel’s statements about coverage, as we are entitled to do, our client would have been deprived of a just recovery. This kind of misconduct is particularly egregious because concealing coverage in cases involving substantial injuries harms the most vulnerable and deserving clients. The conduct is shameful.”

“The vast majority of my clients are Hispanic, and I’ve noticed there is a tendency for insurance companies and defense firms to lowball Hispanic cases. They try to take advantage of them because they think they’re going to settle for less … And that’s something I’m always very vigilant about and I’m always suspicious about whether we have all the coverage that’s really out there,” Cruz said, recounting that when he first saw the company only had $1 million in policy limits “it didn’t look right” and he enlisted Cook’s firm in the case.

The case was Prieto v. Burkett, et al. and was pending in Gwinnett County State Court.

For further information contact: Ruben Cruz at 404.316.9288

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