The Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota recently released a decision that affirms the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by an accident victim (and her mother) against a doctor who treated the victim at a hospital after the accident occurred. The court in the case of Gores v. Miller ruled that a general release to which the victim agreed as part of a settlement with the insurance company that represented the negligent driver prevented her from pursuing a claim for damages relating to the doctor’s alleged malpractice. This ruling was made despite the fact that the compensation the victim received from the insurance company was not enough to cover all of the expenses related to the accident. The latest ruling will prevent the accident victim and her family from being fully compensated for the accident expenses.
The Victim is Injured by a Negligent Driver and Settles for the Auto Insurance Policy Limit
The accident victim was a 15-year-old girl who was injured when the driver of the van in which she was a passenger lost control of the vehicle, causing severe cuts on the girl’s arms. After the crash, she went to the hospital, where the defendant treated her wounds. She continued to receive treatment from the defendant for the next three months.
In a claim against the driver of the vehicle who caused the crash, the victim and her mother agreed to accept compensation of $25,000, which was the policy limit for the driver’s personal injury protection coverage. As part of the settlement agreement, the victim signed a release that “forever discharges (the driver) … and all other persons … who might be claimed liable … from any and all claims or suits of any kind or nature whatsoever … which have resulted or may in the future develop from (the accident).”
Complications Arise With the Treatment Received By the Defendant, and Another Suit Is Filed
After agreeing to the settlement, the victim noticed that the treatment she received for her injuries may not have been up to the professional standard of care, and she believed the poor treatment resulted in an unnecessarily long recovery time, as well as permanent disfigurement. Based on her accusations of the doctor’s malpractice, the victim filed a separate lawsuit against the doctor, seeking damages to compensate her for the additional costs allegedly incurred because of his negligence.
The Courts Agree that the Broad Language of the Accident Release Forbids the Second Suit
When the second claim came to court, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim, based on the language in the release to which the victim already had agreed. The victim appealed the ruling to the South Dakota Supreme Court, and the ruling was upheld. The court found that the language of the release was clear and unambiguous, and that it released any person from any future claim arising from the accident. The victim’s argument that she never intended to release a malpractice claim relating to the treatment received by the doctor was not persuasive to the court, and the $25,000 policy limit from the auto insurer will be all of the compensation that the victim receives.
Settling a Georgia Accident Lawsuit
When a Georgia auto accident victim agrees to a settlement with a negligent driver or their insurance company, it most likely will have implications for the victim’s rights moving forward. As in South Dakota, Georgia courts tend to strictly construe settlement agreements, and insurance companies are eager to draft the agreements as favorably as possible for themselves. This practice can result in trouble for accident victims who are trying to negotiate a settlement on their own or with inexperienced legal counsel. A qualified Georgia personal injury attorney can help accident victims ensure that they are only releasing the claims they intend to release when a settlement agreement is made, and that the compensation offered will be sufficient.
How to Contact a Georgia Accident Attorney?
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a distracted driving car accident or another type of crash, the experienced Georgia personal injury and accident attorneys at Miller Legal Services can help you get fairly compensated for your injuries, without giving up any more of your future rights than necessary. Our respected attorneys know the tricks that insurance companies and their lawyers use to try and get their clients the best outcome, and we can catch them in the act before you or a loved one agrees to a settlement that is not drafted in your best interest. We’ve helped hundreds of clients obtain relief, and we want to hear about your case. At Miller Legal Services, we represent clients in most personal injury and wrongful death cases, including auto accidents. Call us today at 770-284-3727 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
See Related Blog Posts:
The Reach of Negligence Liability Lawsuits in Georgia, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 20, 2016.
State Supreme Court Finds County May Be Liable for Damages after Failing to Trim Bushes at Intersection, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 10, 2016.