Judgment for widow who sues drunk driver’s insurance for violating duties to its insured and the plaintiff


In October 2017, plaintiff's husband was killed by a drunk driver. No insurance company was listed on the police report for the drunk driver. Despite the fact that plaintiff was listed on the police report as the car owner, and that her husband's address was the same as hers on the police report, no insurance company reached out to her on the drunk driver's behalf for more than eight months. She filed a lawsuit against the drunk driver a little more than eight months after the accident. She ultimately obtained a $3,353,777.52 judgment against the drunk driver.

The drunk driver's insurance company made itself known to the widow only after she filed her lawsuit against the drunk driver. After obtaining a judgment against the drunk driver, the widow filed a direct garnishment action against the insurer, alleging they were told about the wreck by the drunk driver on the day after it occurred, knew someone had been killed, and knew once it received the police report, a little over a month later, that its insured was found liable by the police. However, the insurer never communicated with its insured again after taking his initial report on the day after the accident, never warned him about the police report's findings, and never reached out to the widow to investigate or evaluate her claims, or to begin settlement discussions. The drunk driver had a $25,000 insurance policy and the plaintiff alleged that the  should have initiated settlement talks once it was reasonably certain that liability existed and that damages would exceed the policy limit. In short, the plaintiff alleged that the insurer violated its duties to communicate with its insured, investigate and evaluate the wrongful death claim, and to initiate settlement talks.

After a bench trial on November 24 and November 25, 2020, the Court entered a judgment against the insurer, finding it liable to the plaintiff for $3,481,901.29 (which was the original judgment amount, plus interest).

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Past results afford no guarantee of future results and every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

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