One of our clients was injured by a drunk driver in St Louis, Missouri. The driver later plead guilty to DWI in Webster Groves Municipal Court. The plea of guilty to DWI is an admission of fault that can be used in the personal injury case against the driver. See using DWI plea of guilty as evidence. So most people think that this would be an open and shut case on the injury side of the case, obvious liability plus the risk of punitive damages should the case go to a jury. This is not always true though, even though the driver admitted fault, his insurance company is refusing to settle the case for more than just a few thousand dollars, an amount much less than the victim's medical bills alone, not to mention what she is legally entitled to for her ongoing symptoms and the other harms and losses she has suffered as the result of a drunk driver.
During the deposition of the drunk driver, I believe he just wanted to admit fault and get out of there; however, the auto insurance defense lawyer obstructed and objected after every question and obviously coached the witness to be as evasive as possible. The defense lawyer even instructed the driver not to answer my questions. As an effective personal injury lawyer, we could not allow this abuse! We immediately ended the deposition and sought a court order requiring the insurance lawyer to allow the driver to answer my questions. The court quickly ordered the driver to appear for a second deposition and to answer the questions. See Motion and Court Order - Forcing Drunk Driver to Answer Questions at Deposition
In the second deposition, after being ordered by a judge to answer my questions the driver had to finally admit that the accident was cause by alcohol. Excerpts from the deposition testimony are below:
Q. Would you agree with me that this collision likely would not have occurred if you weren't intoxicated?Defense Lawyer: I'm again just going to object because you are asking him to speculate. It lacks foundation. You are asking him to assume facts not in evidence. Subject to that and also subject to the fact that you are asking him about a legal conclusion about who is at fault, who isn't at fault, you may answer.
A. Yeah. I can't say being intoxicated caused my accident. I don't know. I mean . . .
Q. So what do you think caused the collision then?Defense lawyer : Again I'm just going to object. You are asking him to speculate. It lacks foundation. You are also asking him for a legal conclusion about the cause of the accident.
A. Wrong place at the wrong time, you know.
Q. What does that mean? Were you distracted?Defense lawyer: Again, I'm going to make the same objection. Subject to that go ahead.Q. Were you distracted?Defense lawyer: Same objection. <
A. No. I guess it was the alcohol.
Additionally, the driver admitted he did not even remember the car accident:
Q. Okay. Do you recall how the collision occurred?
Q. Okay. So what's the last thing that you recall before the collision occurring?
A. I left the casino. I drove over the bridge and got on Elm from 44 and went down that
way. It's kind of shadowy, blurry after that. Not much.
Clearly the insurance defense lawyers, who are supposed to be representing the driver and not the auto insurance company, is looking out for the best interests of the insurance company, not the at-fault driver. The insurance company has refused to settle this case, which means they are exposing their insured, the driver, to a possible punitive damages judgment, and why? They hope that my client will settle to avoid trial and the insurance company will save money. See, Insurance Company Must act in Good Faith in Settlement.
If you are injured by a drunk driver in Missouri or Illinois, call Sansone / Lauber, we sue drunk drivers and win big! (314) 863-0500 or contact us online.