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Sunday, 08 April 2018 00:00

A jury in Monmouth County has awarded a man $2.5 million for injuries he sustained in a car accident while on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Written by Jonathan Druckman

The six-member jury gave a unanimous finding on the $2.5 million award for pain and suffering, but came down 5-1 on liability.

The plaintiff in this case was man named John Coppola from Howell township. On the night of February 6, 2015, he was driving home from his job on the New Jersey Turnpike. According to the facts of the case, he was driving in the left lane when he quickly approached another vehicle that had stopped in his lane of travel. That vehicle was allegedly stopped there without lights or flashers on to notify other drivers. Mr. Coppola attempted to avoid the vehicle but was unable to. He then allegedly struck the stopped vehicle in the left lane before landing in the center lane where his vehicle was struck by another motorist.

The driver of the stopped car was Shaniya Yabon and the driver of the vehicle that hit Mr. Coppola’s in the center lane was Bruce Aronwald. Both Yabon and Aronwald were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

As a result of the accident, Mr. Coppola, aged 47, suffered serious permanent injury. According to the lawsuit, the Plaintiff suffered from numerous fractures to the hip that required doctors to insert four plates and 13 screws in an emergency operation. That lawsuit also contends that as a result of this injury, Mr. Coppola will require a total hip replacement later on during his life.

The jury trial lasted four days before Superior Court Judge Owen McCarthy in Monmouth County. Yabon settled with Mr. Coppola but then Coppola made a claim under the UIM or underinsured motorist portion of his own insurance carrier. Underinsured motorist coverage is an excellent way to protect yourself against driver’s who have low insurance coverage. For example, someone with a $15,000/$30,000 auto insurance policy would have a maximum amount payable of $15,000 to any one individual and just $30,000 total if more than one person was injured in the accident. Regardless of the injury that resulted from that driver’s negligence, the maximum you could receive from that driver’s insurance policy would be just $15,000. UIM coverage can help solve this problem and ensure that you are insured against the unpredictable world. A UIM policy is designed to protect you against such drivers with small policies.

The insurance giant, Allstate, therefore stepped into Yabon’s shoes to defend against this UIM claim. The trial was against Aronwald and the UIM insurance carrier. The jury found “Yabon” (really Allstate) 100% liable for causing the accident and 0% liability for both Coppola or Aronwald. Had the jury found Coppola somewhat liable for the accident that the total amount of his recovery would have been reduced by the percent he was found liable.

For example in this case since the award was $2.5 million, if Coppola had been found 10% liable then the damages would be reduced by 10% of $2.5 million or $250,000. But if Coppola was 20% liable then the damages would be reduced by 20% of $2.5 million or $500,000. And so on.

However, in NJ which follows a tort theory on comparative negligence law the plaintiff must be no more than 50% liable! This means that if the jury had apportioned the liability to 49% Yabon and 51% Coppola – then Coppola would have recovered nothing.

If you were injured in an automobile accident it is important to know your rights before you accept any offer from the insurance company. In Mr. Coppola’s case, his UIM claim yielded him a $2.5 million verdict for his injuries. Call the Law Offices of Druckman & Hernandez 7 days a week to speak with lawyers who are experienced in the area of tort and automobile accidents.

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