Thursday, January 8, 2009

State Farm Must Pay Victim

A Mobile County jury ruled against State Farm and in favor of their insured in a civil trial that concluded on January 7th. Moore & Wolfe attorneys, Steve Moore and Karlos Finley, represented Francilla Ridgeway during the two day trial. Ms. Ridgeway was the victim of a serious motor vehicle collision that occured on Novemebr 14, 2006 near Chickasaw. The collision occured as she moved into an intersection with a green light and was hit by an Alabama State Trooper vehicle that was involved in a high speed chase. The jury concluded after only about an hour and a half of deliberation that State Farm owed their insured $100,000.

The trooper was pursuing Daniel Keith Gibson who, just seconds before the collision, had gone through the intersection at over 90 miles per hour and was headed directly towards a school zone just a block away. Ms. Ridgeway testified at trial that she did not see or hear the approaching trooper vehicle. When pressed on cross examination by State Farm's attorney, Ms. Ridgeway said she was distracted by Gibson's vehicle and when her light turned green she moved into the intersection but was looking down the road in the direction of the fleeing vehicle. That afternoon, Gibson led law enforcement officers on a high speed chase through Mobile, Saraland and Chickasaw. He admitted to speeds in excess of 140 miles per hour and said he attempted to ellude police because he, "didn't want another speeding ticket."

State Farm, who provided underinsured motorist coverage to Ms. Ridgeway, never offered her any of those benefits under the policy, claiming Daniel Keith Gibson was not at-fault in causing the collision which left Ms. Ridgeway with over $24,000 in medical bills. They maintained this position even though Mr. Gibson's insurance carrier had earlier paid his policy limits to Ms. Ridgeway. "Underinsured motorist coverage is a safety net that you pay a premium for," explained Steve Moore. "If you are injured through the fault of someone else and they don't have enough insurance to cover all of your damages, then you can use your underinsured motorist coverage to make up the difference," he explained.

Besides incurring over $24,000 in medical expenses, Ms. Ridgeway lost almost $8,000 in wages as she recovered from shoulder surgery necessitated by the collision. At trial, State Farm said the accident was not the fault of Mr. Gibson but rather the fault of Ms. Ridgeway, in closing argument State Farm's attorney even implied that Ms. Ridgeway lied under oath when she said she was not on her cell phone at the time of the collision as he suggested maybe she was distracted by talking on her cell phone.

"For over two years State Farm has refused to pay the benefits owed under this policy by continuously blaming Ms. Ridgeway for this accident. She was an innocent victim of Mr. Gibson's idiotic decison to run from the police," said Moore in closing argument. Ms. Ridgeway is a single mother of four with her oldest son in college at the University of South Alabama. She testified that every month for years and years she struggled to pay her insurance premiums to State Farm, which she said were about $70 per month. "At her income level she had to work about 10 hours every month just to cover her premiums and this is what she gets for her hard work," her attorneys told jurors in closing argument referencing State Farm's blaming her for the collision.

For additional information on this story visit the Mobile Register online.

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