John A. DeGasperis Triumphs Over Progressive Insurance Co. in Motor Vehicle Accident Arbitration

car accident

A Basch & Keegan client was awarded full policy coverage after a battle with insurance giant Progressive Insurance Co. (“Progressive”) in arbitration. The $275,000 arbitration award will help Basch & Keegan’s client make up for life-changing injuries and a permanent disability.

Basch & Keegan’s client was involved in a three-car crash that happened at high speed. The client recovered damages from the offending driver, and she subsequently filed a claim for Supplementary Underinsured Motorist (SUM) benefits. Despite compelling injuries and losses, Progressive refused to pay a fair amount of compensation so Basch & Keegan Partner, John A. DeGasperis, filed a demand for arbitration.

At the arbitration, John demonstrated that his client had suffered multiple injuries to the left shoulder, left arm, jaw, head and neck. The most significant injury involved a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that was made worse by severe emotional suffering and mental illness. John established these injuries by introducing medical records reflective of his client’s care and treatment after the accident. John even took the unusual step of calling his client’s treating neurologist to testify as an expert witness.

“I wanted to send a message to the arbitrator that we meant business,” John remarked about his unorthodox decision to call an expert witness at arbitration. “Most lawyers take arbitration for granted and rely solely on the records. I had an obligation to meet a burden of proof, and I knew the expert could persuade the arbitrator to understand the causal relationship between my client’s accident and her brain injury.”

John also relied on a narrative report from a doctor who is dual board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Pain Management. This same doctor treated John’s client for nearly three years following the accident. The narrative report summarized the care and treatment provided by the doctor, as well as his professional findings and opinions. In his narrative, he confirmed John’s client had suffered multiple injuries as a direct result of the car collision, including a left shoulder injury, cervical spine injury, traumatic brain injury, temporomandibular joint injury (TMJ) and left ulnar neuropathy. Furthermore, the doctor stated that John’s client had a “poor prognosis for recovery of her left shoulder” since she continued to have significant restriction of range of motion. “Based on history, physical exam findings, and medical records reviewed, the patient has had temporary total disability related to the injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident.”

John’s client was in her 40’s at the time of the accident. She worked as a certified massage therapist. Due to her injuries, the client was no longer able to work in her field. The trauma, long-term physical pain, financial ruin, interference with professional goals and overall life setbacks caused the client to become depressed. Her depression caused her to have suicidal ideations, and she had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

An arbitration hearing is like a miniature trial. The participants present evidence and make arguments supporting their positions. After the hearing, the arbitrator decides in favor of one side or the other.

In the wake of the pandemic, arbitrations have been become a popular option due to court backlogs. When asked why he chose arbitration, John stated “I don’t prefer arbitration because arbitrations tend to undermine our civil justice system.” Despite his deference for jury trials, John acknowledges that “sometimes an arbitration is the best option. They are fast, less stressful, and economical.”

Arbitration can be less stressful than trial because arbitration is informal by nature. Witnesses don’t have to stand in front of a courtroom full of spectators. Nevertheless, winning an arbitration proceeding is an art and requires skill and experience. John presented this case to the arbitrator with confidence and clarity. The arbitrator was persuaded and awarded John’s client the full policy of $275,000, resulting in a total recovery of $300,000. These funds will significantly improve the client’s quality of life.

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