Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton - July 2020

July 2020

I t was a nice summer day in July 2016 and George and Kathey White were getting ready to leave for a weekend trip to the lake. Kathey was waiting for George to return home from the store when she received a call informing her that he had been in a car accident and she needed to go directly to the emergency room at the University of Alabama Medical Center (UAB). The news was dire when she arrived. George had been in a horrific head-on collision. The other driver had been distracted by her cellphone, crossed the center line, and hit George head-on. George suffered multiple serious injuries from the accident that would require a number of difficult treatments and procedures. No one knew at that point whether George would live. Having been married for nearly 50 years, Kathey was utterly devastated. The day after the accident Kathey was contacted by a lawyer friend advising her to contact Hughston Nichols at Hare Wynn. She recalls, “I remember how much I liked Hughston from the very first time I met him. He was straightforward and honest, and he made no promises regarding the outcome. But when he told me he would do the best he could, I believed him. Without Hughston and his assistant Andi, I don’t think I could have survived the next few weeks. They were so helpful and encouraging — not only with legal advice but on a personal level as well. They knew what a difficult ordeal this was for us and they were committed to helping us in every way they could. It wasn’t just all business.” As if George’s situation wasn’t traumatic and precarious enough, the driver who hit George was an uninsured motorist. The Whites made a claim for “uninsured motorist” benefits through their personal auto insurance carrier. However, they were

only covered for a fraction of their medical expenses. With a total hospital bill of over $1 million, the amount they were personally responsible for would have bankrupted the couple. Because Hughston had years of experience with insurance issues just like this, he negotiated with the White’s health insurance carriers for pennies on the dollar — paying back only $25,000, which was accepted as payment in full. George and Kathey knew they could not have gotten these results without Hughston. In Kathey’s words, “When Hughston told us he could negotiate that price down, it literally blew me away because there was no way we could have paid that kind of hospital bill. It was astronomical. George had spent 42 days in intensive care and then three weeks in a rehab facility learning to walk again. If Hughston hadn’t helped us settle that … well, I don’t even want to think about where we’d be.”

Perhaps the greatest heartache for an attorney working with clients in challenging and traumatic circumstances is not being able to give them everything they need because of the constraints of legal and financial realities. In this case, these realities were the amount of the White’s uninsured motorist coverage and the financial situation of the other driver. Hughston fully evaluated the case to see if they should go to court, but in the end determined it would be pointless, telling Kathey, “We could probably get a large judgment, but you would never see a penny of it. We would not be able to collect.” Kathey appreciated his honesty, saying “I needed Hughston to be very practical and truthful and that is exactly what he was. He was just great. He was great the whole time.”

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