Michigan Auto Law Forced to Trial, Wins $5.6 Million for Man Hit by Pickup Truck

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Attorney Steven M. Gursten says defense pushed serious personal injury case to trial under the guise the case involved a friend suing a friend. Gursten believes this is a nationwide tactic increasingly being adopted by many large corporations and insurance companies.

We are letting defendants intentionally mislead juries. We are letting these insurance companies and corporations use that law to avoid taking responsibility for what they should be paying. It's a complete abuse of the system and it's wrong.

Michigan Auto Law announces a $5.65 million jury verdict in Macomb County Circuit Court (Docket No. 210582) for its client, Anthony G. Broeren, who was run over by a pickup truck and propelled head-first into a log cabin.

According to trial testimony, a handful of friends were wrapping up a week of deer camp in Evart, Michigan, when Broeren was standing in the driveway near the cabin they were staying in. Defendant Roy Bates II was backing up his truck, but instead of hitting the brake, he hit the gas. Doctors testified in court that Broeren will never be able to return to competitive employment again. Prior to the November 2006 accident, he was a mechanical engineer.

Chrysler was the financially responsible party according to the documentation received during the discovery process (and Michigan law), because the company insured the pickup truck driven by defendant Roy Bates II.

Defense attorney William McCandless -- even against the judge's ruling -- said in his opening statement that the case was a dispute amongst friends. With that, McCandless created an untrue impression that Broeren's friend, and not the financially responsible party Chrysler, would be personally accountable for the car accident verdict, said partner of Southfield-based Michigan Auto Law Steven M. Gursten, who represented Broeren, noting that the defense leaned on a law that doesn't allow jurors to know whether a defendant has insurance.

This tactic, whereby some insurance companies and corporations try to hide behind the false appearance of individual defendants at trial to avoid having to pay steep verdicts, is gaining popularity across the country, Gursten says. In essence, they are trying to dupe juries into believing an "average Joe" will be solely responsible for a verdict and face financial ruin; when in reality, that individual is only put there for show, and an insurance company or corporation behind the scenes is financially responsible for any verdict, he said.

In Broeren's case, defense bar's settlement offer until one day before trial was $600,000 -- on a case that had been independently evaluated at $2.6 million, mediation documents say.

Luckily, the Michigan jury wasn't fooled into awarding less because of the defense tactic.

"We believe the defense tried to take advantage of a law designed to promote fairness, creating the false impression that Tony Broeren was going to bankrupt his friend," said Gursten. "We are letting defendants intentionally mislead juries. We are letting these insurance companies and corporations use that law to avoid taking responsibility for what they should be paying. It's a complete abuse of the system and it's wrong."

Gursten is referring to Michigan Rule of Evidence 411, and its federal equivalent under the Federal Rules of Evidence, FRE 411. This evidentiary rule, essentially adopted by every state, says that a jury is not to know that a defendant has insurance. The purpose of the rule is to prevent juries from being swayed by the knowledge of insurance, the suggestion being that juries might award higher verdicts than they otherwise would, Gursten said.

Gursten is an expert in cases like Broeren's, in which large corporations and insurance companies have abused this protection and forced substantial and catastrophic injury cases to trial while hiding behind the appearance of the "average Joe." He is available for interviews on the subject.

Meanwhile, the media in Michigan is running with the Michigan car accident verdict story.

About Michigan Auto Law
Michigan Auto Law is a third-generation firm with 15 attorneys specializing in helping people who have been seriously injured or wrongfully killed in car, truck and motorcycle accidents throughout Michigan. The firm has received the top reported jury verdict for automobile accident cases for four of the past seven years. Michigan Auto Law is headquartered in Southfield at 26555 Evergreen Road, Suite 1530, (800)968-1001. The firm also has offices in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. For more information, visit http://www.michiganautolaw.com.

About Steven M. Gursten
Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation's top experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. In addition to achieving some of the highest car and truck accident settlements each year for injury victims in Michigan, Gursten has received the largest jury verdict in car accident cases for three of the past six years. He is a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year," a Michigan "Super Lawyer" and is listed in "Best Lawyers in America." Gursten has been selected as an AV-rated lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest lawyer rating available for legal ability and legal ethics. He is also recognized as a "Top 100 Trial Lawyer" by the American Trial Lawyers Association. Additionally, Gursten serves on the executive board of the American Association for Justice Traumatic Brain Injury Group and is on the board of governors for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.

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Natalie Lombardo
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