Our client was struck by a negligent motorist while riding his bicycle on his way home from the store to get some milk for him and his wife. Every year, they would spend about five months in their little home in the Keys, to get away from the cold Canadian winters. He was transported to a hospital where they diagnosed, among the scrapes and bruises, an aortic aneurysm. They suggested he transfer to Jackson Memorial for surgery.
However, since he was a Canadian citizen without health insurance to treat him in the US, he returned home to Ontario and entered a hospital there. He never left. He died in that hospital in Ontario following complications from the surgery. His wife was so distraught that it took her just over 2 years from the date of the collision to look into getting an attorney to pursue the case.
A lawyer from Miami told her that she was too late, that she had missed the statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim, and that there was nothing she could do. For some reason, she didn’t accept that, and she called Dennis Phillips. Mr. Phillips informed her that, yes there is a 2 year statute of limitations on wrongful death cases, but the clock starts on the date of death, not the date of the collision or other negligent incident. (Most deaths caused by negligence are immediate, so we can understand the other lawyer’s confusion if he doesn’t deal with these issues day to day.)
With a week or so to spare before the actual deadline, Mr. Phillips drove to the Keys to collect the hospital records and sent out demand letters to the bodily injury carrier for the at-fault driver and to the UM carrier for the surviving spouse. The BI adjuster argued strongly that the death was caused by other factors, perhaps including medical malpractice in Canada or simply a matter of the client being in his 80’s, but Mr. Phillips was able to tie the causation issue to the subject collision using one small line in the hospital records that suggested the aortic aneurysm was traumatically induced.
This, and the threat of Bad Faith litigation prompted the BI adjuster to tender his $100,000 limits. Upon inquiry, Mr. Phillips learned that the UM adjuster was just down the hall from the BI adjuster and both were owned by the same parent company. He convinced the BI adjuster to go down the hall and argue his case for him to the UM adjuster, who promptly tendered his $100,000 limits for all the same reasons. The surviving spouse could not get her husband back, but she was eternally grateful that she didn’t give up at the advice given to her by the first attorney.