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Senior Citizen Crushed by Unsecured Tow Truck Recovers $1.74M

animated gray flatbed tow truck
The plaintiff needed to receive a net verdict in excess of $1 million to receive any new compensation.

An elderly man who was crushed when an unoccupied flatbed tow truck rolled backwards into him, breaking both of his legs, has recovered a total of $1,745,309 in a two-part settlement.

The driver failed to properly set the parking brake when exiting the cab of the tow truck. The injury caused past medical expenses of $330,000 and a significant diminution of the quality of life.

Dean Bauer, who lived in a small community in Minnesota, called AAA for a tow on July 19, 2001 because his pickup would not start.  When the tow truck arrived, Bauer and the tow truck driver who worked for Onamia Service Center decided to try to see if they could try to start it so they popped the hood.

Bauer was in front of his truck looking into the engine compartment when the tow truck rolled back and pinned him between his truck and the tow truck. Bauer, now age 68, is married with 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren.  He retired on the day of the accident from a small business he owned doing commercial and residential trade work.

Bauer sued the tow truck company in a rural county in Minnesota.

A settlement and a verdict

The tow truck company had $1 million in insurance. They paid $765,000 to settle the bodily injury (BI) case on October 15, 2013. "We decided to settle because the case venue was in a very poor Minnesota rural county that had never seen a million dollar verdict," says plaintiff lawyer Robert Christensen of Minneapolis, MN, a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

The plaintiff had $500,000 in underinsurance (UIM) coverage so he sued his own insurance company in Dakota County -- one of seven metropolitan counties in the greater Twin Cities area with a much higher per capita income. The plaintiff rejected a settlement offer of $100,000 and decided to try the case.

Under Minnesota law, the tow truck company was not underinsured if the net damages recovered in the UIM case were less than $1 million.

"For example, if the damages awarded by the jury were a net $999,999 he would recover $0. However, if the net verdict were $1,001,000 he would recover the $1.00, plus he would recover the “gap” of $235,000 which represents the difference between the one million in BI coverage and the BI settlement amount of $765,000.

The net verdict far exceeded the $1,265,000 amount needed to collect the entire $500,000 in coverage," Christensen says. The UIM case was tried and the verdict rendered on June 13, 2014.  The case settled on July 1, 2014.

The case is Dean Bauer v. AAA (Auto Club Group), Case Number: 19HA-CV-13-4463, Dakota County District Court, before Judge Thomas M. Pugh.

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