Car Accident - $500,000 Recovery Insurance Bad Faith - Confidential Settlement
For many years, Mary Nehrlich sold insurance. It's how she made a living.
But never did she dream that when she needed money from the insurance companies, whose products she sold for years, she would be shown the door.
Mary will never forget that day - Oct. 18, 1995. It was her son's birthday. It was around 4:30 in the afternoon and she just had enough time to make a run to the store to buy her dear son a birthday present.
"I was going to get him a wallet because he had lost the one he had," she said.
As Mary drove near the intersection of McFadden and Springdale streets in Huntington Beach, she got hit by a driver who ran a red light at that intersection.
She would later learn that he was going 55 miles an hour in a 40-mile zone and running a red light.
Mary's car was totaled in that fiery crash. Her body was devastated. She suffered traumatic head, shoulder, hip and back injuries. She underwent knee and shoulder surgeries and rehab at UCI Medical Center for three years.
Now, Mary was an insurance professional.
I thought I had it all covered, that I had planned for every possible incident to the best of my ability," she said.
The man who hit her also turned out to be an uninsured motorist. Her disability insurance carrier, for whom she was a top salesperson, declined to pay her. Mary was diagnosed with a brain injury months after the incident.
"The doctors who saw me found out that something in my head wasn't quite right," she said. "I didn't have the mental abilities I had before the accident. I couldn't comprehend certain things. Doctors found that one part of my brain had suffered such severe trauma that it simply shut off."
It was the hardest thing for her to accept.
"I used to be a smart, intelligent woman who was really good at what I did," she said. "And now, I was not that person."
But the insurance companies didn't see it that way. In their eyes, Mary seemed perfectly fine.
"I wasn't drooling or sitting on a wheelchair," she said. "So to them, there was nothing wrong with me and they refused to pay me. They basically told me that I didn't look disabled, so I was not disabled."
Mary did not hesitate to contact Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys. John Bisnar was a longtime family friend and Mary knew he was the person for the job.
"John Bisnar and Brian Chase were with me through the process, especially the depositions which were the hardest," Mary said. "The emotional support they provided to me at the time I most needed it, was just invaluable. To them it was not just another case. They took it personally."
Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys helped her fight the insurance company in what turned out to be a grueling, five-year battle, Mary said.
"Working with John was like being taken care of by a family member," she said. "Until then, I had only been familiar with lawyers who are nice to you until you sign a contract. But John is completely different and fought for me all the way. Because if your lawyer doesn't keep up, you might as well give up on the case and on the money you are entitled to."
Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys recovered $500,000 on her auto insurance. And then the law firm helped Mary sue the disability insurance carrier, who later agreed to a significant settlement that remained confidential.
There were several obstacles, Mary recalled.
"It was a really tough challenge because the technology that discovered my brain injury was not widely used and its validity was challenged in court," she said. "That's why the insurance companies decided to delay all claims."
But through the legal battle, Mary was also trying to regain her physical strength, her cognitive abilities and her personality.
"It absolutely devastated me and my family," she said.
Mary had four children at the time of her auto accident and was engaged to be married. The accident dealt a hard, cruel blow on her little bubble of bliss, which just then seemed to be coming together nicely.
Her physical recovery took about two years in addition to the three years she spent in rehab. Mary still takes medication.
"I still have trouble processing some technical information," she says. "I guess I can say that after all these years, I'm now 90 percent as good as I was before that accident."
That process, by the way, was no picnic. Mary couldn't just go back to what she was doing before the accident. First of all, she hadn't regained the ability to do it. Secondly, she was embittered by the experience.
"It was heart-wrenching for me because I was selling insurance products, which ironically, did not work for me when I most needed it in my life," she said. "I couldn't sell something I didn't believe in."
So she took up a job as a country club clerk.
"It was really, really frustrating for me considering what I was doing before," she said. "But I had to start somewhere. It was as if all this information was locked up in my head and I had lost the key."
Slowly, but surely, she got back to her old job.
"But I don't sell the products of that company, which let me down at the hour my need," she says.
If she has seen anything positive come out of this horrific experience, it is the knowledge "that life's too short and too fragile."
"I'm a different person now," she says. "I'm nicer, more patient and understanding. I became a stronger person because I almost died, but then I had to get back on my feet and fight for what's right. I couldn't have done it without John Bisnar and Brian Chase. John and his staff took a lot off my shoulders so I could get back the life I once had."