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Hagen, Rosskopf & Earle Win $2.5 Million For Dekalb County Police Officer

A recent article in The Daily Report highlighted a major win by Hagen, Rosskopf & Earle for a Dekalb County Police Officer who was hit on I-20.

Walton Co Jury

A Walton County jury awarded $2.5 million to a DeKalb County police officer struck as he investigated a 2011 wreck on I-20, rejecting defense claims that the driver who caused the original wreck should shoulder liability for the officer’s injuries.

Lead plaintiffs attorney Bruce Hagen of Hagen, Rosskopf & Earle said his task was complicated by the fact that the officer—whose injuries included a badly shattered leg—had recovered enough to go back to work, only to wreck his motorcycle two years to the day after the first accident, breaking the leg again.

“That was a big part of the defense’s case,” said Hagen, who relied on old CT scans to prove that the majority of Officer Daniel Lacoste’s injuries were the result of the first incident.

Hagen represented Lacoste along with Esther Panitch and Jim Hodes of the Panitch Law Group.

Defense attorney Hilliard Castilla of Waldon, Adelman, Castilla, Hiestand & Prout was not available to discuss the case.

Hagen said insurer State Farm rejected an offer to settle the case for $900,000, below the combined $1.3 million policy limit of Lacoste’s uninsured/underinsured motorist and umbrella policies. He said he will seek attorney fees under Georgia’s offer of judgment statute. That law says that a party that declines a settlement offer, then loses at trial by at least 25 percent more than the rejected offer, may be ordered to pay the winning party’s fees accrued from the date of the offer.

Hagen said they’ll also use the bad faith statute, which allows a plaintiff to seek an additional 25 percent of an insured’s UM coverage if it can be proved, through separate litigation, that a UM carrier acted in bad faith in refusing to timely pay a claim.

According to Hagen and court filings, Lacoste was investigating a multicar wreck at about 2 a.m. on a rain-slicked section of the interstate when a car driven by Kimyata White approached at a high rate of speed.

Lacoste’s cruiser was parked nearby with its emergency lights on, and he was wearing reflective gear that should have made him visible a quarter-mile away, Hagen said. Lacoste suffered myriad injuries including multiple skull fractures, a brain hemorrhage, broken vertebrae, complex leg fractures and brain damage from which he never fully recovered, his filings said.

White was charged and pleaded guilty to serious injury by vehicle and reckless driving, Hagen said.

– via Greg Land for The Daily Report

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