Lehigh Acres man sues his own insurance firm and wins

May 3, 2011

The following article was published in the Lehigh Acres Citizen on May 3, 2011:

Man sues his own insurance firm and wins

By Mel Toadvine

A Lehigh Acres man has been awarded $3,019,955 by State Farm Insurance by a jury that awarded him funds for past medical expenses from an accident, money for future medical expenses, lost earning ability and a half million dollars for past pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, according to his attorney, Randall Spivey of the Spivey Law Firm in Fort Myers.

Spivey said Bowdler, who lives on Cemetery Rd., was involved in an accident on 12th St. West in Lehigh when another motorist driving north on Douglas Ave. ran a stop sign and collided with his vehicle.

Spivey said the other driver was not familiar with the area, never saw the stop sign, and never hit his brakes.

Bowdler was taken to the hospital with a cervical facet fracture and a fractured left wrist and as a result of the cervical facet fracture, Bowdler underwent surgery in April of 2009. During the surgery, a plate was put into Bowdler’s neck to stabilize it, his attorney said.

Bowdler’s left hand and arm were put in a cast and for a time, he was unable to tie his shoes or put on his shirt without help. He had to undergo several months of therapy for his hand and arms. The injury to Bowdler’s neck resulted in nerve damage which caused significant pain and other problems in his arms, Spivey said.

At the time of the accident in December of 2008, Bowdler was on a year’s retirement leave from his teaching job at Immokalee Middle School where he taught science for 35 years.

The driver that ran the stop sign only carried $25,000 of insurance coverage and his insurance carrier paid the $25,000 policy limits early on in the case, Spivey said.

Bowdler filed a lawsuit against his own insurance carrier, State Farm, for underinsured motorist benefits. Spivey said State Farm refused to pay Bowdler the entire $2,000,000 in underinsured motorist coverage that he purchased to protect himself in the event of an accident caused by an underinsured motorist.

Instead, Spivey said, State Farm made a payment to Bowdler of $190,000 of the underinsured motorist benefits.

But on April 8, following a four-day trial by a jury consisting of six people, five women and one man, it returned a verdict for Bowdler and against State Farm for the $3 million award.

Spivey said the jury deliberated for four hours.

The verdict included $144,900.55 for past medical expenses, $380,000 for future medical expenses, $95,000 for lost earning ability, $500,000 for past pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

Attorney Spivey said that had State Farm paid him the limits of the coverage he purchased, there would have been no need for a trial.

Instead, he said State Farm fought the claim and told the jury to give him a total award of only $400,000, but Spivey said the jury understood that these injuries will affect Bowdler for the rest of his life.

Bowdler said he is satisfied with the verdict, but misses his active lifestyle that he had before the accident and misses not being able to return to teaching. His attorney said he made a difference in the lives of thousands of children in Southwest Florida throughout his teaching career.

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