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Wrongful Death – Gambetta – Chino Valley, AZ

A Life-Crushing Tragedy Finds Justice

How a community’s compassion, a law firm’s commitment to justice, and one greatly harmed man’s perseverance turned a life-shattering tragedy (that killed the victim’s wife and turned him into a paraplegic) into a recovery many times more than “maximum coverage limits”.

Case Background:

Legal representation for fatal motorcycle accidentsOn July 13, 2000, Steve Gambetta and his wife Debby were enjoying one of their favorite hobbies, riding their motorcycle. While stopping for a red light at the intersection of Highway 89 and Willow Creek near the airport in Prescott, Steve and Debby were struck from behind by a Sport Utility vehicle. Debby Gambetta died instantly from the massive trauma of the crash, while Steve suffered a severed spinal cord. Steve lost not only his wife, but the use of his legs for the rest of his life due to the carelessness of a negligent driver.

Steve was evacuated by helicopter to a Phoenix hospital, where he almost died as well. Later, metal inserts were surgically placed in Steve’s torso to support his shattered frame. It was not long before this extensive damage done to Steve’s body would result in over $680,000 in medical expenses alone, plus far more in a lifetime of lost earnings, permanent pain, etc. The driver that struck the Gambettas only had a total of $60,000 in available insurance coverage, a far from adequate sum in light of the injuries and damages caused. It became clear to Steve that he needed capable legal counsel.

Moving Forward:

After settling on a Phoenix advertising lawyer, Steve received the legal opinion that his recovery was only worth $60,000, the “maximum coverage limit,” and that the medical and legal expenses would wipe out this recovery, leaving Steve nothing. Unsatisfied with this answer, Steve sought a different attorney with more experience and a reputation for success in personal injury and wrongful death claims. After evaluating his options, he chose Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. as his primary legal counsel for the remainder of his case.

Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. initially accepted this case due to its expertise in obtaining “hardship” discounts from lienholders (including AHCCCS, etc.) and medical providers entitled to be paid from Steve’s recovery. Due to the SUV driver’s and his insurer’s lack of settlement cooperation, a law suit was filed. The insurance defense lawyer was, repeatedly, unreasonable in causing delay and failing to tender the $60,000 in insurance coverage limits for settlement. Over time, a pattern of insurance bad faith was established in this catastrophic injury case.

Read more about wrongful death claims in our legal blog

The Results:

In the end, Chris Jensen and the Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. team was successful in recovering many times the $60,000 of “maximum coverage limits” insurance money, the specific amount of which is agreed to be “confidential.”

When things were at their worst, Debby and Steve’s friends and the community stepped in to raise funds for his recovery as well. Debby’s former employees at the Waffles N’ More restaurant were a tremendous help in covering Debby’s funeral expenses through donations. In addition, the kind and generous efforts of the Prescott American Legion #61 held fundraisers to help cover Steve’s other considerable expenses.

Going the “Extra Mile” After Steve’s Recovery

First, Chris Jensen and the Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. team worked relentlessly to reduce Mr. Gambetta’s liens through hardship discounts with the AHCCCS and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Second, by setting up a “Special Needs Trust,” along with a Conservatorship to obtain Court approval, our legal services allowed Steve to maximize the long-term benefits of his recovery by putting the net recovery into a Trust Fund, permitting Steve to continue to receive government benefits such as health care as he continues for the rest of his life as a paraplegic. Third, Steve’s recovery was also used to purchase a handicap-accessible home, fully paid for to avoid mortgage payments that Steve cannot afford, which is owned by the Trust. All of this extra legal work was done for no additional fee.

Through lien reductions and the Special Needs Trust, Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in Steve’s net recovery. With the help of the Tri-City community and Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C., Steve’s spirit is unbroken despite his fractured spine, allowing Steve to receive a net recovery far, far beyond his expectations. Steve now lives independently, in spite of his handicaps, which would never have been possible otherwise.

If you’ve been the victim of a serious auto collision please fill out our brief free consultation form and have a Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. Attorney contact you today.