Jodie Jeffery’s Mesa family room is crowded with gifts from her son’s funeral — a photo collage made by a friend, a framed football jersey from teammates, and a table covered with flowers.
But sitting beside the gifts is a grieving mother struggling with an insurance company that refuses to pay her son’s pain and suffering damages from an April automobile crash.
On Feb. 28, Paul Jeffery died for reasons not directly related to the crash. It appears the senior at Red Mountain High School died from a drug overdose, his mother said.
Several months before her son’s death, she was negotiating with Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. for pain and suffering related to the crash, which injured his back. The Boston-based company offered to pay $6,051, according to a Jan. 8 insurance document, which included medical bills and $3,100 for pain and suffering. The parents decided to wait to sign the settlement.
This month, Jodie Jeffery tried to finalize her dealings with Liberty Mutual. Because Paul Jeffery had turned 18, the insurance company was preparing to write a check to him, she said. Then she told the company her son had died.
Liberty Mutual officials said that because the Jefferys had not accepted the settlement offer before their son died, they were not entitled to pain and suffering.
"We are very sorry for the Jefferys’ loss," said Glenn Greenberg, a spokesman for Liberty Mutual.
" However, state law clearly states that damages for pain and suffering are not available to them in the event of his passing."
William Jones, a Phoenix attorney familiar with the state statute cited by Liberty Mutual, said the law is clear that claims for noneconomic damages in personal injury cases end when the victim dies.
If a settlement was reached before the son’s death, a claim might be legally valid under contract law, he said.
Jodie Jeffery said business ethics, not state law, are the real issue.
"He was alive for 10 months (after the crash). Did he not have pain and suffering then?" she said.
Jodie Jeffery said she will continue to fight Liberty Mutual. She has filed a complaint with the Arizona Department of Insurance.