Just because you have a personal injury claim doesn’t necessarily mean you are involved in a lawsuit. Not all claims result in lawsuits but it is important to know not only the difference between the two, but also the positives and negatives that come along with each.
In most situations if you are involved in some sort of event that causes you to hire a personal injury attorney you will go through what is sometimes called “pre-suit”. This means that your attorney is going to put your case together and present the case to the insurance carrier with the hope that the parties can settle on a fair value. Unfortunately, a “fair value” is a very subjective term and it usually involves you taking less than the case is worth and the insurance carrier paying a little more than the case is worth. This is why it is called a “settlement”. But in today’s world that revolves around corporate greed, insurance carriers take a hard line stance on every case and make offers to settle that are oftentimes bordering on absurdity. In those situations, filing a lawsuit is a no-brainer…but this is not always the case.
First, hopefully you performed your diligence when you hired your personal injury attorney and you secured representation with someone that is a civil trial attorney. Please see my previous article “How Do I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney” to help in understanding some of the things a consumer should consider when retaining a qualified personal injury attorney. Having a qualified civil trial attorney on your side gives you the much needed leverage to carry through with your promise to the insurance carrier: Agree to pay a reasonable and fair claim or you will find yourself in court. Imagine this: when insurance adjusters know they are dealing with an attorney that never files lawsuits, they can lowball all of that attorneys claims without fear of ever finding themselves defending a lawsuit against them. Unfortunately, there are many attorneys that rarely, if ever, file lawsuits and if they do they will never take it all the way to a jury trial. Always do your research and ask point blank questions to your attorney about how often they file lawsuits and try cases before a jury.
Always remember that your attorney cannot settle your case without your consent. This does not mean that you can have unreasonable expectations about the value of your case, and not allow your attorney to settle your case when the possibility of getting a fair and reasonable value for your claim arises. Attorneys know what the range of your particular case is worth. You should listen to their advice, but also be aware when you feel like you are being forced to settle your case for a “low ball” offer. If you feel too much pressure to settle your case and you feel the amount is unreasonable, then sit down with your attorney and have these conversations. What are the pros and cons of moving forward with a lawsuit at this point? I am personally offended when attorneys refuse to file lawsuits for their clients when presented with lowball offers and they force clients to settle. This may be appropriate in some cases but not all.
In the recent years, insurance carriers have continued a trend of lowballing offers based on property damage alone. They know that if push comes to shove, and the photos of a fender bender are presented to a jury, they will have a strong chance of getting the jury to award low damages. Although the amount of property damage has little to no relationship to what kind of injuries a person can sustain as a result of an auto accident, be prepared to be lowballed if this is your situation. Some attorneys will flat out refuse to litigate your case if your have low property damage because of the perpetual “juice is not worth the squeeze”. This may be true, but if attorneys take a hard line stance when it comes to low property damage cases they are doing nothing more than assuring that insurance companies will continue to lowball these cases across the board.
Over the years I have made a personal decision to not allow insurance carriers to bully my clients in pre-suit demand stages of case. If I make a demand to an insurance adjuster and am not able to secure a reasonable offer for my client, then I file suit. This way insurance adjusters know that I will consistently follow through with my promises of filing suit on a case when some other attorneys merely bluff. Trust me, they know who files lawsuits and who doesn’t. They know who takes cases to trial and what attorneys do not. This reputation only helps my clients to secure fair and reasonable offers to avoid lawsuits.
At the end of the day, your attorney should be able to communicate with you early on what the plan is, and if they are not able to secure a good offer on your case. You want to have the security of knowing that your legal representation makes good on his or her promises when it comes to dealing with insurance carriers and adjusters. Do not stand back and let someone force you to settle your case when deep down you know and feel that it is not fair or reasonable. If you have questions please feel free to contact me directly or send me an email.