It is a misconception that every personal injury case ends up in litigation and then goes to trial. In fact, a majority of injury claims are settled without the need for litigation and the vast majority are settled before getting to a jury trial.
In my opinion, most insurance companies want to settle car collision injury cases when there is clear liability and the injuries are real and demonstrable through diagnostic tests. However, we always seem to differ with valuation of a claim. That is, how do you put a dollar sign on an injured person’s case?
The variations of case valuation are too complicated to go into in this blog post, but when I value a case between $50,000 and $65,000 and make an initial demand of $65,000, I know we’re in trouble when the insurance company adjuster offers $5,000 as an initial settlement bid. Bridging the gap between $5,000 and $50,000 is almost impossible. You may as well authorize your attorney to file suit.
An insurance adjuster interested in settling a case worth between $50,000 and $65,000 would have started off with an initial offer of maybe $25,000 or $30,000. That offer warrants further discussion and negotiation and if I started out with a demand of $65,000, we can usually get to $50,000, which is acceptable to my client in this hypothetical case.
You see, a smart insurance company offers just enough money to make my client really think twice about walking away. “If they’re $5,000 under where I wanted to be, does it make sense for me to file a lawsuit when I’m at $50,000 and they’re at $45,000?” Usually not.
We personal injury lawyers are always amazed when we have a strong case with clear liability and injuries and the adjuster calls and offers 5% of what we all know the case to be worth. Every attorney has a “war story” when, for whatever reason, a case has a value of $100,000 and an adjuster offers $2,250.
That, my friends, is a no-brainer. File suit. That offer is an invitation to litigate by the insurance company. By entering into litigation, it usually gets this case out of the hands of a junior adjuster and into the hands of a more seasoned adjuster who is a litigation specialist as well as a defense attorney who are far more familiar with what goes into a case valuation.
In my opinion, cases are litigated when they have to be. When a client expresses a desire to put “a little more money in my pocket”, that’s a case worth working out and not litigating. When the last settlement offer doesn’t even pay the medical bills and leaves the client with nothing, those are the cases that need to be litigated and maybe even tried.
While most personal injury attorneys aren’t afraid of litigating their own files, a good personal injury attorney will look to maximize a client’s recovery whether after extensive pre-suit negotiations or in the context of litigation.
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