Walking into a courtroom for the very first time as a party in a civil trial can be an overwhelming, if not, frightening experience. It is no secret that many victims of tragic accidents, medical malpractice, product defects and other civil wrongdoings choose not to pursue their rights and seek the financial justice they deserve. This is especially true of our senior citizens and others in the community who feel our legal system doesn’t protect the “little guy.” I don’t believe for a second that I can totally erase your fears and uncertainties about the civil legal system.
Nevertheless, I feel honored to share with you what I have learned over the past 30 plus years as a trial lawyer in an attempt to provide you with a greater understanding of our civil system. It is my hope that you will have a better understanding of the system so that if the unexpected happens, you will not be discouraged from pursuing your rights.
Many among us are unfamiliar with the civil trial and, more importantly, the tremendous impact the civil system and the trial have on our lives. The lack of familiarity is largely due to the fact that most civil cases resolve by way of settlement prior to trial. As a result, many people fail to appreciate how the success and value of every personal injury claim are directly related to what would occur if the claim were to proceed to trial.
Once a personal injury claim is made against a party, it is turned over to that party’s insurance carrier. An adjuster is then assigned to evaluate the claim from a liability and damages standpoint. Unlike an auto claims adjuster, the personal injury adjuster doesn’t have a Blue Book to consult for value. Rather, the adjuster’s only recourse is to predict what the verdict would be if the claim were to proceed to trial. To do this, the adjuster considers every factor which would impact the verdict, not the least of which is the experience and reputation of attorney representing the injured party.
The victim’s attorney in a personal injury claim plays a significant role in the claim’s outcome, whether by verdict or settlement. While many accept the attorney’s role in the outcome of the trial, some doubt his/her impact if the case were to settle. Such doubt can lead to disappointing results that are often unrealized by the uninformed.
Understandably, liability insurance carriers, as other corporations, are in the business of making a profit. Since the premiums they charge are limited by regulations and the market, one way they maximize profit is by paying out on as few claims as possible, and if forced to pay, then in the smallest amount possible.
Consequently, the insurer for the wrongdoer will often try to convince the victim that the claim lacks merit, and if unsuccessful, will try to resolve the claim in the smallest amount possible before the victim gets an attorney. This amount is often less than the insurer’s cost to hire its own attorney to defend the claim, and is thus referred to as “nuisance value.”
There’s nothing more disappointing to a claims adjuster’s ear than to hear a victim say “I’ve retained an attorney,” especially if he/she is an experienced trial attorney who is willing to aggressively take the claim to trial if necessary to achieve the financial justice the victim deserves.
Feel free to contact me with any questions. I would be honored to assist you and, hopefully, help make a difference in your life.