You May Not Be Able to Control How You Were Injured, but You Can Control Who Represents You in YOUR Lawsuit
The best way to be taken seriously by an insurance company is to hire an attorney who is taken seriously by insurance companies. Defense attorneys and insurance companies know which lawyers try cases and which don’t. They will lowball the attorneys who are eager to settle. They will undervalue cases if they do not think your attorney will go the distance. Insurance carriers would not be doing their due diligence if they did not consider your attorney’s skill and reputation when determining whether to offer money to settle your claim (and if so, how much to offer). You may not be able to control how you were injured, but you can control who represents you in any lawsuit you decide to file.
Settlement Value of Lawsuits
The overwhelming majority of personal injury lawsuits are settled prior to trial. Complex personal injury cases are often settled on the figurative courthouse steps, when the parties have had a chance to seriously reflect upon the strengths and weaknesses of their respective claims and defenses. There is no formula for determining the proper “settlement value” of your case. “Settlement value” is a function of many factors, including the merits of your case, the amount of available insurance coverage, and the risk tolerance of the parties. A party to a settlement needs to consider the potential range of likely trial outcomes. Is it likely that a jury will award you $100,000 or $1,000,000 or $10,000,000? How likely is success? How much can you afford to gamble?
Insurance companies do not settle cases because they feel sorry for the people who have been injured. That is not their job. Insurance companies settle cases on the basis of a calculated risk/benefit analysis. Insurance companies are designed to manage risk, not to do the right thing. Insurance adjusters will make judgments with regard to the possible outcomes of your trial and will tender a settlement offer consistent with that assessment. This is not to say that insurance companies don’t eventually do what is right; however, “doing the right thing” simply is not part of their job description. Where the stakes are highest, insurance companies will hold onto their money as long as possible, earning interest until they part with it. The system is simply not designed to incentivize the prompt resolution of lawsuits.
Insurance Company Settlement Offers
Insurance company claims adjusters are responsible for managing the risks to which their insureds have been exposed. They are supposed to be “risk managers.” Some cases may implicate limited risks for insurance companies. For instance, where the claimant has largely recovered from his or her injuries, the potential jury award may be limited. When the verdict is likely to be low, the settlement offer is likely to be low as well. Where the claimant’s injuries are likely to be permanent, the consequent compensatory jury award is likely to be greater. When the jury verdict might be potentially large, the insurance carrier may make a larger settlement offer. An obstetrician whose negligence results in the delivery of a brain damaged baby is facing an extraordinary risk, while an orthopedist who causes a minor, temporary injury to an elbow is not. The insurance company’s settlement offer will, in large part, be a reflection of what the insurance company thinks a jury will award to you.
No two cases are the same. There is no formula for determining the proper “settlement value” of any case. The “settlement value” of your case is a function of many factors, including the merits of the case and your risk tolerance. These rules apply to both sides to any lawsuit. An injured plaintiff who is out of work and desperate for income certainly needs to consider the likelihood of success, but so too does the insurance company’s claims adjuster who is making the settlement decisions for the defense. The claims adjusters who make settlement decisions for the defense are motivated primarily by the proverbial bottom line. Is the claim meritorious? Will the Plaintiff be well-received by the jury? How experienced is the Plaintiff’s attorney? What have that attorney’s prior results in Court been like?
Attorney Experience – Insurance Company Considerations
The experience of the attorney will normally figure prominently in any settlement offer made by the insurance company. How many cases has the Plaintiff’s attorney tried to verdict? How successful has the attorney been? How serious is the Plaintiff’s attorney about trying the case? While past performance is no guarantee of future results, this consideration is certainly an important factor in how the insurance company will view your case.
Many personal injury lawyers practice their trade without ever trying a case. These lawyers are known at “Settlers” by insurance industry personnel. Many Settlers are content to take whatever money the insurance company offers for your injuries and have no intention of going into Court to get “full value” for your case. Trying a case is a “heavy lift,” and involves significant expenditures of your attorney’s time and money. Many lawyers do not like the stresses and pressures of trial and would prefer to settle. The insurance companies know who these lawyers are and reduce their settlement offers accordingly.
Assessing the Value of Your Claim – Experience Matters
Many purported “Super-Lawyers” have limited trial experience. Some have never actually tried a case to verdict. As trials have become increasingly complex and increasingly expensive, fewer lawyers have gotten the opportunity to try cases and to develop their reputations with insurance companies. Many large personal injury firms have marquee names, but your case may be assigned to an associate with little trial experience. You may not know whether your lawyer is an experienced trial attorney, but the insurance company likely knows. The insurance company would be remiss if it did not consider your lawyer’s track record in assessing the value of your claim.
Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella have each been trying cases for nearly four decades. Together, they realized a $55 million jury verdict in a malpractice case in Lehigh County. That result stands as the largest single malpractice verdict ever rendered in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia. In 2017, the two of them secured a $17 million medical malpractice verdict in Monmouth County, New Jersey, a venue known to be inhospitable to claimants in medical malpractice cases. That verdict was one of the largest malpractice verdicts rendered in the entire state that year. Individually, McLaughlin and Lauricella have secured record-setting jury verdicts for decades. For instance, in 2009, Slade McLaughlin secured a $20 million malpractice verdict, which stands as the largest punitive damage award ever in such a case ($15 million). In 2019, Paul Lauricella secured an $8,500,000 verdict in a vigorously defended medical malpractice trial involving St. Luke’s Hospital. You can read more about these verdicts and about their other verdicts in their biographies and our Verdicts and Settlements pages.
The Lawyer’s Experience & Reputation in Lawsuits Involving Insurance Companies – Matters
Your lawyer’s experience matters. Your lawyer’s willingness to take your case to trial matters. Insurance companies know which lawyers have the resources to try a case to verdict. They know which lawyers will take the lowball offers, and which lawyers will push for “full value” even if it means taking a case to trial. They know which attorneys understand the dynamics of the courtroom and which do not. While, ultimately, you will make the decision as to whether your case is settled or tried, it is important to be represented by an attorney who can go the distance if necessary.
The personal injury attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., have more than 100 years of experience representing injured accident victims and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties, as well as in the State of New Jersey. Contact us today toll-free at 1-855-633-6251 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.