How Often Do Personal Injury Cases Actually End Up Going All The Way To Trial?
Most cases—especially here in South Florida—settle, but I believe that not enough cases go to trial. The risk of trial is great both financially and personally to the client and to the attorneys, and it’s difficult work. The easy way out is always going to be there, and the easy way out is a settlement.
What’s really troubling is that a lot of clients don’t know the value of their case, and rely upon lawyers to make that call. This means that if the lawyer says, “I think you should take it,” naturally most clients are going to take it. I think the tendency of trial lawyers to just settle for the best offer is a big problem. There are hundreds of factors that can influence an attorney to accept an unfair settlement, and ultimately, I believe that not enough lawyers actually go to trial. It’s kind of like dealing with a bully, where the insurance company is the bully…and how do you stop a bully? You punch them in the mouth and you force them to go to trial. This is our approach in handling insurance companies who only make lowball offers.
If an insurance company makes a fair settlement offer and it’s legitimate, then we will talk to our client and weigh the pros and cons of each decision. At the end of the day, I work for the client—not the other way around. Clients have told me that they just can’t handle the rigor of going through a long jury trial, even though they understand they may end up with less money. For some people, the path of least resistance is more appealing than a larger sum of money, and that’s okay. As an attorney, it is my job to make recommendations and protect my clients. If the client wants to take the easier way out, then we can certainly arrange for that to happen.
It is important to note that insurance companies keep records of lawyers who have a reputation of settling rather than going to trial. The attorneys who have a reputation of going to trial are known by the insurance companies, and almost always end up with better results for their clients. Insurance companies are very data-driven, and usually make their decisions based on data.
Does The Mere Threat Of Going To Trial Enhance The Likelihood Of Getting A Fair Settlement From Insurance Companies?
It is a common misconception that merely threatening trial is sufficient to get an insurance company to offer a fair settlement. Again, it is important for people to remember that insurance companies don’t care about plaintiffs; they are mere numbers on a balance sheet. Plaintiffs have to “climb the tree to get the fruit,” which is an old saying that means it’s necessary to put in the work to get the desired outcome. There are no shortcuts, but litigation can certainly increase the offer.
We won’t litigate a case unless we think we can get significantly more at trial than what is offered pre-suit. This is because going into litigation is like taking a brand-new car off the lot and watching the price drop; as soon as a lawsuit has been filed, fees and costs increase exponentially, because litigating a case requires substantially more work than negotiating a settlement pre-suit. It’s a really delicate balance. Every case is different, so it’s important to conduct a proper evaluation and make the tough decisions.
I don’t like making empty threats at insurance companies. A lot of people ask me to write cease and desist letters, which I won’t do unless I intend to follow through with them. This goes back to reputation: if an attorney has a reputation of being all bark and no bite, insurance companies are going to know that and they’re going to call that attorney on their bluff. Next thing they know, they’ll be caught with their pants down. We always prepare with relentless pursuit to go all the way to a jury trial, and if we say we’re going to do something, we do it.
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