Articles Posted in Insurance Industry

There is no single question that I receive more often than… “What is my case worth?”  Often, that is very tricky to answer, especially early on.  The fact is that only a verdict from a jury after trial is a final and true determination of value.  But so few cases actually go all the way to trial that your attorney must rely on his experience and skill to obtain as much for you as possible.  There are a number of factors that go into determining the value of your case.  Foremost, the severity of the injury and the extent of the treatment required.  Additionally, the value of your medical bills and lost wages (if any).  Also, are you willing to file a lawsuit and wait for more money or would you prefer to settle quickly for less.

So you see.. “What is my case worth” is a rather loaded question.

It may come as a surprise to many readers but another important factor in determining the value of your case is… which insurance company is involved?  Especially early on during initial settlement talks, the insurance company on the other side makes a big difference.  One company can value a case at 25k while another offers 12k.  How can that be you ask? If my case is worth 25k it is worth 25k.  Well, it is not so easy as that.  Several insurance companies will “low ball” your initial offer.  They want to see if your attorney is willing to file arbitration or file a lawsuit or rather just encourage you to settle for a quick payout.  In most cases, the attorney accepts these low settlement offers and insurance companies continue to get away with paying less than they should.  In Rhode Island, you have to be particularly careful of Progressive Insurance, Allstate Insurance and Liberty Mutual.  These three companies (at least in my experience) are notorious for making low, sometimes insulting, offers of settlement.  They justify this by cutting down your medical bills (claiming that treatment received was too expensive or unnecessary) and they will cut down your lost wages (suggesting you could have gone back to work earlier than you did) and they will offer you relatively little in pain and suffering.  In the end, you get an offer way below your own valuation of your injuries.

Personal injury attorneys are well skilled at discussing cases people find reprehensible.  If I had a dime for ever time someone mentioned the McDonald’s Coffee Case to me, I could probably stop practicing law and retire.  That case, like many others, was far more interesting and complex than the headline of “Woman sues McDonalds over hot coffee”.  If you are interested in what I am saying, I suggest you watch the fantastic documentary Hot Coffee.

There are other cases that people like to bring up, including some that are just fictional creations of the tort reform lobby.  And my purpose for this post is not to launch an argument against tort reform… rather I want to talk about the “new Coffee case”.  Namely, the awful Connecticut woman who sued her 12 year old nephew for hugging her!!!  My Facebook feed has been littered with friends mocking and insulting this woman with real vitriol!  I can already hear you saying, “Joe, you’re not possibly going to defend this woman or her lawsuit?!?”  Yeah, I am.  And, I’ll explain the reasoning behind it.

Of course the headline of this case is reprehensible.  What kind of awful person could sue someone who loves them for an act of love??  The answer might be that she had no choice.  The simple reality is that the civil justice system is designed to shift costs.  We can not take away injuries once they occur.  We can not hit a rewind button seconds before serious injury is caused in an accident.  Nor, can we put a price on a broken bone to make it go away.  All that we can do is compensate the injured person financially to assist with the disability, the lost wages and medical bills.  In the end, that is all our personal injury system is designed to do.  The person who rear-ended you likely is not an awful person who meant you harm, rather he or she made a mistake.  Their mistake, however, cost you in medical bills and pain and suffering.  So while they did not mean to harm you, their insurance will compensate you financially because that is the best that we can do.  And in this case, the 12 year old boy is not an awful person who meant harm.  But nevertheless, he hurt his Aunt breaking her arm racking up a hefty medical bill.

I came across this interesting article on CNN.com regarding a massive class action lawsuit involving hundreds of auto bodys from nearly every State in the Country against the insurance industry and major insurance companies.  The complaint at the heart of the lawsuit concerns the use of old and/or junk parts in the repair of vehicles and steering by the insurance company to “preferred” body shops.  The body shops along with Attorney Generals representing several States have initiated this action to end both of these practices by the insurance company which they feel are unsafe and deceptive.

LKQ / USED PARTS IN THE REPAIR OF A VEHICLE

The term LKQ stands for Like Kind and Quality.  It means a replacement part that came off of a previously totaled or salvaged vehicle.  Massive salvage yards are in every corner of the country with thousands of vehicles that were deemed total losses following an auto accident.  These salvage yards remove every piece of a vehicle and post them for sale.  When a body shop or insurance company calls the salvage yard looking for a 2004 Camry headlight, they will very likely have one in stock.  Then that used headlight goes into your repaired 2004 Camry.  The insurance companies claim that they do not owe for a brand new Toyota headlight because the car being fixed is not new.  In other words, the insurance companies justify this practice by saying “we replaced a ten year old Camry headlight with another ten year old Camry headlight.”  There may be some fair rationale to that argument.  This lawsuit alleges, however, that used parts in a salvage yard are not always safe or in the best condition.  For that reason, forcing body shops to use such parts can potentially create a hazardous situation.  And lets be honest, if a tree falls on your house and you make a homeowners claim, would you expect your contractor to use 30 year old wood while re-constructing your house or brand new materials?  Junk parts are just that – junk.