Lawyers find that they have to file suit more often to obtain fair compensation for their clients than in years past. Years ago when I represented insurance carriers for injury claims in Georgia as a defense lawyer, I found that most of them had a fundamentally sound philosophy. They would pay for valid claims and they would fight exaggerated claims.
Due to the success of the big three insurers with their deny, delay, defend philosophy, insurers that formerly operated in a reasonable manner seem to have adopted a “me too” approach. I am noticing that the adjusters handling cases prior to suit are less seasoned and more likely to make the standard silly arguments like “we reduced the bills because they are unreasonable” and “your client did not follow up until 3 weeks after the hospital.” Many of these arguments sound fine on the phone but the insurers know that in trial they just don’t fly.
So, the question becomes, what to do about getting fair value for my clients when they are seriously injured? The answer is that more often than not, we file suit. In a recent case I handled for a client in Dunwoody, Georgia he had a rear end collision with an insured where there was around $2300.00 in damage to his VW. He went to the hospital that day and was ultimately diagnosed with a herniated lumbar disc. As with any moderate damage case, the insurer blew off the demand letters from a prior lawyer and offered him $5,000.00 claiming that the injury pre-existed the crash and that the property damage was too low to cause a disc herniation.
I filed suit on the case and during discovery I noted that the client did not start claiming radicular symptoms until 6 months after the crash. This posed a problem in relating the disc herniation to the Georgia car accident because the herniation was not spotted until 8 months after the crash.
I traveled to St. Joseph’s hospital and interviewed the treating surgeon to make sure they would relate the disc herniation to the crash. In this case the doctor was helpful but you could tell that there was a danger that the jury might not relate the surgery to the crash. In the end we settled the case with the insurer for $115,000.00 after a long conversation with the client. Although a microdiscectomy case can be worth as much as $180,000.00 in the right circumstances, his medical bills only came to around $30,000.00 and the risk was too great in his estimation.
The moral of the story? Be aware that to get maximum value, you may need to file suit.