I have been in the insurance litigation business for 15 years now, 10 of which I spent litigating for and advising insurance companies in Atlanta, and car accident lawyers followed a simple rule then; investigate thoroughly and if the claim had merit offer a fair but discounted for present day value sum. If the injured party or their lawyer was unrealistic, then we litigated all the way to trial. In other words I used my judgment. As the years went by and especially when I worked as counsel for Liberty Mutual, I found that the insurance company would no longer listen and would simply fight for the sake of a tough reputation. Liberty has been taking it on the chin recently with a number of excess limits multi-million dollar verdicts that they could have settled earlier for a fair sum.
Two more modest cases I am handling are illustrative. I met a neighbor at the Chastain park community pool. She had broken a tooth on a rock at a well know high end Mexican restaurant. For a year and a half the restaurant and liberty mutual blew her off. She was asking for $4000 for the tooth surgery to put in a replacement tooth. She is a gracious mother of 2 without dental insurance and given that there should be no rocks in salads, a reasonable request.
Instead, Liberty Mutual refused to pay and claimed we could not win, despite my pointing out that the Georgia Act creates strict liability for foreign objects in food. The case was litigated for two years and on the eve of trial, they finally paid my neighbor $9,000. Why did they waste time refusing to pay a legitimate claim and hire a lawyer only to pay more than twice the requested sum? There is only one answer; lawyers are no longer making liability decision, policy makers with no trial experience are.
In a car accident case pending with State Farm, a 19 rear old smashed into the rear of an suv in suburban Atlanta. Both cars were totaled and both drivers were injured. The victim to the front was badly bruised and ultimately diagnosed with a concussion by Piedmont Hospital and subsequent treating doctors at Peachtree Orhopedics. Her medical expenses came to $22,000 and she still has documented word transposition issues. It is undisputed that the crash was the State Farm drivers fault. What did State Farm offer? Less than the medical bills; $20,0000. We have completed depositions and are preparing for trial. Their lawyers response to my query as to why? “It’s not up to me.” I feel for her because I used to be in her shoes.
In the end these cases will continue to be denied or no reason. The insurance carriers will lose at trial and the policy makers will just blame their lawyers who would have told them what to offer, if only they had asked.