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Is It Easier Or Harder To Settle Cases Now?


It’s harder in that jurors won’t award as much as they did before, and insurance companies won’t pay as much as they did before, on many cases.

I was talking with a friend of mine who represents insurance companies the other day.

(No, insurance lawyers don’t all have scales and breathe fire. In fact, a lot of them are pretty nice guys, and see themselves as overworked and underpaid. Not enough that I’ll feel sorry for them, though.)

We agreed on one thing. In the 1980’s, if the insurance company wasn’t fighting about whose fault the accident was, the total settlement would typically be between three and five times the total of the medical bills – or more, if you could justify it.

I don’t think formulas like this work anymore – adjusters and jurors are looking at different things than bill totals – but most settlements today are not in that range.

Jurors are more likely to identify with the defendant – they don’t know he’s insured – than with the victim. And they have heard about million dollar lawsuits – some remember the McDonald’s suit over 20 years ago, where the jury awarded a lady who spilled coffee in her lap $640,000 – and they are not going to be a part of it.

And, of course, insurance companies have figured this out. They have rigorously researched jury verdicts, and have computerized lawsuit analysis.

But there are some very good things, if you can wake up and smell the coffee.

Good thing No. 1

Most insurance adjusters will get back to you right away. They want to avoid a lawsuit if they can.

They didn’t used to do this – or they were sporadic about it. Maybe they were lazy, maybe they were trying to wear you down. But in the 1980’s, you’d make a demand, and they would get back to you two months or four months later. Or not at all.

Good thing No. 2

Insurance companies are more sensitive to costs that will penalize them for not settling. These include the costs of continuing to handle the case – such as paying lawyers, processing documents, hiring experts. Once the case settles, the costs stop.

Good thing no. 3

Insurance companies realize that a settlement is better than defending on principle, or going to trial and winning a judgment. When the other side files a lawsuit, they have to incur costs and pay attention to the lawsuit until after trial – which is usually at least another year.

If there is an appeal, that’s another year.

But when you settle a lawsuit, it’s over – period.

Good Thing No. 4

Everyone realizes the value of mediation . This is a negotiation controlled by a neutral lawyer who is either appointed by the court or chosen by both sides.

Most lawyers are afraid to share directly with the other side how low – or high – they will go. But they’ll usually tell someone in the middle.

That’s what happens in a mediation. It gets more cases settled than you would think.

I have been a lawyer over 30 years. Insurance companies aren’t paying as much as they used to, but they’re paying faster. If you’ve been injured in an accident, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Personal Injury Lawyer about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.

Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.

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