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How Have Injury Lawsuits Changed In The Last 20 Years?

Insurance Companies are faster. If you’re honest about what a jury will do, it’s easier to settle a lawsuit than it was. But Juries and insurance companies are cheaper. Nobody has much insurance. And you can still sue manufacturers for bad products, but a lot of the time it just doesn’t make sense.

Let’s look at these one at a time. We’ll start with the good changes:

Insurance companies are faster.

When you make a demand, if they have enough information, they will respond quickly. They are much less likely to ignore you than they were 20 years ago. They don’t want to pay adjusters to mess around with a case for three years, and they sure don’t want to pay lawyers.

If you’re honest about what a jury will do, it’s easier to settle a lawsuit than it was.

Filing suit is long and expensive. The damages have to be significant to justify the expense and delay of lawsuits. And most insurance companies are willing to acknowledge what a jury will award in a particular lawsuit, in the form of an offer.

Now for the bad changes:

Juries are cheaper.

You used to be able to assume that juries would have sympathy for the injured person; but now they are actually more likely to identify with the person being sued.

People blame this on extensive advertising by insurance companies, and that’s part of it. But another part is 9/11. When over 3000 people die at once because of one willful act, a lot of people on juries start to wonder how important the injuries sustained in a typical low impact accident can be.

Insurance companies are cheaper.

This is because juries are. When an insurance company offers you $5,000 on a case that a jury will award $3,000 on, what makes the most sense?

Nobody has much insurance – auto or health.

Safe Auto, Geico and their friends figured out that they earned the most profit in the first premium dollars. The smaller the limits, the greater – proportionately – premium they could charge, and the less their exposure. And they could make more money by selling more policies, because people don’t want to pay a lot.

Ohio minimum limits for liability coverage are $12,500 per person, $25,000 per accident and haven’t gone up in at least 40 years. They are almost the lowest in the country.

People can protect themselves against such low limits by buying uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, but – as with liability coverage – the economy is tough, and they’d rather buy food than insurance. The same goes for health coverage.

Unfortunately, not having enough insurance can make it harder to settle your case. Particularly health insurance. You can’t get the most dollars until you have finished treating for your injury. And you can’t finish treating – a lot of the time – without the insurance.

A lot of the time, it doesn’t make sense to sue manufacturers.

There is not much products litigation any more because the law changed to make it harder to sue manufacturers. And for a lawsuit against a manufacturer, you need an expert. And a good expert is very expensive. So you usually don’t sue a manufacturer without a real clear case and/or significant damages.

What’s the takeaway for someone with a lawsuit?

1) Get a good lawyer early. One who will work to get the information you need to make a settlement demand, talk to you, set a value on the case, and present a demand to the insurance company. But get one who will be willing to fight for you.

2) Be reasonable. The jury won’t look at your case as a lottery ticket, and you shouldn’t either.

3) If you don’t have health insurance, try to find a doctor who will treat you in exchange for a guarantee from your lawyer to pay your bills at the end of the case. The trick is getting in the door. This might mean going to the hospital – where, if you are lucky, they will treat you anyway – or approaching your doctor beforehand. Some doctors prefer to work off a guarantee – they will get paid more than a health insurance company will pay them.

I have been a lawyer over 30 years. A lot of people complain about change. I try to concentrate on how the good changes can help the people I work for, and how to help people around the bad changes. If you’ve been injured in an accident, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Personal Injury Attorney 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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