Here in Atlanta we have had an extended break from work due to icy road conditions. Most of our lawyers have not been able to get into work so we have been watching some television during the day. What is fascinating is the number of lawyer ads on television particularly pitching for personal injury cases. What is troubling, however, is the pitch that many of the law firms promised to get “quick cash settlements” for car accident victims.
Our experience has indicated that only in small cases are quick cash settlements typically in the best interest of a client. If the injuries are small and the medical expenses are finite and medical treatment is terminated shortly after an accident, there is no problem with a quick settlement. However, in any case involving serious or more permanent injuries, it is rarely in the client’s interest to seek a quick cash settlement. The reason is because the value of the claim cannot be assessed until the client has reached maximum medical improvement and all medical bills, lost wages and other expenses attendant to the car accident have been evaluated.
There is not a file in our office that we could not settle quickly, but in order to do so we would have to essentially give the case away. Insurance companies are always willing to settle quickly, particularly if they can pay far less than the value of a claim. The way a client gets the full value for their claim in settlement is for their lawyer to aggressively prove its value through deposition testimony, expert testimony, videotaped medical testimony, life care plans, etc. By proving to defense counsel hired by the insurance company that the client’s claim is worth a significant amount of money, a greater settlement can be achieved for the client. The problem, however, is that it takes time to demonstrate such value and therefore a client with a real case with real injures must be patient.
Any lawyer that promises a client a quick cash settlement can typically fulfil that promise provided the client and the lawyer agree that the value of the claim is going to be significantly discounted just to get cash quickly. Again, this is rarely in the best interest of clients who have real and significant injuries. Indeed, we always recommend to our clients that they be patient with the process because if they are to receive the full value of their claim it will be necessary that all medical bills and records be obtained, depositions of key liability witnesses taken and expert witnesses retained to establish either liability damages or both. This does take time but a case that may have settled for one-third or one-half the amount earlier on a quicker basis may settle for double or triple the amount if a competent lawyer is demonstrating value through the litigation process.
We will blog about this same topic in more entries but suffice it to say that clients should be weary of promises of quick cash settlements in car accident claims unless they have minor injuries. Any other case usually requires patients and hard work by the attorneys to demonstrate to the insurance company that unless they pay the full value of the claim fairly and reasonably, they may end up paying more in front of a jury. Again, the only way to do this is through taking depositions, hiring experts and otherwise doing all that is necessary to demonstrate to the insurance company the full value of the claim.