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Resolution

1) 5 reasons for low ball offers on legitimate personal injury claims

You were injured because of someone else’s mistake. You are not the litigious type, so you dutifully keep the insurer for the party at fault appraised of your injuries, lost time from work and recovery. You provide the adjuster with documentation of your losses. You are hopeful for an amicable settlement.

Then the offer arrives. There are low offers, but this offer is obscenely low…disrespectful even. In most business negotiations, parties negotiate in good faith. In my experiences as a plaintiff attorney and before that an insurance lawyer, here are the top 5 reasons why seriously injured persons get low ball offers for legitimate personal injury claims:

Remember the great recession of 2008? Unemployment soared. Real estate values plummeted. Many Americans struggled to provide for basic needs such as housing, clothing and food.

While many struggled, those with money, such as insurance companies, enjoyed tremendous opportunity. And, insurers took full advantage by offering injured persons pennies on the dollar to resolve their personal injury claims.

Fast forward TO 2014 / 2015. After resolving personal injury claims for bargain basement prices for six years or so, two things have occurred:

A. The median value of non-litigated cases has reset lower; and

B. Psychologically, insurers believe low ball offers work;

Claims adjusters use Facebook too! Don’t post anything on Facebook or other social media after a personal injury claim.

The fear of losing money motivates insurers. When I was a large loss insurance adjuster years ago, a very nice but naive plaintiff attorney once revealed, “Rich, don’t worry I will never sue you”. To myself I thought, there are twenty lawyers who will sue and will take the case to a jury, I better attend to those other cases. I never called the nice guy back. Without an attorney, the insurer faces ZERO chance of a large jury verdict.

Early on in the claim process the insurer will ask the plaintiff attorney for his firm’s tax id #. This is not simply fort claim administration. Insures use the tax Id # to check past insurance payments to the plaintiff firm. Attorneys who settle too often without litigation and for low amounts should expect low offers in future cases.

Decision makers (juries, arbitrators, judges) favor claims supported by well-reasoned, expert opinion and testing. Like it or not, a hierarchy exits in the world of medicine. In general, an opinion of specialists is given more weight than the opinion of generalists in matters concerning the specialty. The opinion of a medical doctors usually favored over the opinion of chiropractic physicians.

NOTE: Beware of unscrupulous treatment providers who insist on treating even though the treatment is not working. In the auto accident setting, it is crucial not to use up PIP benefits on alternative care. If you do, you may not have enough medical coverage for critical care (surgery, for example) you may not even know you need.                                   

2) Is my motor vehicle injury claim against the faulty driver or his insurance company?

Your claim is against the driver at fault. The bad driver’s insurance company is involved because he has a contract (an insurance policy) that requires the insurance company to defend (hire lawyers for him if sued) and indemnify (pay proven claims) him for losses covered per policy terms.

Rule Application: Many judges disallow all evidence of insurance in personal injury cases reasoning that jurors would be overly generous if aware that an insurer would be paying the claim, rather than the driver at fault. Nonetheless, Oregon does allow evidence of insurance at trial to show bias, motive of a witness or agency. See ORS 40.205 Rule 411

3) How long will it take to resolve my motor vehicle accident claim?

The answer to this question also depends on many factors. How long it takes you to medically stabilize from the injury is one such factor. You should not attempt to resolve your case until you have a very good grasp of the nature, scope and permanency of your injury. Once you settle your case, you will get no more. The method used to resolve your case will also help determine how long it takes to resolve your case. A demand letter prepared by your lawyer is usually the fastest method. Resolution by trial is usually the slowest method. In Multnomah county trial is usually set within one year of filing. Trial results are appealed in some circumstances, which can take an additional year or so.

4) If I file suit, will my motor vehicle accident claim go to trial?

Maybe, but most motor vehicle accident cases are settled because of the cost of litigation to both sides. All suits claiming less than $50k must be arbitrated. However, mandatory arbitration for cases under $50k is appealable by either party in Oregon. Appealed arbitration decisions go to trial.

5) What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a very informal trial where the rules of evidence are relaxed and cases are decided by professional decision makers—usually an impartial attorney or judge. Arbitration can binding or appealable.

TIP: For more information on arbitration in Oregon go to
http://courts.oregon.gov/OJD/programs/adr/pages/whatisarbitration.aspx

6) What are some advantages and disadvantages of arbitration?

Arbitration is usually less expensive, less stressful and less time consuming than trial. Expert reports are generally admissible at arbitration at arbitration, but not at trial. Expert testimony is usually the biggest trail cost. Most arbitrators strive for a middle ground. As a result, very large arbitration awards are not common.

TIP: Hire a lawyer who knows the reputation of the selected arbitrator. Before arbitration be clear on whether arbitration is binding or not.

7) What is mediation?

Mediation is a process whereby the parties to a dispute select a mediator to help settle the case by mutual agreement. A mediator does not decide the case. Think Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy between the Arab states and Israel during the early 1970s. Henry did not decide. He helped others reach an agreement.

TIP: Mediation will probably not be effective unless both parties trust and respect the chosen mediator. An experienced lawyer will know the reputation of all commonly selected mediators.

8) What are some advantages and disadvantages of mediation?

Mediation gives both parties control over the outcome as both parties must agree on settlement terms. Effective mediation is almost always cheaper than litigation and arbitration since no witnesses are needed.

On the downside, mediation does not always result in a deal and can be a huge waste of time. And worse, mediation may give the other side an opportunity to size your case before trial.

9) What can I do to increase the value of my motor vehicle claim?

An injured person can increase the claim value by accurately and consistently reporting all symptoms related to the accident to medical providers. The idea is to get your pain and symptoms recorded in chart notes for substantiation of your case. Seek treatment from the specialist most qualified to treat the injury you have. Do not overlook treating for post traumatic stress syndrome and other conditions not physically obvious. Avoid lapses in treatment. Do not discuss your injury claim on social media.

10) Do I need a lawyer to resolve my motor vehicle accident claim?

Probably. Having a qualified lawyer on your side sends an implicit message that you are willing to try your case. Insurers are more motivated to pay fair value when a clear day of reckoning exists and you have the means to obtain justice. In addition, a good lawyer will help you correctly address and negotiate any outstanding medical liens to help you reduce anxiety while increasing recovery.

11) How do I know which lawyer to choose?

Insurance companies pay claims so it’s best to choose a lawyer who understands how insurance companies operate, when they fight, when they pay, and what they are afraid of. Choose a lawyer who likes and empathizes with you. Choose a lawyer with trial experience in the region where your case is located. Choose a lawyer with positive online reviews.

12) Why is Rizklaw the best firm to resolve my motor vehicle accident claim?

Richard Rizk knows how insurance companies think because he defended injury and disability claims and resolved high exposure environmental claims nationally for a decade. He anticipates insurer arguments, many of which he has made himself. He knows what motivates insurers to pay large claims, because he authorized payment of very large claims himself. He empathizes with persons injured in motor vehicle accidents because he has survived two serious car accidents, neither of which where his fault. Mr. Rizk is passionate about standing up to insurers who minimize injury and skirt responsibility.