After a wrongful death, catastrophic injury, or even a modest injury, happens to your family, here are a few compelling reasons why you want to hire a law firm that can take your case all the way to trial.
The American Bar Association (ABA) says the statistics show that only a small percentage of injury and death cases actually go to trial. So that raises a question: If the last place you want to be is in a trial, then why hire a trial lawyer and not some lawyer who settles cases all the time? There is a real danger that if you select the wrong attorney for your case, your mistake may cost you and your family dearly.
The first reason you should hire a trial lawyer is actually to avoid going to trial. Yes, this sounds crazy, however, hiring a trial lawyer increases the chances you won’t have to go to trial and at the same time recover a fair settlement. And if you are dealing with an unfair insurance company and they force you to trial, you have an experienced attorney who knows how to win for you. You have an attorney who won’t be scared and talk you into settling your case for less than full value.
How does this work? Why would a trial lawyer be better able to represent me even though I may want to avoid a trial? Here is how it works. It is important to know that insurance companies are in the business to measure and avoid risk.
Insurance companies hire scores of people called actuarials and their job is to measure and calculate risk. An actuarial is a person who looks at large amounts of data and based upon statistics and many factors, they can very accurately predict many things. They were first used by life insurance companies to predict the profitability of selling life insurance to various people. They would take into account a person’s age, weight, habits, current health, ethnic factors and parents health to predict a person’s normal life expectancy. Then they would set a price for insurance so they would still make a profit even after paying the claims.
In an accident case, insurance companies that represent wrongdoers also try to predict the value of every type of wrongful death and injury case they must face. They too look at many factors to estimate the outcome or value of each case. One of the most important factors an insurance company uses to place a value on an injury or death claim is “who is the lawyer” representing the victim?
Imagine for a moment that you were the insurance company. And you were asked to estimate the value of thousands of serious injury and death claims. What are some of the factors you would like to know to estimate the value of each claim?
As an insurance company you want to know as much as you can about the following factors:
- How likely will the attorney take this case to trial?
- If this case were to go to trial, how will a jury look at this case? Will a jury just shrug its shoulders and say, well, this is an unimportant case that does not matter? Or will a jury be upset, mad, angry or scared because someone needlessly endangered a fellow member of our community causing them injuries or death?
- How serious are the injuries, damages and losses caused by the negligent insured? Does the injured person have a small injury or a catastrophic one? Will the person need a lot of future medical care and expenses or very little?
- Who is at fault? Is our insured 100% at fault? Or can we blame the injured person, or can we blame someone else?
- What was the injured person like as a person? Did they have a good life, were they a hard worker, did they offer value to their family and community?
- What is the negligent person like? Are they a nice old lady who just made a mistake one time and is very remorseful? Or is the at fault party a huge corporation that was obviously cutting corners on safety for the sake of profit? Did the at fault person break any criminal laws or act in a reckless way that says they just don’t care about anyone else but themselves?
Let’s take a moment and look consider the first factor:
HOW LIKELY WILL THE ATTORNEY TAKE THIS CASE TO TRIAL:
This may be the most important factor an insurance company uses to set a value of a death or injury claim. How do insurance companies measure, compare and factor in the value your attorney has for your case? The insurance companies keep track of each lawyer they pay settlements to by using the lawyers Federal Tax ID number.
They also keep track of how much money the insurance company had to spend defending each of the claims from each attorney. They track how long the case took from beginning to end because the longer they hold their money, the more profits they make. They keep track of which attorneys settle most of their cases without filing a suit, they keep track of the negotiations made by each attorney and whether they can squeeze the attorney more or less than others. They keep track of which attorneys file a lawsuit and then settle the case quickly. They know which attorneys will settle the case at mediation even when the insurance company is not offering full value for your clam. And insurance companies keep track of the attorneys who turn down low offers, file suit quickly and reject unfair offers at mediation and push your case all the way towards trial. Insurance companies keep track of which lawyers are board certified by their state Bar association, or which lawyers are Nationally Board Certified. Which lawyers are specialists in trying civil jury trials. They keep track of how often each lawyer goes to trial. They keep track of how many trials lawyers have. They keep track of the results and verdicts of each law firm and attorney. They keep track of which attorneys teach other lawyers how to win at trial. They know which lawyers know the science and medicine required to win at trial.
Keeping in mind that insurance companies always want to pay as little as possible and avoid risk, their worst nightmare is when someone has a serious injury or death case and they hire a talented experienced lawyer who actually practices law by being a trial lawyer, not some settle everything lawyer or law firm that settles most if not all of their cases.
The insurance company has to set a value on each case and they do so to protect their profit and control of each claim. They use massive computers and databases that track hundreds of variables. Some insurance companies have as many as 30,000 new claims each day. A long time ago claims adjusters were people and not computers. A claims adjuster would evaluate each claim and they would set a value. But due to the computerization of everything, the insurance companies have taken away the human aspect of measuring claims. They now rely upon computers to set the value of your case.
To get the highest settlement from the insurance company you want to make it easy for the insurance company computer to value your claim as high as possible. To give you and your family the best shot at getting a fair settlement, you want to have a talented trial lawyer who has a strong reputation of turning down low offers and taking cases to trial. You want a lawyer who is rated as high as possible by the insurance companies as a winning trial lawyer, not a sucker who will take any settlement they offer.
You may be asking – why does a trial lawyer get more value than a settlement lawyer? Well a trial lawyer knows that our neighbors and friends in our community will be the ultimate judge of the value of your claim. Your trial lawyer knows that when the insurance company does not offer you fair value for your claim, then he or she will let a jury decide the value of your losses. Why should you accept the value of your claim as determined by an insurance company?
An insurance company loses control of your claim as soon as a jury trial starts. Think about this, the insurance company has complete control to settle your case at any time they choose to do so. All they have to do is pay you enough to buy their way out of the claim. They can settle at any moment by writing a check. However, when you take them to trial, you have taken away their control. They no longer have the power to control the value of your case. Their databases don’t help very much because a jury is the new database. The value of your case will come down to what a jury thinks all of your harms and losses are worth. And a talented, experienced trial lawyer knows how demonstrate each of the driving factors that a jury uses to reach a fair value of your claim.
So, if we go back to our list above and consider how a talented lawyer can affect each of these factors, it just makes good sense to have a lawyer who really knows what they are doing on your side.
Now lets look at the second factor:
IF THIS CASE WERE TO GO TO TRIAL, HOW WILL A JURY LOOK AT THIS CASE? WILL A JURY JUST SHRUG ITS SHOULDERS AND SAY, WELL THIS IS AN UNIMPORTANT CASE THAT DOES NOT MATTER? OR WILL A JURY BE UPSET, MAD ANGRY OR SCARED BECAUSE SOMEONE NEEDLESSLY ENDANGERED A FELLOW MEMBER OF OUR COMMUNITY CAUSING THEM SERIOUS INJURIES OR DEATH?
A talented, experienced and committed trial lawyer knows that the value of your case is affected by how a jury will judge how bad the wrongdoer’s conduct was, in causing the mayhem that has ruined other people’s lives. A talented lawyer knows how to share with a jury how dangerous the negligent corporation or person was that allowed public safety to be sacrificed by their conscious decisions to make more profits or convenience themselves. A trial lawyer knows that one reason a case is brought before a jury is to help make sure this bad wrongdoing stops, and lets the jury know that they “the jury” can deter this type of behavior from happening again and to themselves and their families. An attorney who is comfortable in front of a jury will convey to the jury that the wrongdoer must be held fully accountable for the losses they have caused to the victims of their decisions. That there are heavy consequences for making dangerous choices that hurt others in our community, and the jury is here to stop this from happening again. A talented trial lawyer knows how to make your case important, not only to you and your family, but to the community. You need an attorney who is able to show a jury what happened to you and your family can happen to anyone, and it must be stopped.
HOW SERIOUS ARE THE INJURIES, DAMAGES AND LOSSES CAUSED BY THE NEGLIGENT INSURED? DOES THE INJURED PERSON HAVE A LOT OF FUTURE MEDICAL CARE AND EXPENSES OR VERY LITTLE?:
The most important job a lawyer can do for its client is to recover the full amount of damages to fix what can be fixed, help what can be helped and make up for what can’t be fixed or helped. And it takes a special kind of person to stand in front of a jury and show them the harms and losses and at the end ask for money. This is where experience and talent come together for the client. The insurance company knows whether your attorney has the understanding of the medicine and the emotions that all come together for their client in such a way as to be able to clearly and effectively communicate these losses to the jury. If your attorney has experience and has been through a trial like yours before, he knows what he or she is doing. The insurance company will add settlement value to your case if your attorney has a strong reputation for managing the losses in such a way as to maximize the value of your losses. Also, some attorneys may say they are tough in court and will fight for you, but they don’t have the commitment to hire very expensive expert witnesses that may be needed for your case.
Expert witnesses are expensive and hard to find. Your case may need an expert witness who is an expert at explaining the grieving process and loss to a family when a member is wrongfully taken by the negligence of a wrongdoer. Or, if your case has long lasting damages that will need considerable future medical care, then an expert called a life care planner may be suited for your case.
A life care planner is an expert in what future medical need you will need to keep you at the best health possible. Or, maybe your case needs an economist to help the jury understand how much money you need today to cover all of the financial problems ahead of you caused by the wrongdoer.
Even if your injuries are difficult to see on an MRI or an X-ray, an experienced trial lawyer will know how to ask the right questions so your doctors can help the jury appreciate what you have gone through and will go through as a result of the negligent wrongdoer. And if the insurance company knows your attorney does not have the ability, experience, or commitment to demonstrate your injuries, then they will reduce the offer they will make to your attorney.
If the insurance company suspects that your attorney is going to have a powerful influence on a jury, they will gladly pay more to settle your case rather than face the wrath from an upset jury and a potentially large verdict.
Factor Number 4:
WHO IS AT FAULT? IS OUR INSURED 100% AT FAULT? OR CAN WE BLAME THE INJURED PERSON, OR CAN WE BLAME SOMEONE ELSE?
Having an experienced trial lawyer on your side, everyone will know that your lawyer will be able to use the facts available to prove the defendant was at fault for your injuries. The insurance companies seriously consider if they can blame you, or someone else for the negligence that caused your losses. But they are also very aware that your attorney with his or her experience will be able to collect the right evidence, hire the right experts, examine the evidence appropriately to identify any and all parties that may be held responsible for your losses.
An experienced trial lawyer knows how to give you advice and protect you from making mistakes that could cost you thousands of dollars. Simple things like giving a recorded statement can hurt your case. Your attorney needs to be there with you to protect your rights. An experienced trial lawyer will know what types of experts should be consulted or called as a witness in your trial to help prove fault. And with your attorney’s reputation the insurance company will know if your attorney is committed and will hire the right and best experts to prove your case in front of a jury.
Again, this is an important factor that the insurance company will consider when making any settlement offer. The insurance company does not want to face a jury when they know your attorney is talented at proving their insured was negligent.
Factor Number 5:
WHAT IS OR WAS THE INJURED PERSON LIKE AS A PERSON? DID THEY HAVE A GOOD LIFE, WERE THEY A HARD WORKER, DID THEY OFFER VALUE TO THEIR FAMILY AND COMMUNITY?
Another important factor that insurance companies take into consideration if you have a trial lawyer on your side, is what will a jury think about the victim? If you hire an experienced trial lawyer who is willing to take the case to a jury, then the insurance company will consider how well the attorney can present their client to a jury. If they suspect that the attorney won’t be able to handle the issues that come up in every case, then they will offer less money.
If the insurance company suspects that the attorney is a settlement lawyer, then again they will try to intimidate the attorney and the client by bringing up all kinds of bad stuff to suggest that the injured person is undeserving of receiving any sort of compensation. Again resulting in an unfair settlement of your injury claim. Experience trial lawyers know that their client can be shown in a good light oftentimes by calling before and after witnesses, who are people who can communicate well in court what kind of person the victim was before the wrongdoing, and how the negligence changed a person’s life.
A good trial lawyer knows who to call as a witness for you, friends, family, neighbors, employers, coworkers and many other people who can fully express the losses suffered in your case.
Factor Number 6:
WHAT IS THE NEGLIGENT PERSON LIKE? ARE THEY A NICE OLD LADY WHO JUST MADE A MISTAKE ONE TIME AND IS VERY REMORSEFUL? OR IS THE AT FAULT PARTY A HUGE CORPORATION THAT WAS OBVIOUSLY CUTTING CORNERS ON SAFETY FOR THE SAKE OF PROFIT? DID THEAT FAULT PERSON BREAK ANY CRIMINAL LAWS OR ACT IN A RECKLESS WAY THAT SAYS THEY JUST DON’T CARE ABOUT ANYONE BUT THEMSELVES?
The insurance company will consider how good or bad the defendant will look if hauled into court to answer for their negligence. And even if they represent a really bad person or corporation if they know the attorney will never stand in front of a jury and expose them, then they will offer far less money than if you have an experienced trial lawyer who is willing to go all the way and expose the wrongdoer for who they really are.
Factor Number 7:
If the at-fault person break any criminal laws or act in a reckless way.
The insurance company will add value to a claim if they are concerned that their insured may be facing punitive damages because they were reckless or broke some criminal laws. Even though an insurance company is not obligated to pay punitive damages, they have a duty to try and fight off any claims for punitive damages. Here again, by having a trial lawyer who knows how to apply settlement pressure by seeking punitive damages you increase the chances of your case settling and not going to trial.
In summary, the very best way to do well with your personal injury case is to reach a fair settlement. But if your attorney does not have the reputation and experience to take your case all the way to trial, then the insurance company will not value the claim as highly as they would if you have a real litigator on your side. One who knows all of the pressure points to put on the insurance company to force them to either pay you full value for your losses, or face the consequences of a jury trial handled by an experienced trial lawyer. One who knows his way around a courtroom.