Personal Injury: Why you should almost always file a lawsuit on your injury claim.

Auto insurance is BIG business in the United States. We are all inundated with a vast amount of insurance advertisement promising to be a good neighbor, or that you’re in good hand, etc. But, how can insurance companies make so much money while also being such good, kind, and fair administrators of injury claims. Well – basically, they make money by selling as many policies as they can while, simultaneously, restricting the amount they pay out for damage/injury claims. Restricting payouts leads to devaluing claims and, in turn, devaluing people’s suffering from injuries.

Then, how can an injured claimant fairly obtain a reasonable resolution against a massive insurance company imposing such a business model? The answer is the rule of law and its administration via the courts. The only way an injured party can gain leverage against an insurance company, thus have the opportunity to obtain a fair and just resolution to their claim, is often times to file a lawsuit and impose upon the insurance company the rule of law.

Negotiating an injury claim: The insurance company will have already calculated the top number it will pay out for a claim before it even starts negotiating. Often times, the adjuster handling the claim is told from higher ups the cut off number. That is – the take it of sue us offer. The job of a dedicated personal injury lawyer is to find that take-it-or leave it number during negotiations with the adjuster without sacrificing the claim’s fair and reasonable value. The insurance company’s top offer is almost always below the fair and reasonable total value of the claim. So, then the question for many injured people becomes, should I settled for this reduced figure or should I file a lawsuit and expend the energy, time, and costs for the potential of obtaining more, over and above the insurance company’s top offer. For those not represented by an attorney (or represented by a settlement mill), the answer to that question is difficult. How would an injured person, not experienced with litigation, know the risks that lie ahead?

“Experience is the teacher of all things.” Julius Caeser. The only way to know whether an injured person should settle with the insurance company or file a lawsuit is to rely upon the experience of a seasoned personal injury attorney. Someone who has, and regularly files, lawsuits and tries cases all the way through the court process.

Litigating an injury claim: Most people visualize filing a lawsuit involving a trial where there is a scary judge and annoyed jurors. That can be true. However, in most counties in Washington State, that is not the reality. A majority of all injury claims have a value of less than $50,000. If the injured person did not break a bone, tear a ligament, or require extensive treatment, their claim is likely valued at less than $50K. In Washington State, most counties have mandatory arbitration (also known as civil arbitration). This is an expedited process whereby a claim for money damages is assigned a neutral attorney (or retired judge) to hear the case and decide the total award. This process is relatively fast, less expensive, and less intrusive, than a typical trial in court. Further, although the insurance companies can appeal, they often do not as there are rules imposing disincentives to appealing an arbitration award. (Note: Washington State recently passed a law increasing the limits in civil arbitration to $100,000 thus allowing more claims to proceed through such process. The increased limits go into effect in October 2018).

Understanding the court’s civil arbitration process is critical in determining whether to settle or sue. Understanding the costs, time, and energy of court arbitration, will in turn significantly impact the risk analysis in settling or suing. All claims over $50K (and in October of 2018 100K) will still proceed to a standard civil trial. An attorney experienced in such claim is also critical in understanding when to file suit.

Risk Analysis: A good lawyer will assist his or her client in understanding the potential benefits gained and risks associated with filing a lawsuit. This is an economic, legal, and psychological question all mixed into one. It is our position at the Johnson & Johnson Law Firm that clients should file a lawsuit in almost every claim. At first blush, that seems a touch reckless. However, the strategy will pay dividends in the end.

Hiring a Firm that regularly litigates cases will impact every stage of your interaction with the attorney and his/her staff. From the initial interview all the way through litigation the claim at the courts, an injured party will have a greater opportunity for obtaining a successful resolution by being representing by an attorney geared towards litigating the claim. Further, the risks associated with filing suit are diminished when the injured party has an attorney experienced and willing to file suit.

An injured claimant only has one opportunity, one bite at the apple, to obtain a just and fair settlement of his or her claim. Settling will often result in thoughts of missing out on a better resolution. Having an attorney that can guide you through the possible risks or rewards of litigation is key to determining whether to file suit.   Since 1999, The Johnson and Johnson Law Firm has been litigating personal injury claim. Based upon almost two decades of experience, the risks of pursuing a lawsuit should almost always be less than accepting a pre-suit settlement.

The Exceptions:   To every good rule is a good exception. There are, of course, cases that should settle without instituting a lawsuit. A basic example is where the insurance company is offering its policy limits to resolve the claim. That is, the insurance company is offering all the money under a liability policy in exchange for a settlement. Another example is where the client/injured person is not invested in pursuing litigation. The lawyer is a counselor and advisor to the client. However, the lawyer cannot make the decision to file suit – that is the client’s call. Litigating a claim does take the client’s time and energy. If the client is not wanting to file suit, then a good attorney should not unduly pressure the client into doing so. If that occurs, the litigation suffers because the client is not fully invested. Next, there are claims that do not make financial sense to file. For instance, if there is a genuine issue of liability (meaning which side is at-fault) and the offer on the table is close to reasonable, it may make good sense to settle for money in hand rather than risk the entire claim and face the potential of $0 result. In sum, if the claim has clear liability (the other side is at fault), the damages are known and understood, there is adequate insurance coverage, and the client is on-board, then the case almost always should be filed even with an insurance offer on the table.

The Johnson and Johnson Law Firm represents individuals that have been seriously injured by the fault of another. We represent the people of Eastern Washington in their legal contests against insurance companies, corporations, and large government agencies. If you or a friend/family member has been injured and needs the help of an experienced attorney, please contact our office. We offer free consultations.