Have you ever paused to look back at the crossroads in your life in the past that changed your life forever? And what if you could go back to that time… Had you made a different decision, do you wonder how much different your life would have turned out? If you are like me, you probably had no idea of the significance of how immensely impactful your decisions were at the time you made them back then.
I had this thought pop into my mind recently when I overheard a bunch of lawyers complaining about how dismal the recent settlement offers they were receiving on their PI cases from various liability carriers. I drifted in thought back to my greenhorn lawyer days when I was full of "book learnin" on the law fresh out of law school, but lean on experience.
While cutting my teeth on my very first personal injury cases, one with Allstate stands out in particular. I had a client with a soft tissue injury with about 6 months of follow-up chiro treatment, with medical bills totaling about $12,000. My client was scared to death to go to trial. Allstate had offered a total of $14K the week before trial, and we were only $2000 apart at $16K. My client instructed me to “settle this” by splitting the difference at $15,000. I offered that amount the day before trial and Allstate said “NO.”
Now, Allstate was the initiator of the MIST claims defense. MIST stands for Minor Impact – Soft Tissue Injury claims. They do not ever fear these cases as jury verdicts reflect somewhat their settlement offer range, and usually never include significant amounts for pain and suffering damages.
My client’s options were to either 1- take the money, reduce the subro, and cut your losses or 2- roll the dice and try the case. Normally, I would have been nervous about trying the case, but at Allstate’s lowball offer, my client (and our firm) had little risk of losing. There was no incentive as liability was clear and there was no contrary medical proof, so I knew we would get the medical charges on directed verdict during trial after our proof. Allstate’s pitiful offers to settle made the decision a “no brainer.”
The case took a day and a half to try. Over that $1000 differential, the jury came back at over $108,000. I was elated for my client and for all the work we put into preparing for trial. From this, I quickly learned 5 things:
- Juries do not evaluate cases like adjusters and defense attorneys do, so don’t be dumbed down to their level of thinking and evaluating.
- Jurors will do the right thing in the end if you get the correct proof before them (and exclude improper/ irrelevant bunny trails). Trust the jury. They are not your enemy; they are the HERO’s of your story. You need them.
- Adjusters will never learn, nor will they ever respect you. My wins against them only make them more bitter.
- No good deed goes unpunished with them. They will ask you to hold off on filing suit, then make you regret it with their pitiful offers.
- Despite your victories against them, you cannot rest on your laurels and you have to treat every case, and expect every soft tissue case, to go to trial. Sure, you will settle some, but prepare the case not to settle, but to go to a jury. I promise you it is worth it.
Recently, we have hit soft tissue verdicts against State Farm and Liberty mutual for $143,000 and $240,000, respectively. We’ve got others lined up and ready to keep teeing it up. 2023 is going to be our best year yet!
I look back on those early days and I say “Thank you Jesus!” for Allstate lowballing me so many times way back when. Had Allstate simply paid only $1000 more in those first cases, we would have settled. Had we settled, I would have never learned the 5 lessons above. I would be just like the vast majority of other so called “trial lawyers” who have never tried a case and won, or like some who have said they will never step into a courtroom again. I just don’t relate to those types at all, and I think they are borderline frauds. At least most of those guys will refer to other lawyers who will step into the arena and fight for justice without caving into their fears.
If you have a case with Allstate, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Geico, or Progressive Insurance, they all seem to be in a phase of extreme lowball or outright denial of claims. Our position is now to bypass negotiations and proceed directly to litigation. It is a total waste of time to wait 3-4 months to try and negotiate with them, to be offered less than the medical bills, and then decide to file suit when you were in the same situation 120-180 days ago. Clients will be less satisfied with the delay, and as a law firm it hurts your profitability.
I still have no love for them, but I am extremely grateful for the path they set me upon 20+ years ago. Those lessons have made our firm one of the leaders in Tennessee in getting record verdicts in soft tissue injuries to this very day. So with that I say… Thank You ALLSTATE!
Try your cases!!