We Will See You in Court…Or Zoom…Or Settle It!
I blogged previously about my client C, who was rear ended at high speed, which resulted in a fractured cervical vertebra.
She spent several months immobilized in a hard neck collar (which is extremely uncomfortable). Although her doctor determined she did not require surgery to repair the fracture, I was able to convince the insurer for the driver who rear ended her to pay its entire policy limits of $100,000. That was the “easy” part of the case.
Next up, was the Underinsured Motorist Claim portion of the case (UIM). As I’ve mentioned in many prior blogs, UIM kicks in when the person who causes the damage has insurance limits that are not adequate to compensate you fairly AND when your own insurance limits exceed those of the tortfeasor (“bad guy”). In this example, the tortfeasor had limits of $100,000 and C had limits of $250,000, meaning up to another $150,000 was available.
A Broken Neck Should Be Worth $150,000, right?
We are talking about insurance companies, right? In other words, maybe that case is worth a lot more, but you have to be out of your mind if you think an insurance company will offer a dime without lots of delay and obfuscation!
Knowing this from my 33 years of experience, I had already demanded arbitration and named my arbitrator (the insurer also names an arbitrator, and together, those two name a third “independent” arbitrator).
But insurance companies don’t want to pay lawyers to go through the process of arbitration when they know they owe the money, do they?
Yes, they do. In many cases, they will happily pay their lawyers to delay and deny a case for as long as possible, simply because it frustrates claimants and their lawyers.
We next settled upon a date to hold the arbitration. In this case, the opposing lawyer and I agreed to hold the arbitration via Zoom. First, it was set for April, then we had to move it to late September, due to various delay tactics on the part of the other side (more on that below).
At first glance, that seems fair, right?
Keep in mind that for this entire time, both the neutral arbitrator (for half of whose fees the claimant is responsible) and the claimant’s arbitrator, for whom the claimant is responsible for the entire fee, are working on the case. They receive emails, they review documents (including several thousand pages of items I submitted as evidence at the ensuing arbitration). It takes time to give even a cursory glance at that volume of documents. As costs in the case are advanced by me, the lawyer, that means not only am I out that money for months or even years, it also means that every dollar spent on costs is reduced from the eventual take of my client.
The longer things are pending, the more costly it gets, meaning my client gets less money. That much is part of the insurer’s plan.
Declaration of Independence
The original arbitration date of April was continued because the insurer wanted to have my client examined by a physician of its choice, in what is ridiculously referred to as an “independent medical examination.”
If the insurer is paying a doctor to examine someone, there’s nothing independent about it. If that doctor wants more insurance company business, he or she will bend toward a result that favors the entity writing the check.
Except when there is nothing to argue about.
In our case, C was not just “clocked” by the vehicle that hit her. She got nailed. Her car was destroyed. The fact that she “only” sustained a broken neck is a testament to the safety of vehicles these days. But she is a person who sings for pleasure and occasionally for small amounts of pay. She noticed problems swallowing or singing after the crash. These problems never quite resolved.
Miracles do happen. In this case, the independent exam confirmed the cervical fracture was caused by the car crash (duh!), but also that the fracture fragment lodged in a place that would explain the problems swallowing and singing.
In short, the IME report hit a triple or a home run for our side. It confirmed nearly everything we were prepared to argue.
Now, it Should Settle Easily, Right?
Remember, we are talking about insurance companies!
One would expect that after its own IME doctor trashed any possible defense it might have, that the carrier would just offer to settle.
That’s far too logical for an insurer.
Instead, it waited. And waited. As the arbitration date closed in, it finally gave its lawyer authority to convey to me. Since their lawyer was an old acquaintance of mine for over two decades, we knew exactly what the case was worth and he pulled no punches. In fact, his first offer was $140,000 of the possible $150,000. I explained this to my client. She was ecstatic already and authorized me to accept that if we could not get more.
I countered at just below the policy limit and we settled rather quickly for $145,000. The insurance company claims a “win” by not paying the full policy amount and I get my client almost everything that was available. We avoided high arbitrator fees by not having to sit through a two-hour arbitration and pay for them to review thousands of pages of medical records.
It was not easy or quick, but it was just and fair. Sometimes, to get the right result, patience is a requirement.
- UIM insurers can have their own claimant examined by a doctor of their choice
- UIM arbitrations can cost quite a bit, with three arbitrators and a ton of medical records
- Insurance companies are not always forward thinking in analyzing case values. Sometimes, they do things like send people to IMEs just because they can rather than because it might actually help them.
Contact Chicago Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving work injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.