Some cases just cannot be resolved by the parties alone without the help of an impartial third party. That might mean filing a lawsuit and letting a judge or jury make the ultimate decision. It may also mean that an arbitration, mediation, or other form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is utilized to get the parties to yes.
In the case of my client N, it took all the methods and systems mentioned above to get the first portion of her personal injury case resolved.
I often like to say that my job depends on normal people doing a lousy job at everyday tasks like driving, repairing, or taking care of others. To put it more coarsely, I sometimes say that without people behaving stupidly, I’d have nothing to do.
People make mistakes. For a ton of very common reasons. We’re tired, rushed, distracted, or simply human. We screw up. Sometimes, this just means you bang your head on the cabinet door you left open. Other times, it means your moment of inattention messes with someone’s brain.That’s what happened in N’s case.
She was driving on I-290 near Kedzie on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 2017 on her way to a friend’s house. Traffic was heavy, with many people leaving work early so they could prepare for the holiday. A vehicle in the lane to her left was not slowing enough to avoid the traffic coming to a stop ahead of him, and attempted to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of him by turning the wheel and colliding with my client’s vehicle. He hit her so hard it caused her SUV to catapult into a lane blockage sign.
N was not in any particular pain or distress at the scene. She also wanted to be a good friend and not cancel the New Year’s Eve plans she had committed to. But within a day or two, she noticed bad neck and shoulder pain, low back pain, but most seriously, symptoms of what was later diagnosed as a concussion and post-concussion syndrome.
I have written about how difficult it is to diagnose unseen injuries like concussions. Thos injuries are also very hard to explain to jurors. Accordingly, insurance companies and defense lawyers love them. They can simply sit back and say, “we can’t see any injury,” or “we notice in your medical records you were treated for migraines before the crash.”
My client, a Latina chemical engineer, who was extremely proud of her success and education she worked so hard for, could barely remember passwords, product facts, or even where to find things on her computer. Before the crash, that never had happened before. Sure, she had migraines and those had been treated with medication and were under control before the accident. The post-crash headaches were not just a different type of headache; the underlying head injury had sapped N of her ability to remember words, stay organized, and perform tasks as quickly as before. She found herself working in a fog and taking twice as long to perform basic job or home functions. As her career involved in-person sales, these deficits put her career in jeopardy.
You would think that the insurance carrier would pay to make N’s world right again after its insured caused the crash. But that would be fantasy, not reality. Insurance companies are businesses, and they stay in business by paying out less in claims than they take in premiums. No matter what kindly words they use in their commercials, insurance companies exist to make money, not take care of people.
The insurance company never took N’s case seriously. So, I filed a lawsuit. We ground that through the system, during the pandemic, with depositions and other litigation pre-trial work.
And they still wouldn’t take things seriously.
Then, the other attorney and I were talking yet again about alternative ways to resolve N’s case. We finally agreed on a plan to submit to a binding arbitration.
If you’ve read my prior blogs about arbitration, you know that a binding arbitration is a process in which both parties agree to have an arbitrator, or panel of arbitrators, decide the case, and agree to be bound by the result no matter what. In this case, we also agreed to a “high-low,” meaning no matter what result the arbitrator gave, the minimum and maximum amounts were set ahead of time (and the arbitrator would not be aware of that arrangement or know the amounts).
With apologies to the late Howard Cosell (a lawyer!), this case is now at least partially over. With the help of a wonderful retired judge at an alternative dispute resolution office, we put on our case, had our clients testify, and introduced our documentation. This took place over several hours, rather than the three or four days it would have taken in circuit court. While both sides paid a fee for the arbitrator’s time, it still cost less than it would have to bring doctors in to testify, or to take their depositions. In short, we got it done in half a day and gladly paid money for the privilege, as this case would not have gotten a trial date for another six months to a year.
There is still some fruit hanging on the vine. Because the at-fault party’s insurance policy was only $50,000, we are now pursuing an Underinsured Motorist claim against my client’s insurer (which happens to be the same as the at-fault party’s) in an amount up to the difference between her liability limits and his.
I hope to report on the resolution of that part of the case someday.
As in all cases involving 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.