Personal injury cases usually involve a liability insurance company that covers individuals and businesses (collectively “the insured”) when a person makes an injury claim. At Eisenberg Cutt Kendell & Olson, we deal with liability insurance companies regularly, since they are in charge of hiring a defense lawyer for the insured and they also pay to settle the personal injury claim if an agreement can be reached between the insurance company and the plaintiff.
So what happens when some insurers try to push a less than reasonable settlement?
We recently had a case where the defendant’s insurance company did something that baffles us. We tried to resolve our client’s personal injury claim prior to filing suit. It was a simple automobile accident case where the defendant ran a red light and hit our client. We made a reasonable settlement offer. The client had reasonable expectations and his injuries were not at the time catastrophic.
Rather than negotiate and enter a settlement for a modest amount, the insurance company made a lowball offer of around $14,000. The insurance adjuster told us that was the most he would pay. We told him that we were positive he would end up paying a reasonable sum if we filed suit and litigated the case. In other words, we urged him to just be reasonable now and resolve the case. He refused.
This was really frustrating. It is upsetting when big businesses try to lowball honest, hard-working people that have suffered an injury through no fault of their own, and expect the plaintiff and their counsel to meet a clearly unsatisfactory settlement offer. As a result, we did not hesitate to file suit and move forward toward trial.
As it turns out, the client’s injuries did not improve; they got worse, so his claim became bigger than we initially expected.
After almost a year of battling with the insurer, it agreed to pay the entire policy limit. That amount was much higher than it would have taken to settle the case at the beginning. However, because the insurance company decided to lowball, despite our vast experience dealing with these types of cases, it got stung.
We hope the insurer realizes what has happened and is reasonable and fair next time. This experience has made us concerned about how insurance companies treat people without a lawyer. If you are ever involved in a personal injury case, you should consider hiring attorneys with a proven track record of recognizing and challenging liability insurers when they attempt to unjustly lowball a settlement.