Bad Faith Insurance: March 2009 Archives

March 2, 2009

Car Accident Injury Victims in Florida Feel the Squeeze of a Poor Economy

The poor economy seems to be negatively affecting the settlement offers Florida auto accident victims are receiving from insurance companies. These lower-than-expected offers are not surprising when viewed in light of the recent headlines concerning insurance giant AIG's staggering fourth quarter loss of over $61 billion. As insurance companies' stock prices continue to tank, anecdotal evidence suggests that they are tightening the purse strings for car crash related injuries, especially soft-tissue injuries. Although never loose with compensation offers, the offers now being made are seemingly much lower than in years past for similar injuries.

Florida personal injury attorneys must take steps to help combat these unreasonably low offers for auto accident injuries. The most effective way for Florida personal injury lawyers to help ensure they receive reasonable offers is to thoroughly and honestly evaluate a case and injury prior to filing suit. This evaluation will achieve two crucial goals for the car accident or other personal injury case you are handling: 1) it will allow you recognize what is or is not an appropriate offer from the insurance company, and 2) it will ensure that good cases are brought to trial and poor cases are not. Ultimately, the goal is to try the cases legitimately worth trying because they will result in more verdicts for the plaintiffs. This, in turn, will give the insurance companies and their adjusters a moment's pause before making an unreasonably low offer they know will force you to trial.

There are numerous factors that the South Florida personal injury attorney must be aware of before deciding to take an auto accident case to trial. Some of these factors include the following:

The quality of the client -- While we respect our clients and understand we would be nowhere without them, the honest truth is that some clients make a better presentation than others. This needs to be taken into consideration before deciding to place them under the scrutiny of a jury panel.

The quality of the defendant -- The defendants presentation is also a crucial consideration during your evaluation process. Drunk drivers and corporate defendants most often are more difficult for the jury to relate to.

Property Damage -- It is important to consider how much damage was done to the vehicles. This is because jurors have a difficult time associating serious injury with low-impact collisions.

Nature of the Accident -- When considering whether or not to take a case to trial, keep in mind that "rear-ender"-type accidents are not as persuasive to a jury as a defendant that has run a red-light or stop sign, T-boned another vehicle in the intersection, or caused other less common accidents.

Emergency Care -- Always consider what types of injuries and treatment were reported at the time of the accident. For instance, were the paramedics called to the seen? Was the auto accident victim taken to the emergency room via ambulance? Did the patient require immediate medical attention or lose consciousness at the scene?

Lost Wages -- Lost wages can be a significant part of an auto accident settlement or verdict, but make sure the lost wage claims are documented by the employer and supported by tax return information.

Type of Work -- Although perhaps unjustified at times, jurors are often compelled to compensate a blue collar worker more than a white collar worker. This most likely is because they associate blue collar jobs with more physical activity and white collar jobs as being more sedentary, but regardless, it is an important factor to consider.

Doctors -- Make sure you have knowledgeable doctors that can identify and explain an injury to a jury. If your doctor does not make a good presentation and waivers in his opinion of the client's injury, it can be as devastating if not more so than a client that makes a poor presentation. Also, make sure the client is seen by all the appropriate doctors for their particular condition.

Medical History -- Make sure to evaluate all medications, injections, epidurals, facet blocks, etc. and take into consideration whether the client has refused or discontinued any recommended treatment. THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATE your clients past medical history. It is imperative that you order and review the medical records of your client as far back as you can go. Check the "intake forms" from doctors' offices to see what prior physicians are listed and then order those records as well. You can be sure the insurance company will.

It is important to research and evaluate a case properly prior to making a decision to go to trial. As Florida personal injury attorneys, we have to continue to fight the good fight. If we have done our research, hopefully we can then make the appropriate decision to take a case to trial or settle. With more positive plaintiff jury verdicts, we will see more appropriate offers from insurance companies even in these tough economic times.

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