Woodland Hills personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg recommends to his clients to not cave in to an insurer that denies or low balls a perfectly legitimate claim. Unfortunately, we are seeing more of insurers wrongfully denying claims, attributing “fictitious” comparative fault to claimants or offering such a low-ball mount that the claimant would actually have to pay money just to settle the case and pay his or her bills. If an insurer is wrong, it is important that the personal injury attorney have the courage to actually file and serve a lawsuit.
You must Assume the Insurers know the Skill and Resolve of your Lawyer
While it is only anecdotal evidence, we believe most insurers in Southern California know which lawyers are 1) not experienced personal injury lawyers; 2) willing to take walk away from a claims dispute; and 3) willing to accept “low-ball” money for an otherwise valuable claim. As a corollary, we believe most insurers in Southern California know which lawyers are 1) experienced personal injury lawyers; 2) willing to file a Complaint in Superior Court; 3) willing to actually litigate a personal injury case; and 4) willing to actually take a personal injury case to trial.
It is not a stretch that the lawyers known to insurers —-that insist on fair compensation for clients are offered more money on their cases. It is also not a stretch that the lawyers known to insurers— to fold and walk away are offered less money on their cases. This drives me crazy! I cannot stand that my friends and neighbors are subjected to sub-standard legal representation because their law firm is unable or unwilling to do their job. Further, this is a complete breach of trust placed in the so-called personal injury law firm by unsuspecting clients.
Example of Filing a Suit to Obtain Reasonable Compensation.
Here is a recent case in point. A recent satisfied client of mine called me and begged me to take over a friend’s case being handled by another law firm. In that case, the insurer denied the claim and the law firm was trying to “get out” of representing the client. I looked up the law firm and it appeared that the Beverly Hills law firm had reviews, ratings and was experienced in handling personal injury matters. They claimed something like they were “The Kings of PI” in Southern California.
However, when the insurer declined payment due to a moderate impact, they ran for the hills (not in Beverly!). They offered to assist the client by preparing small claims forms and explained that the maximum recovery that could be awarded in Small Claims was $10,000—- about the amount of her medical bills—-if she even won.
The C.C.P. §998 Offer to Compromise
Our firm jumped in and immediately filed a Complaint in Superior Court and provided the claims adjuster with a courtesy copy. The adjuster responded that they were “standing firm” and making no offer whatsoever. We served the Summons and Complaint and exchanged discovery. Along with our Answers, we served a very reasonable C.C.P. §998 Offer to Compromise in the amount of $25,000. (The C.C.P. §998 Offer to Compromise allows us to recover much of our costs if we recover more than that amount in trial.
Right before the C.C.P. §998 Offer to Compromise was set to expire, we received a frantic call from the insurer begging to settle the case for the amount of our C.C.P. §998 Offer to Compromise. Why begging? Because if the insurer “accepted” our C.C.P. §998 Offer to Compromise there would be a judgment against the insured on record that they would have to pay. So, we will be nice and sign a Release only if they actually pay us in 7 days!
Insurer has a Reputation for No Pay, Low Pay, Slow Pay—-But, Not Today!
Although this insurer has a terrible reputation for no pay, low pay, slow pay, you can bet that this particular claims adjuster and branch claims manager will remember that our office will take reasonable steps, including filing suit and litigating a case, rather than counseling our client to walk away from a perfectly fair claim. Frankly, we cannot wait to make another claim against this insurer! As for my predecessor, you can also bet that this insurer knows that it can virtually get away with anything—even if they are “The Kings of Personal Injury?”