Is every case adversarial?

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Oftentimes, as a personal injury lawyer, a case comes in where negligence is clear, injuries are clear, and it is just a question of insurance and the valuation of the claim. For example, you are a pedestrian hit by a car in a crosswalk and break your hip.  Or, you are rear ended in your car and pushed into oncoming traffic and hit by a car breaking your collarbone and wrist. These are both real life cases, but also straightforward ones. In these situations, my goal is to collect the evidence as quickly as possible, get a medical record showing the fractures, and obtain a picture of what the potential insurance is. Then, hopefully, the case can settle without the delay and expense of litigation. Why is this important to the client? Well, usually health insurance bills that reduce a client’s settlement will increase over time so it is important to cut these off. Plus, litigation costs money. The average case expenses will be $5,000 if the case goes through discovery. Not every case can benefit from the rapid settlement situations described above. Plus, in cases like these where everyone knows what happened and what the injury was, there is really nothing to fight about except for how much the insurer will pay for the case.

In these very clear situations, the only discussion is about how much insurance there is and how much you can get of that coverage. The nice and interesting thing about these cases is that there is not a lot of adversarial conduct between the lawyers and claim reps. If the case has to go into suit because there is a lot of coverage, then both lawyers will take fairly gentle depositions of the other party. There is no reason to piss off the other lawyer and as a plaintiff, I want them on my side to tell the insurer that the case needs to settle. I try to provide defense counsel with every shred of evidence, bills, lost wages, to help them get the case to a good settlement number. I will even make sure that they have their doctor examine my client and generally try to pad or fill out their file so that there are no questions to be asked and the lawyer and the insurer can all document why they need to pay out $250,000 on this case in case inquiries are made down the road. This way, everyone on the defense side is covered or justified in their settlement decisions.

Do we ever pursue people over their insurance coverage? I have not yet seen it done after 20 years of practice.  We can threaten it, but most people simple don’t have a lot of loose cash lying around. Further, where someone is married or holds assets with another person and that other person is not liable or at fault, no court is going to take their assets when there is insurance coverage for the incident.