As a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer that has been helping accident victims and their families for over 25 years, I wanted to write a blog about something that I have begun hearing more and more of in the past few years. Clients are coming to me stating that they hired a personal injury attorney, they attorney submitted a settlement demand to the insurance company, the settlement offer was either nothing or not a reasonable amount and then they were told, “You’ll have to find another lawyer, we don’t litigate cases.” This is preposterous to me! If an attorney was willing to sign up your case because they believed that the claim had merit, why would they not be willing to file a lawsuit? The answer is simple and it goes back to something I’ve been “harping on” for some time now: There are too many self-proclaimed “personal injury attorneys” in Los Angeles that are simply out to do the least amount of work on each case, get what they can get, and move on to the next case!
What are “settlement mills” and why are they bad for every personal injury victim in Los Angeles?
As I blogged about extensively here, there is a disturbing trend across the United States especially in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles when it comes to “Personal Injury Law Firms.” The trend is for lawyers to spend big bucks on advertising or use other methods to get a high volume of clients, try to do very little work on the case, try to get a settlement as quickly as possible and then move on to the next case. Why is this their business model? In order to sustain a high volume practice where the majority of the overhead consists of money spent on advertising such as television ads, radio spots or plastering the sides of the freeways with billboards, less money must be spent on the actual pursuit of the claim. For example, if a law firm is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month (which some in L.A. are doing) to get new “sign ups”, how does this leave any resources to be spent on things like attorney and staff salaries, court costs, costs of taking depositions, cost of hiring expert witnesses and other expenses that go into fully prosecuting the claim? The answer is there it doesn’t! From a time standpoint, how is it possible to give each claim enough attention to ensure that the best result happens when you have thousands of files at any given time? The answer is it isn’t!! The business model of the settlement mill, therefore, is to bring in as many cases as possible, try to spend as little money and time as possible to get the case to settlement, get paid quickly and move on to the next case.
What this has done is empowered the insurance companies to make “low ball” offers and attempt to get away with it. Insurance companies are not in business to pay out full value on every claim! They must be persuaded that you have the time, resources and ability to file a lawsuit and take them to court, if necessary, before they will make a reasonable offer! Why? Because they are a business looking to maximize profits just like any other corporation in America. So the fact that Los Angeles has more and more attorneys trying to do the bare minimum work (i.e. just sending a settlement demand letter, doing some basic negotiation and convincing people to take the first offer) means that the “fair market value” of ALL personal injury claims brought in L.A. is being driven further and further down! As a personal injury lawyer that actually gives proper attention to each and every case I sign up, I have seen this first hand. Over the past 25 years, I have seen a steady decline in the average pre-litigation settlement offer on my cases. Do I have to file a lawsuit on every case? No, fortunately it hasn’t gotten that bad but, I can say that I have to file suit on more cases now than I did 10 or even 5 years ago to get a reasonable offer from the insurance company. Why? They want to know that I am not the type of lawyer that is afraid to “litigate” a case!
If my lawyer is telling me that they “don’t litigate cases” is that an indication I hired the wrong lawyer?
In a word: YES! Think about it. If a lawyer thought that your case was good enough to have you sign an agreement that they would “represent you”, why are they now telling you that they can’t take the case further simply because it requires filing a lawsuit? The answer goes back to the “settlement mill” business model discussed above. It likely means that they simply don’t have the time or resources to fully prosecute your personal injury claim because they have too many files. It may also mean that you hired an inexperienced group of lawyers that doesn’t have the expertise to bring a lawsuit, properly litigate the case, and be prepared to go all the way to trial, if that’s what it takes to get a top dollar offer or a reasonable jury verdict.
What should I do if my Los Angeles injury lawyer says they don’t litigate cases?
Short answer: find a new attorney! Better yet, you should always ask up front before you ever hire a personal injury lawyer, “Are you willing to take my case all the way to trial if necessary?” Do you have experience in filing a lawsuit and litigating this type of case through the court system? If they can’t answer these questions adequately and in a credible way, you should not hire that personal injury law firm. Some of these types of firms may try to tempt you by offering you a discounted rate of their fees. To this I always tell clients, hiring a lawyer is like every other transaction you make, you get what you pay for! Experienced lawyers with a reputation for filing lawsuits in court and not simply settling every claim without having to do the work or spend the money that a lawsuit requires, will consistently obtain higher settlement offers from insurance companies. This has been proven time and time again in studies on the subject (Again, feel free to check out my prior blog on this subject: “What are the characteristics of a settlement mill?” Academic research has proven that this is the case!
Free consultation from real litigators and trial attorneys are available for Los Angeles personal injury victims:
The good news is that Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC do “litigate cases”! Mr. Sweat has over 25 years of experience in the litigation of personal injury claims. He also has a team of lawyers that have years of experience filing lawsuits, conducting discovery, taking depositions, hiring experts, preparing and conducting trials of personal injury claims. Does this mean that we will have to go through the entire litigation process on your particular case? No. Most cases do settle prior to going to trial but, without the experience and reputation of being a personal injury litigation law firm, you will never obtain the highest possible settlement offer on any personal injury claim in our opinion. For a free consultation 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, call our toll free accident and injury helpline at 866-966-5240. We are here to give your personal injury claim the personal attention it deserves!