One Thing to Increase Case Value: Set Early Expectations
What’s the one thing a personal injury attorney can do to increase the value of your client’s car accident case on day one?
According to our personal injury attorney Robert Graham Fiore, the answer might surprise you.
Establishing case value immediately
Many attorneys handle car accident cases and they follow a traditional model: client gets injured, client goes to doctor, client finishes treatment, attorney or staff collects bills and records, attorney or staff makes a settlement demand, and only then does the attorney speak with the adjuster to try to settle the case.
Mr. Fiore has over 30 years of personal injury trial experience and for many years he represented insurance companies in trials and negotiations. A truly experienced personal attorney knows that doing one thing early on in your client’s case may significantly increase the value of the claim. According to Mr. Fiore, after receiving a Letter of Representation from an attorney, the insurance adjuster will call that attorney to get “indexing information” and initial details about the client’s injuries.
This is crucial, yet many attorneys ignore the importance of this phone call.
Mr. Fiore knows that this information is critical because the adjuster is required to set “reserves” on your case – a sum of money representing the probable settlement value of the client’s claim. This is not unlike any of us putting aside money to pay an expected bill in our personal lives. Some bills, like rent or the mortgage, are easy to estimate since they are constant from month to month. Others, such as a car mechanic’s bill or a plumber’s bill or an unexpected visit to the hospital, are more difficult to budget for since the costs can vary quite a bit. But one thing is certain: if the ultimate cost that we are asked to pay far exceeds our expectation of what the bill would be, we resist, we argue, we refuse to pay, we insist on something less expensive. It’s the same with insurance companies and their reserves.
So, if an attorney ignores the adjuster’s indexing call, or doesn’t know the facts of the case or tells the adjuster that “this is a neck or back injury claim”, then the adjuster is going to set the initial reserves accordingly. Within another 60-90 days, the insurance company will review this reserve. If there has been no further communication from the attorney, the initial reserve will likely not be modified. And the more time that passes, the more that an expectation solidifies in the adjuster’s mind that the existing low reserve “must be” the true value of your claim. Within 6 to 8 months, the reserve is likely to be considered to be“set in stone”.
However, if an attorney is proactive during the crucial initial months after the car accident, he or she will communicate to the adjuster a detailed description of how the car crash is affecting the client, physically, emotionally and financially and will be updating this description as new information develops. This is especially true of cases in which new injuries come to light after the initial trauma of the car accident subsides, or when surgery is suggested or when an accident related condition is not resolved after 6 months and is considered to be chronic or permanent. One must, from the start or as soon as possible, let the insurance company know that these are potentially high value cases and should be reserved accordingly. Months and months later, it will be much more difficult to convince the adjuster that the case is now “more serious that anyone thought”.
So, what’s the one thing a personal injury attorney can do to increase the value of a case from day one? Communicate with the adjuster immediately and as often as necessary during the crucial 6-8 months following the car accident to try to influence the reserves.
Schedule a free personal injury case review
If personal injury isn’t your primary area of practice and you think you have a high value case, then contact our office to speak with Mr. Fiore. With over 30 years of experience as an insurance defense attorney and plaintiff lawyer, Mr. Fiore can assist you with communicating the value of your case to the adjuster in a way that will trigger a reserve increase; formulating a negotiation strategy that will break a stalemate, or, if necessary, with trying the case for you or with you.