Lessons Learned From Representing Defendants
I started my legal career representing Defendants in personal injury cases. As a result I have learned quite a few things about the Defendants’ perspective in personal injury cases.
The first lesson is that with rare exceptions, your opponent is an insurance company, not the person that injured you. The reason for this is because if you look carefully at your insurance policy you will see a provision that requires you to cooperate with the litigation, otherwise the insurance carrier has the right to cancel their coverage. The only time the individual will become personally involved is when the demand rightfully exceeds the policy limits.
This first lesson informs the rest. As frustrating as it is to not deal with a human being, it allows your opponent to become easily predictable. For example, all insurance companies are in the business to make money, that means they want to pay as little as possible at all times.
This means that if in the beginning you find the insurance company to be reasonable, you may be able to settle for a fairly high amount, as the longer the litigation gets drawn out, the more money the company has to pay to attorneys and they then become less reasonable as the process goes along. However, that can also play into your hands, because as much as the defense counsel would like to file a motion against you, if the company doesn’t think it is worth their money, they will not allow them to file it. This allows you to manipulate the opposition.
The final lesson is also probably the most useful for implementing, insurance companies look at who your providers are and how you paid for your treatment as closely to they do to your injuries. If you treat with a doctor who is known in the community (or is just obvious from their medical records) to exaggerate an injury in order to receive a higher recovery, the insurance company will likely be more skeptical of your claim. Additionally, while it doesn’t happen as much anymore because of the Affordable Care Act, if you do not have insurance, you may be able to find a doctor that will provide care for you on a lien basis (meaning that they get paid out of your recovery). This is a giant red flag to the insurance companies as they assume that the doctor is purposefully overcharging simply to rack up a higher medical bill to get a higher recovery.
While who you receive care from or how you pay for your medical care isn’t necessarily relevant or even admissible in the court of law, the appearance of impropriety can make the insurance company more unreasonable in their position. Because 97% of cases are resolved out of court, it is incredibly likely that your case will settle as well. As a result, you do not want the insurance company to feel comfortable in pushing you towards trial, instead you want the insurance company to be scared that they will lose money if they take the case forward. If they think you inflated your bill, they will feel more comfortable moving forward.