In the world of personal injury, soft tissue cases are among the most challenging for an attorney. The challenge comes in the form of managing client expectations with insurance realities.
Every human being feels pain differently and for different lengths of time. If you’re a competitive athlete and are rear-ended, it is unlikely you’ll treat for more than two months. If you have a desk job and haven’t been to the gym in 10 years, the car accident might impact your life for 12 months. Unfortunately, for the desk job person, the insurance companies don’t really think it should take you 12 months to get better.
A soft tissue injury case has a range and, if you aren’t in that range, you may end up treating too long and owing more money in medical bills than you are offered for a settlement. This is the worst outcome for any personal injury attorney. We can’t tell you to stop treating and yet your treatment is going to create a financial burden for you.
A similar detrimental situation can happen when a client believes that more treatment equals a higher settlement. This is an unfortunate myth. Legitimate testing, such as a CT scan or X-rays, are relevant in valuing a case. Additionally, if you’ve experienced a concussion, this can change the value of a case. However, just treating for months and months with chiropractic or massage has the tendency to make your case look less legitimate. The insurance companies know this and they also know how juries look at soft tissue cases. Unfortunately, most jurors see soft tissue victims as trying to get “free money” and not really as a victim. It’s a hurdle right out of the gate in trial—and insurance defense attorneys often exploit this bias. For this reason, experienced attorneys work very hard to negotiate a settlement to avoid trial.
In 2008, a well-regarded article in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies reviewed 9000 settlements over 41 years and found that, 61% percent of the time, the plaintiffs who went to trial obtained an award that was the same or worse than the pretrial settlement. Considering the incredible expense of trial and experts, even those who obtained the same award as the earlier settlement offer, really ended up in a very bad position.
Sometimes, trial is unavoidable for resolution of a case. However, it’s very important that those plaintiffs who are suffering only soft tissue injuries realize that they are going to face an uphill battle when it comes to fighting insurance companies. Regardless of how your injuries impacted your life, generally speaking, your maximum settlement has already been set by the insurance companies. In very conservative areas, that might mean 1.5 times your medical bills. In more liberal areas, that might mean closer to 2.5 times your medical bills. Keep in mind, this is very general information and assuming your medical bills are necessary and reasonable. A $10,000 massage bill is probably not going to be considered reasonable.
Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. However, consider the above information as you prepare questions for your attorney. Are your expectations realistic for your injuries and your geographical location? Is there a point where you would prefer to stop treating and walk away with more money for your inconvenience rather than have more massage visits? It’s all a factor in making a client feel like they were represented according to their best interest. Not everyone’s interests are the same.
At Witt Law Group, we are available 24/7 to hear your particular interests. If you want to discuss your personal injury case, we are here for you.