Jury Trial with State Farm

I had a jury trial in an auto accident case in Anne Arundel County against State Farm last week. It was a soft tissue injury case with over a year of treatment. It was a case we inherited from another lawyer who retired last year.

The biggest weakness of the Plaintiff’s case is that he had few doctor visits before complaining of the soft tissue injury upon which the claim was based. The Defendant’s biggest weakness was their liability defense never actually made any sense. The Defendant was, however, very old and very sympathetic. Because the jury is never told insurance is going to pay the claim, you have to expect this to be a factor in the amount of the recovery even if they do suspect there is insurance behind the Defendant.

The jury found for the plaintiff, but awarded only a little over $16,000. State Farm was thrilled, and I was depressed for a few days. They won and I lost. That is how we both saw it and marked our scorecards accordingly.

But here’s the thing: State Farm only offered $5,000 on the case. It underscores how unreasonable State Farm’s offers can sometimes be when it views a jury award of over three times their offer to be a success.

I shouldn’t single out State Farm. We have “lost” a lnumber of trials were the verdict was a great deal higher than the last settlement offer, particularly in smaller cases in difficult venues, yet we still didn’t feel like we got what we should have.

A part of the reason why insurance companies don’t feel compelled to make fair offers is because too many personal injury lawyers do not want to try the case – they take the settlement offer. If more personal injury lawyers held the insurance companies’ feet in the fire and made them try cases where the offers are unreasonable, we would have many fewer unreasonable offers. Of course, we settle a lot of cases where the offers are unreasonable, because the client does not want to go to trial. But I think too many attorneys convince their clients to settle cases that really should be tried.

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  • D.K. Lewis

    I was researching information and ran across your website. I read with interest about State Farm. This reeks of bad faith and unfair claims handling practices; why didn’t you pursue that avenue?

  • Ron Miller

    The policy in this case was $250,000. It is really not bad faith unless you hit for over the policy. Actually, I don’t have any qualms with insurance companies making plaintiffs’ lawyers try cases. I just think it a case like that, there was pretty much zero chance we were going to get less than the offer. The jury simply did not believe my client. They cut his medical bills and cut his lost wages by more than half. This is a powerful message that says we lost. And we still did three times better than the offer. To me, it is simply not smart economics to not make a reasonable settlement offer in a case like that. But that is their right, their choice, and it is not bad faith.

  • Great job, Ron! You tried your case and gave your client his day in court. Notwithstanding State Farm’s entrenched, preverse economic analysis, you won and did good by your client. I also agree that more cases need to be tried. I am oftentimes aghast at how little some lawyers will take to settle. Maybe I am a stubborn Irish guy, but sometimes you just need to fight the good fight and take cases to verdict, in the absence of a reasonable offer. I file suit on the majority of claims, and I sleep better at night knowing that I am doing everything possible to obtain a fair settlement for the client.

  • Brian

    I think you have to view the verdict as a success given the facts, the venue, and the low settlement offer.

  • Sterling Davis

    Soon I will be in court as a plaintiff against State Farm, hereto i was offered a settlement of $5,000.00 with continuing medical problems. I really wish there was a way that lawyers could acknowledge “bad faith” in the inception of a bad offer.

  • KEVIN

    I am a client with an attorney in Maryland who received a settlement offer from State Farm where the their insured driver admitted fault on a recorded phone call to their claims office. The settlement offer is for $8000. My attorney claimed 33% from the $8000 and says I owe $400+ because there is not enough money to cover my medical expenses from injuries. My car and body was damaged and everyone gets paid but me. In fact, I’m told I must pay $400+ to cover medical expenses. My lawyer suggests we go to court. My car was hit by a pregnant white woman in Anne Arundel County who by now should have given birth if all went well with her because of the accident. Would this conservative jury in Anne Arundel cause me to owe more money in a settlement verdict than the offer now where I would have to pay $400+?

  • teresa gale

    i also am going to trial with state farm, i hear they are very tight with the purse.was hit by a man who admited he was at falt,
    i have whip lash ,headaces,vision problems, an a ruptured L5 dic. they offered 21,000.

    THAT means 40% to lawyer an 12,000 for medical,i am to get nothing for my suffering! i did have back problems prior to the accident so they are saying the accident did not cause these problems.

    i’m saying the accident made it much worse, i’m afraid going to trial i may end up loosing an stuck with a large court bill.i’m thinking of backing out.

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