Jury Award 35 Times State Farm Settlement Offer

I was expecting and got a call Monday night. Laura Zois and John Bratt were in trial in Frederick County in a rear end car accident case. I got word of the verdict: $291,000 and some change. A verdict in excess of the at fault driver’s of $100,000 and the uninsured motorist policy of $250,000.

State Farm claims are always a challenge to settle.  More than any other insurance company, they just do not make settlement offers that entice victims to settle before trial.  The  settlement offer in this case was $8,200, I felt like we should have gotten more and I was a little disappointed we did not. This speaks volumes of where were are, at least in Maryland, with State Farm. We can get a verdict 35 times the settlement offer and still not view it as an epic victory. Because State Farm’s offer was not even remotely in the range of reasonable.


Another Jury Verdict Against State Farm Insured

The case was disputed on liability so my first reaction was one of joy: glad we didn’t lose. But I knew the case and I really thought the jury could have awarded a lot more. Frederick County is a pretty conservative jurisdiction. We also lost a ton of motions that I think we should have won on some critical issues that I think might have made a difference.

If you leaf through jury verdicts which I do on a monthly basis, it is amazing how many car accident cases that go to trial in Maryland are defended by State Farm.

I want to trot out the trite “Boy, State Farm is dumb” narrative. In this case, I can make the argument that they should be able to size up a case and plaintiffs’ counsel a little bit and tailor their arguments more closely. But I really think State Farm has a business model that it sticks to diligently: if you want our money you better come and get it.

As much as personal injury lawyers and victims might wish it to be so, State Farm is no dummy. I bet they are using this boxing gloves approach because they have decided that it is the best way to maximize profits because too many plaintiffs’ lawyers – who are really settlement lawyers – are going to tolerate it. I can’t hate them for that.

  • Congratulations Laura and John!!! ….even if Ron thinks you did a bad job…. I am starting to realize he is never satisfied.

  • Anonymous

    Very impressive!

  • Keep on beating up on them . they will remember, eventually, but then they will forget . So then beat them again. As you know ron, it takes an injured person that the jury cares about. A real injury trial lawyer is a valuable “commodity”

  • Hey Ron-
    Don’t you think that by making such low-ball offers, State Farm actually forces plaintiffs to try their case? I understand that you believe that is their strategy, but by making such low offers, they may actually be facing larger payouts as plaintiffs are taking their cases to trial when their backs are against the wall.

    Obviously, congrats on this well deserved verdict!

  • Ron Miller

    Austin, I take real offense to that comment. I’ll forgive you on the account of it being true.

    Tony, I don’t think State Farm cares one bit. I think these verdicts are statistically insignificant to them.

    Jonathan, I never think these insurance companies are dumb. There are lot of smart minds behind them and, just as importantly, I think they are armed with actuaries that run the numbers and figure out what the best approach is. I think those lower payouts are all a part of the cost of doing business.

  • Vern Dennis

    I think you’re setting up a straw man here. You indicated that there was a dispute on liability, which means if the jury found ANY liability on your client, there would be no recovery. What I suspect really happened is that the jury felt there was some liability on your client but didn’t want to send the injured client away empty handed so they found in favor of your client and truncated the damages award accordingly.

    I’ve seen it happen repeatedly in contributory negligence jurisdictions.

  • Ron Miller

    What? Straw man? Me? Oh, yeah, I do that sometimes.

    But not here. Contributory negligence was not even on the verdict sheet. They just contend she was not at fault although she was pretty clear in saying that she was, you know, at fault.

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