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Jury Award 35 Times State Farm Settlement Offer

I was expecting and got a call Monday night. My parent Laura Zois was at trial in Frederick County in a rear-end car accident case. I got word of the verdict: $291,000 and some change. A verdict exceeding the at-fault driver’s of $100,000 and the uninsured motorist policy of $250,000. This is not our first excess verdict against State Farm and it won’t be our last.  But it always feels good.

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 an even larger verdict in this case.  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 between reasonable.

high jury award

Another Jury Verdict Against State Farm

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 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. Here, I can make the argument that they should be able to size up a case and plaintiffs’ counsel 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.  Miller & Zois is ready to go get it. But too many lawyers are not and their entire global litigation strategy is based on lawyers who are not ready for the fight.

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 – will tolerate it. I can’t hate them for that.

This video has my most current (pre-pandemic) thoughts on dealing with State Farm.

2021 Update

State Farm has changed in settlement paradigm in the last few years and we are trying less large cases against them because they get reasonable before trial.  The enormous difference is that the local Baltimore adjusters have been phased out and we are dealing with an insurance adjuster in Atlanta.  I’ve found them more reasonable on cases than the folks were in Baltimore.  I think State Farm settlement payouts have actually increased since this was posted. We settled a case with them a few months ago for $245,000 when the offer had been $40,000 for a year-and-a-half.  The case did not settle until two weeks before trial.  Before that, we settled a case for $440,000 ten days before trial when the prior offer had been zero.

I knew the State Farm adjusters in Baltimore. I’ve gone to their offices and met many of them.  They were nice enough people, which was especially impressive because they worked in what felt like a minimum-security prison. But, ironically, we think negotiating a settlement with State Farm is easier with faceless out-of-state adjusters than your friendly down-home adjusters were in Owings Mills.

So the good news is that State Farm might get more reasonable.  The bad news is State Farm often waits until just before trial to get reasonable.  I would have like to have tried both cases, notwithstanding the offers.  But the clients get to make the choice. They did not want to take the risk.  Both cases were in Baltimore County where we have had a ton of success – including a $661,000 verdict against State Farm on a case with a $20,000 offer. But the risk is higher in the county than in Baltimore City.

Is State Farm Trying to Take Advantage of Victims During COVID-19?

To my surprise, I do not think State Farm is trying to use the COVID pandemic to take advantage of victims. I think their settlement offers are generally well below fair value. But I do not see anything changing one way or the other during COVID.

How Long Does It Take State Farm to Settle a Claim?

State Farm moves pretty quickly to get a settlement offer after the claims adjuster receives a settlement demand package. The average turnaround time is less than 30 days for a mid-sized case and less than 45 days for a medically complicated case.

Does State Farm Stall Its Settlement Offers So It Can Hold on to Its Money Longer?

State Farm does not stall when it gets a demand package. This insurer does a pretty good job of getting a settlement offer out quickly.

I find it ironic that I am defending an insurance company that I don’t like. But I don’t like framing the guilty. State Farm does lots of awful things that we can complain about. So why make up additional gripes that lack real evidence?

What Does State Farm Do When You Hit a Verdict Over Their Insurance Policy Limit?

State Farm has never given us a head fake in Maryland suggesting they would not stand behind an excess verdict. I think State Farm foolishly tries cases that it should have made a high settlement offer on to resolve before the claim went to a jury.

But, once the verdict is in, State Farm in our experience is willing to take its medicine and pay the excess verdict.

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