Jury Award 35 Times State Farm Settlement Offer

I was expecting and got a call Monday night. My parent Laura Zois was 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

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.  Miller & Zois is ready to go get it but too many lawyers are not.

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.

2017 Update

State Farm has changed in settlement paradigm in the last few years and we are trying less large cases against them because they tend to get reasonable before trial.  The big difference is that the local Baltimore adjusters are being phased out and we are dealing with an insurance adjuster in Atlanta.  I’ve found them more reasonable on cases than the folks in Atlanta.  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.

So I guess the good news is that State Farm might be getting more reasonable.  The bad news is they are waiting until just before trial to get reasonable.  I would have like to have tried both of those cases, notwithstanding the offers.  But, ultimately, the clients are the ones who get to make the choice and they simply 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 the city and the clients were advised of 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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