Perspective clients often ask me "Why do I need a personal injury attorney to handle my rear end collision car accident case when I can handle it myself and not have to pay an attorney one-third of my settlement proceeds?" My response to them is your asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking me is "why should I be filing a lawsuit instead of accepting the settlement offer being made by the automobile liability insurance carrier in my case?" That question has an underlying premise. That premise is that you need to hire a competent aggressive personal injury lawyer to file that lawsuit even in a "garden variety" accident case.
Here is an actual fact pattern illustrating why most potential clients are asking the wrong question. My client, a City of Hartford, Connecticut school teacher from Waterbury, arrived at my office for a scheduled office appointment. She had recently been rear ended in West Hartford, Connecticut by an out of state Massachusetts defendant operating a Mercedes. The motor vehicle the defendant operated was owned by her friend. The motor vehicle owner also resided out of state. To make matters more complicated, the plaintiff sustained a double impact collision when her vehicle was pushed into the motor vehicle in front of her. The crush damage to her motor vehicle, however, was very modest.
My client's personal injuries were soft tissue injuries in the form of cervical strain, sprain and pain. She also suffered transient headaches that resolved. The plaintiff treated with an excellent Connecticut chiropractic physician. She was released with a five percent permanent partial impairment of her cervical spine. There were no lost wages and no prior injuries. The vast majority of her medical bills were paid by her private group health insurance carrier. The health insurance carrier had no subrogation rights. The client experienced the standard "garden variety" symptoms of a cervical whiplash. She also experienced the typical transient loss of basic activities of daily living: the inability to play sports, maintain her house to her level of satisfaction and the loss of sleep. Not typical was how her injury interfaced with her job as a school teacher. A cervical injury for a school teacher is a very trying personal injury. Teacher lesson presentation, the ability to focus in the classroom, computer use and after school tutoring all require a school teacher's full range of "pain free" cervical motion and full concentration.
The client was released from chiropractic care after approximately one year of treatment. My office sent the settlement demand package with all proper documentation to the liability carrier. The carrier evaluated the claim within 45 days. The automobile liability carrier indemnifying the owner and operator offered $12,750.00 to settle the claim. The defendant operator had no additional personal liability automobile insurance coverage. The defendant owner was covered under a $25,000.00 liability policy. I demanded that the liabilty carrier tender the full insurance policy limits. The carrier refused. We filed suit. During the discovery phase of the litigation, I filed an offer of judgment to compromise the claim for the full policy limits. This forced the liability adjuster to have a frank discussion with the defense attorney on case value. The liability carrier then agreed to offer the full policy limits after suit was brought in the Waterbury, Connecticut Superior Court. My office then secured no excess insurance coverage affidavits from both the owner of the motor vehicle and the operator of the motor vehicle who caused the rear end collision. This allowed our plaintiff to prove exhaustion of all wrongdoer owner/operator liability insurance bonds. I was then able to secure an additional pay out of $10,000.00 on behalf of my client from her underinsured motorist carrier.
The moral of the story is that this rear end soft tissue Connecticut neck "cervical strain and sprain" case resolved at $35,000.00 rather than the initial $12,750.00 offer made by the defendant's insurance company. To accomplish this resolution, proper personal injury attorney representation was required. Quality representation included filing a lawsuit on the underlying case and securing no excess insurance affidavits from the owner and operator to properly present the underinsured motorist contact claim to the plaintiff's underinsured motorist carrier. Another case favorably closed!