A few months before a personal injury trial in Adair County, Missouri, the insurance company lawyers asked for mediation and we agreed. After a long day of negotiations we were able to settle the car accident injury claim for $88,000.00. Before mediation the top offer from the auto insurance company was around $30,000.00.
This was an excellent recovery for our personal injury client and an amount that represents probably the very high end of expected best verdict had we gone to a jury trial. In addition to a great settlement amount, our client was able to avoid the time and expense of going to a jury trial, making the injury settlement that much better.
Mediation is often a good way to settle a case when you get within a few months of a trial date. Mediation involves hiring a neutral lawyer that negotiates the case between the parties to see if a resolution can be reached. I believe our mediation was successful for the following reasons:
- Be prepared to repeatedly say no and be prepared to go to trial. My client understood that we did not have to settle at mediation and lowered the expectation that the case would actually settle at mediation. This allows for us to be more patient in the negotiation process and eventually reach a better result.
- Have all your good medical evidence ready. Doctor opinions and reports favorable to your case need to be emphasized.
- Even when the other driver was clearly at fault, emphasize aggravating factors, such as law violations or tickets issued as a result of the collision. A driver who looks away from the road and then hits the back of another car may be forgiven by a jury to a certain extent, but add speeding, cell phone usage, stop sign violation, or other aggravating factors to emphasize the accident was not just a mistake, but a result of reckless choices by the driver.
- Throw curveballs at the insurance defense lawyers. Focus on issues they may not expect and use embrace defense claims that are absolutely true and use it against them.
- Insist on a good mediator, one that is not in the tank for the insurance company but also one that the insurance company finds credible and will listen to. A mediator that has a history of pushing the insurance company to see the higher value of the case.
Every personal injury case we take we prepare it to go to a jury trial, preparing a case with the expectation of a trial puts a lot of pressure on the defense and thus justifies high case settlement values.
Good personal injury lawyers decide early on, “Am I gonna take this case to trial or am I going to settle it?” and that answer always needs to be “I am going to trial”, then settlement takes care of itself. Even though we prepare all of our cases for trial, we end up settling 90% of our cases because the insurance companies offer good settlements.
If you have been injured make sure you hire a lawyer that has a reputation for and is willing, ready, and able to got to battle for you in the courtroom and argue your personal injury case to a jury for verdict.