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Your Lawyer is a Very Important Factor in Your Personal Injury Settlement Offer

Selecting the best Portland Personal Injury Lawyer is a Very Important Factor in Your Settlement Offer

Our Portland personal injury law firm is quite different because we have specific ways that we handle cases based upon our knowledge of the insurance industry. One example is that based upon Dr. DeShaw's extensive knowledge of insurance bodily injury claim software (Colossus, ClaimIQ, Liability Navigator) as the author of the only book on that topic, we handle our settlement offer letters (often called "demand letters") in a specific way based upon the insurer's software.  This provides insurers the best opportunity to provide the best settlement offer to our clients before we file litigation.  

But there is another major factor in an insurance company's evaluation of a claim; the lawyer on the case.

Lawyers are Ranked by Insurance Companies and Insurance Databases

Based on Dr. DeShaw's decades of research into the auto insurance industry and insurance claim software, we've known for decades that lawyers and law firms are tracked by federal tax ID number.  The insurers keep notes about a wide variety of factors about our legal practices, including the way we negotiate, who negotiates claims in our office, whether lawyers file lawsuits, whether lawyers handle jury trials, and how successful we are in arbitration and trial.  Until recently, this data that had largely been siloed in each insurer's internal database, or studied by entities such as ISO or the Insurance Research Council.

More recently, this information on lawyers has become more broadly tracked by way of companies who have determined how to pull most of the data from both state and federal courts on motion outcomes, settlements and verdicts. The first of these was Premonition.  The initial idea for Premonition was to compile the data for insurers and other corporate defendants, and then determine who the best defense lawyer was for a certain issue, plaintiff lawyer and judge.  By doing that, they could determine the best outside litigation counsel to win in motions or trial.  Their tag line was "A very unfair advantage."

Not too long after launching that product, they realized that by pulling data across multiple insurer they could also feed that data into some of the claim software programs like Colossus and Liability Navigator, so that all of the insurers using those programs would know their likelihood of success in a claim against the lawyer.  The settlement offers change based upon the lawyer's ranking.

Through his work as founder of Trial Guides (including years as the publisher for the American Association for Justice) and co-Founder of Settlement Intelligence, Dr. DeShaw has been able to consider the legal marketplace for lawyers, and combined that with his knowledge of the insurance claim process. This has resulted in a rough outline of the qualities of law firms, simplifying what is a range of lawyer reputation based upon outcomes.

  1. Elite Lawyer (approximately 250 in the United States) - usually Low Client Volume and High Litigation Rate
  2. High quality / Low Client Volume
  3. Moderate quality / Moderate Client Volume
  4. Lower Quality / High Client Volume
  5. Settlement Mill [1] - Settle over 99% of cases / Very High Client Volume

While we plan to address this further in future blog posts, it is important to note that just because a law firm is very large, or have lots of online and offline marketing does not mean they will have a positive effect on your settlement offer.  In fact, it is often the opposite.  A huge law firm with a lot of clients often means the law firm settles most of its cases.  And often for low values.  If you choose a lawyer who doesn’t file litigation, or works in a firm that doesn’t file litigation doesn't pose any risk to an insurer. Why would an insurance company even make a settlement offer?  On the other end of the continuum, you have the best trial lawyers who have a history of getting record verdicts.  But, if the lawyer files lawsuits, litigates cases, goes to trial, and has a winning record, that will certainly improve your settlement offers. And the risk of financial consequences for the insurance company if they make a low offer.

Our offer limits its cases in part to ensure our record is clear in the insurance company’s database; you either make a reasonable settlement offer, or we will go to trial.  We don’t waste time negotiating when a ridiculous offer is made.  We don’t beg for mediation.  If we go to mediation we rarely settle the case.  We prepare every case with the intention of going to trial from the day we accept a case. We investigate our cases to find out the good and the bad.  We hire experts that will be honest and objective with us to ensure our cases have solid substantiation.  If a bad offer is made by an insurance company when the evidence supports the client's case and the outcome is much higher than the offer (a regular occurrance) we will file bad faith litigation against the insurer for the policies and procedures that resulted in an intentionally undervalued settlement offer.

That way when an insurer looks at their own database, or an insurance industry database on lawyers the insurance adjuster and supervisor will understand there is a good reason for them to make a fair settlement offer.  

We know that in particular, the clients that are most seriously damaged by selecting the wrong lawyer are those who are seriously injured and select a settlement mill for their representation. As Professor Engstrom notes "Insurers benefit from the presence of settlement mills partly because serious claims, which present the highest chance of a catastrophic verdict, are apt to be resolved at a discount...It is, after all, profitable for an insurer to overpay on a lot of debatable $2,000 claims if, every once in a while, it will only have to pay $50,000 to discharge what could be—in the hands of a conventional attorney—a $500,000 or $1 million judgment." The problem is for someone catastrophically injured, hiring a settlement mill will result in a massive underpayment for a life changing injuries.  So, if you or a loved one has a serious injury case, you want to look for the best lawyer, not the one that is the best at advertising.  

If we believe we are the right law firm for your serious personal injury case, contact us online, or call for a free consultation at (503) 227-1233.

[1] The term "settlement mill" is discussed in a series of legal articles written by Stanford Law School professor Nora Freeman Engstrom including:

Run of the Mill JusticeGeorgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 4, (2009).

Sunshine and Settlement Mills, 86 New York University Law Review 805 (2011).

About the
Author

Aaron DeShaw is a personal injury lawyer at DeShaw Trial Lawyers, a law firm representing injured people with serious injuries including brain injuries and other catastrophic injuries. He has individually, and in association with other law firms, obtained over $1 Billion for his clients. Learn more about Aaron and the Firm.