If you read my last blog post, you remember the story of my client A, who suffered injury from having his car rear-ended and then problems from a botched surgery. Unfortunately, as his physical injuries were getting under control, his insurer continued to resist paying his claim.
UM, Why Does Your Own Insurance Company Fight You?
The simple answer is: because they can. Every insurance policy is slanted to the insurer’s advantage. Your Uninsured Motorist (UM) policy is probably much like A’s was. It allows the insurer to hire a lawyer, ask you written and verbal questions under oath, and even force you to go to arbitration to resolve the case.
So, we began the process of fighting the insurance company once A recovered. First, we answered written questions known as interrogatories. A and I discussed the answers, and we got them in final form with his notarized attestation attached. We forwarded literally thousands of pages of medical records to the other attorney.
Next, the other attorney took A’s deposition, or examination under oath, or sworn statement, depending on the policy language. A is a very well-educated and intelligent person, and he listened to me when we prepared, so the deposition went very well. He remembered details, came across as believable and likeable, and overall helped his case.
You’d think the insurance company would settle then, right? Why wouldn’t they? Because they didn’t have to!
What more could they do, you may ask? They could hire an expert, and they did.
Expertise in Taking in Money
Expert testimony can be interesting, insightful, damaging, or just a plain old money grab. This was the latter.
The doctor the insurer chose to name was Dr. H.E. Dr. E determined, after reviewing all of A’s medical records, his deposition testimony, the police report, photos of his vehicle, and other items, that A had not sustained any neck injury at all! Only a small little low back strain. His opinion blew up the entire case.
So, I took his deposition via Zoom. While he was a nice man and I was polite, I will say I eviscerated his credibility. He was an employee of the company on whose standards he relied in opining that A did not require surgery. Yup, in addition to earning nearly $10,000 just testifying on this case, he was making six figures working for a company whose standards he used to decline A’s necessary treatment. These are standards used by the insurance industry to deny coverage for treatment!
Dr. E. also admitted that it was possible that A had sustained his injuries in the crash. He even took the wildly ridiculous position that A should have avoided surgery despite having numbness in his hands and arms for several years.
In short, in two hours, I made him useless to the opposition.
More Expertise Is Going to Cost You
However, I was not quite sure I had enough to win at arbitration or to force the case to settle.
So, I wrote to the doctor who performed the second surgery and requested he write a narrative report supporting that A sustained his neck injury in the crash and that both his surgery and the first surgery were related to the crash.
He sent me a bill to write that.
The bill was for $3,125.00.
You may say, “Stephen, that’s insane. You didn’t really pay that kind of money for a four-paqe report that only had one new paragraph in it, did you?”
I sent him a check without knowing what his report would say.
A few weeks later, I received an email from the doctor’s staff. The report said what it needed to say to support everything I needed to prove. He said it very carefully, didn’t criticize the first surgeon, and made it clear that my client had some prior degenerative disc disease before the crash. But he hit the home run by saying emphatically that the crash had caused that prior situation to become symptomatic and that both surgeries were related to the crash.
Getting To the Finish Line
I emailed my opposing counsel and explained both how I had destroyed their expert, Dr. E., and also attached the magic report.
A week later, I received an offer for a fair amount in settlement.
I worked with my client to understand his wishes, worked to reduce liens so he could get more in his pocket. Remember, in a case with well into the six figures in medical bills, his health insurance carriers had paid significant amounts of those bills and would be entitled to reimbursement of those amounts.
One thing about insurance policies is that they are only as good as the policy limits. In A’s case, he had a significant limit on his auto policy. We both agreed that the true value of his case should be the policy limits.
The initial offer was $50,000 less than those limits. Still, it was a good start.
As I have mentioned before, one of my strengths is getting along with the other attorneys I deal with. The attorney on this one and I bonded quite a bit. She is someone who will talk for long periods on the phone about just about anything—politics, masks, divorces, working out, food. We chatted about those topics at random and eventually talked about the case in detail too. But we trusted one another, didn’t hide things, and freely tried to understand what the other needed to get the case home for our respective client (although in a UM case, her “client” is the insurance company). That’s her style and I made sure to understand and appreciate that. It was important to just shoot the breeze before getting down to brass tacks.
I made a counterdemand indicating I would reduce my demand slightly from the policy limits. That was a small concession. I gave up $5,000 and she emailed me back within a week that my counterdemand would be met.
The case was settled.
A had been so patient throughout the entire four and a half years. He had undergone two surgeries, multiple injections, dozens of therapy appointments, a deposition, and constant ups and downs. He gets a gold star for enduring and continuing to have faith in me throughout.
During all that time, we had never met in person. I had signed him up online. We had done his deposition via Zoom.
I never met him in person until February of 2022.
Life sure is strange in these COVID times.
Not every case is as complicated as A’s, but they can be, and you never know which ones will be that tough at the beginning, so you need to have the right lawyer for your watching your back the whole way.
- No insurance means a UM claim may exist
- An uninsured motorist case works very similar to a “third party” claim with discovery, depositions, and expert
- Expert testimony can often be based on faulty methodology that must be exposed
- Doctors charge what they can for narrative reports because they can and because they know how much we need their opinion
- A good rapport with your opponent never hurts when trying to resolve a case
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you’ve been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.