Don’t personal injury attorneys want to take cases all the way to trial, so they can get a bigger fee?
It is true that most personal injury attorneys’ fees increase in percentage the further along a personal injury case gets. So, there can be an incentive for attorneys to push the cases into litigation and eventually a trial. I know of some personal injury lawyers who never even attempt to negotiate a settlement before throwing the case into litigation and preparing it for trial. Although the concept of “preparing every case as if it is going to trial” (a slogan commonly touted by big personal injury law firms) does make sense in that you want your lawyer to thoroughly build your case for the best settlement leverage, it is also an unreasonable proposition in every case, as many clients do not want to go “all in” on their personal injury case. Further, it does not always make financial sense for the client (even if it does for the lawyer). Litigating and preparing a case for trial can be a costly endeavor that does not always make financial sense for the medium-sized personal injury case (see example below). When I say medium-sized, I mean a case where the client suffered somewhat serious injuries (like a broken bone) that required emergency medical care and possibly a surgery.
We help our clients move on quickly from their accident.
At Sally Morin Law, we cater to those level-headed clients who have a lot on their plate and really just want to put their terrible accident and all of the red tape associated with it behind them ASAP. They don’t come to us saying “Let’s make the other side pay! I can’t wait to spend two weeks in trial!” So, instead of immediately filing suit and setting out for trial (oh, and instantly increasing our attorney’s fees), we work hard to negotiate a fair settlement for our clients. Further, we will negotiate their medical bills for lower payments. This doesn’t increase our fee at all, but it does net our clients a higher settlement amount. Not only that, this settlement occurs months (or more likely years) earlier than if the case was pushed to trial.
Trial vs. Settlement (example)
Even though the result in a personal injury case can be higher at trial (for instance, you might have an offer of $125,000 now, but could get $175,000 at trial) the lawyers’ fees usually increase by a certain percentage (going from $42,000 to $70,000 or more in our example) and case costs could go from a few hundred dollars to several thousands (like from $500 to $10,000). You could end up with less money if the case goes to trial and it may be 6-18 months later that you see that money than it would have been had you just taken the lower offer and moved on with your fabulous life months (or years) earlier. Think opportunity cost!
If your case is really worth $200,000 (more on how to value a personal injury case), but the insurance carrier is only offering $25,000, then your attorney should most definitely push the case into litigation and even trial. Or, if you have a multi-million dollar case that is not being evaluated properly by the carrier, it mostly likely should go to trial. However, if you have a significant injury case in the high five to low six figure range and are able to get a settlement offer somewhere in the ballpark, you may be better off taking that offer (like the example above).
How do we benefit if our fees don’t increase?
The bottom line is that we invest our time and resources to reduce our clients’ medical costs and increase their net recovery. This is not a process that we financially benefit from (and frankly I am not sure many personal injury firms do it for their clients). However, the joy of getting our clients out of the legal process relatively quickly and with much less stress for them than going to trial is priceless to us!