The Plain Truth About the Practice of Personal Injury Law

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Has Become of the Small Personal Injury Case?

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As a Chicago Personal Injury Attorney practicing in this field for more than 35 years, I have handled just about every type and size of case imaginable. They include :
Medical Malpractice ,
Birth Injury,
Nursing Home Malpractice,
Brain Injury,
Spinal Cord Injury 
Wrongful Death,
Product Liability/Defective Dangerous Products,
Automotive Product Defects,  
Wheel Explosions/Multi-Piece Rim Explosions and Lock Ring Separations throughout the United States
Tire Defects, Explosions and Tire Belt Separations Throughout the United States,  
SUV Rollover Accidents ,
Car Accidents,
Truck Accidents 
Motorcycle Accidents,
Injuries at Work,
Construction Accidents 
Premises Liability .

Obviously, the most common of all injury cases remains the simple truck or automobile accident. Two vehicles collide and a person is injured to some extent. The victim may visit an emergency room where they are diagnosed with what is commonly referred to as "soft tissue injuries". This phrase means that there are no broken bones or torn tissues, that require surgical repair. They may have some bumps and bruises but little other visible injuries. Follow up care may or may not occur but if it does it usually is with a chiropractic physician or a physical therapy facility. In a relatively short period of time the injured person is back to work and in good health.

These individuals often feel that they should be compensated for their injuries, pain, suffering and lost wages from work. They pick up the telephone and contact a personal injury attorney to handle their claim. Now the problem begins.

25 years ago these types of cases were easily resolved in a short period of time without filing a lawsuit. The Chicago personal injury attorney obtained copies of the client's medical records, bills and lost wages. The claim was submitted to the at fault parties liability insurance company.  A claims adjuster then contacted the attorney and after a few telephone calls an agreed settlement brought the matter to a close. The attorney was happy because he did not have to incur the time and expense of a lawsuit. The client was equally pleased as he or she received prompt reasonable compensation.  Unfortunately, this simple process has disappeared and will probably never return.

You might ask yourself what happened?  The simple answer is that a few substandard automobile liability insurance companies changed it all. In Chicago these insurance companies typically provide minimal liability coverage to individuals with poor driving records for which the company charging a hefty premium. The companies also maintain "in house" or captive law firms to defend its insured in the event of a lawsuit. Through the combined effort of the insurance companies and law firms they never settle a claim before suit and if in suit on the day the jury trial is about to commence.

The foregoing practice forces the victims of a small personal injury claim to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Depositions are taken at great expense including the testimony of physicians that command fees of $1,000 to $2,500. The net effect is to chill both the injured and the attorneys who represent them from making a claim or filing suit. The expense of prosecuting the case is time and cost prohibitive. In other words, would you spend $3,000 and expend 2 years of your time with the possibility of recovering $4,000? The obvious answer is no.

Slowly but surely this practice was adopted by most of the insurance companies to a point where it is impossible to settle any case without a lawsuit and protracted litigation. The courts have done nothing to combat this practice by the simplification of rules or binding arbitration. Secondly, it continues to allow the insurance companies to effectively practice law by dummy law firms staffed with salaried attorneys prepared to defend every lawsuit. To level the playing field the insurance companies should not be permitted to practice law but rather hire independent attorneys from private law firms to defend the interests of its insureds. Each side would then be subjected to the same time and expense creating an incentive to settle cases at an early stage.

The State of Illinois, Department of Insurance is also guilty of not forcing the insurance companies to settle valid claims without suit or subject themselves to sanctions. The companies continue to make record profits while the individuals go without fair compensation for their injuries.

Unfortunately, until the courts place the parties on equal footing the small personal injury case has effectively been declared dead in Chicago and the State of Illinois.

Rick Grossman


  1. Thanks for sharing great info with us.
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  2. In very few case a burned patient survive. One of the main reason is late treatment. The information is very good and helpful.