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Convincing A Stubborn Client To Accept A Settlement Offer Rather Than Going To Court

Talking a stubborn client into accepting a settlement offer

Many clients that I have represented have never been in an automobile accident or had a personal injury prior to contacting me. They are relying on my expertise and knowledge to guide them through the process. Usually, they will defer to my opinions about most matters about their case with one exception, whether to settle the claim or file a lawsuit. 

For some reason, many people think that they know exactly what the monetary value of their case is without ever negotiating a settlement on a personal injury claim. They usually come up with some figure that sounds good to them, say $5,000.00 or maybe $10,000.00, representing the amount of money that they should put in their pocket after all of their medical expenses and my attorney fee are paid. But how are they coming up with this number? The most common answer that I get when I ask, “Why do you think that your case is worth that amount?”, is, “well, my friend had a case umpteen years ago and his injury was not as bad as mine and he got “X” amount of dollars in his pocket after everything was paid.” So many problems with this statement. First, times have definitely changed in the personal injury world over the last 10 years. Second, we don’t know the facts of his or her accident, the extent of the property damage to the vehicles, the extent of the injuries, prior medical history and so many other factors that go into determining the value of one’s claim. And lastly, the client usually has no real basis for arriving at the dollar amount that he or she believes he or she should get.
 
When I am looking at a settlement offer and determining whether or not to tell my client to accept the offer or go to court, many factors influence my position. If the offer is insultingly low, I have no problem telling a client that we should file a lawsuit. I explain the costs of litigation and the extended length of time that it will take to bring the case to a close, and then assuming that the client is on board, I will file the case in court. If the offer is amazing, it is very easy for me to explain why the client should take the offer. There is no risk in settling out of court. If we go to court, there are many risks. In court, we are leaving the ultimate decision up to a judge or a jury and both are completely unpredictable. There can be extensive costs involved in filing a lawsuit. The filing fee and initial subpoena alone usually cost around $500.00 and that just gets you in the door. The biggest problem arises where the offer might not be the greatest settlement offer, but when weighing it against the risks, costs and time involved in filing a lawsuit, from strictly a business standpoint, it is penny wise and pound foolish to go to court. This is the most common situation where the client has a difficult time understanding what I am trying to tell them. Mostly because any personal injury is most damaging to the actual person it happened to. Thus, they take the case so personally and the amount of money they think they are entitled to for their pain and suffering is sometimes not realistic. While it is my job to advocate for my clients, I feel that it is also my job to be honest with my clients which sometimes involves explaining the facts of the personal injury world to them. 
No 2 cases are ever the same. The insurance companies might be different. The amount of property damage might be different. The course of the medical treatment might be different. The actual, objective findings in radiology reports might be different. So many factors go into determining the value of these claims. I always try to give my clients the whole picture so that they can make an informed decision about whether to settle or file because ultimately it is the client who makes the final decision.

Many times, before a new client even signs my attorney/client agreement, they ask me, “Why should I hire you? Can’t I do this on my own?” My answer is always the same, and here is what it is: when my toilet breaks, can I fix it on my own? Of course I can. I can go on the internet, google how to fix a toilet, go to the store, buy replacement parts and try to fix the toilet myself. But what do most people do? We call a plumber!! Why? Because a plumber is an expert and has been trained on how to fix toilets. He does this every day for his job. He has probably fixed several hundred toilets before. So for me, it is worth paying the extra money to the plumber to make sure that my toilet is fixed properly the first time. I settle these kinds of cases all the time. I have settled thousands of these cases before. I know what the case is worth and what it is not worth. I will not be taken advantage of by an insurance company adjuster. So to answer your question, sure, you can do this on your own!! 
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Law Office of Ryan M. Rosenthal
Formerly:
The Law Offices of Richard S. Sennett.
Practicing Law For Over 60 Years

Ryan M. Rosenthal - Partner
Main Office:
500 Skokie Boulevard
Suite 150
Northbrook, Illinois 60062
Satellite Office:
Downtown Chicago Loop
Chicago, Illinois

Telephone: 847.412.0333
Fax: 847.509.0389
E-Mail:inquiries@rmratlaw.com