I Was Injured. Should I Sue?

Here’s the scenario:  You were just seriously injured because of someone else’s negligence.  You may have been in a bike accident, a car accident…  Regardless of how you were hurt, it does not matter.  The accident was someone else’s fault and you’re hurting.  Medical bills are piling up.  You’re unable to work and your hobbies, well forget about those for now, maybe for a long while.  You may be considering hiring a lawyer but there’s some thoughts going through your mind about lawyers, probably not positive ones.  After all, as a group, lawyers haven’t made the best reputation for themselves.  One of the things that may be going through your mind goes something like this:  If I hire a lawyer, he’ll want to file a lawsuit and the thought of a lawsuit scares me.  It’s the last thing I need in my life right now given my condition.  Can’t I just settle and settle soon?  Should I sue?

I don’t mean to be too self-promotional here and don’t want to seem boastful, but stick with me through these next few sentences.  I am a trial lawyer with a lot of big verdicts.  That’s how I got my reputation.  That’s how I’ve gotten the accolades that come along with experience.  All that being said, I always say, “I wish I never had to sue anyone.”  I recognize that the thought of suing someone, the thought of a trial is scary to most people.  Heck, lawsuits and trials are scary to most lawyers.  Lawsuits can be time consuming and expensive.  In most cases, especially in cases involving serious injuries, you’d think the responsible insurance company would want to settle without litigation.  They might, but for a small fraction of what a case is worth.  You’d think the insurance company would want to do the right thing.  You’d think, but you’d be mistaken.   If I spent my career waiting around for insurance companies to do the right thing, my career would have ended very soon after it began.

Sometimes the only way to get the attention of a high level decision maker at an insurance company is the threat of a jury trial.  Sure, you may get the attention of some low level insurance representative who does not have much authority to do anything other than deny and delay claims or pay that small fraction discussed earlier.  But if you want to be paid fair and full value on your case, there’s nothing like the threat of a jury trial to get the “real” decision maker’s attention.  That decision maker, the guy who has the authority to write the big checks, will have to decide – “Should we settle or should we try the case?”  The answer is almost always – “Let’s settle.”

So on serious injury cases, it’s probably necessary to file a lawsuit, rather than wait around for the responsible insurance company to do the right thing.  The thought of filing a lawsuit and litigating a case can be scary but a good personal injury lawyer, one who has a track record of success in the courtroom, will make it less scary (not scare-free, but less scary).  The odds are that your case will never see a jury trial but if you want to be treated fairly by an insurance company (at least as fairly as an insurance company can be) you probably should hire a skilled personal injury lawyer who has experience with insurance companies and you probably should sue rather than waiting around for the insurance company to do the right thing.

For a FREE consultation on your personal injury case, contact Willens Law Offices.  The firm’s founder worked for a major insurance company and has firsthand knowledge of how insurance companies operate.  Put that knowledge to work for you.  Call us at .  We can help.

Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Discusses Experience with the CTA

Recently, a 19-month-old girl was struck and killed by a CTA bus.  Early reports show that the child may have darted out in front of the bus.  This (may or may not) absolve the CTA from responsibility for this tragic accident.  While I sit here with my heart going out to the family of that small child, I could not help but to reflect on the many cases I’ve handled against the CTA over the years.  Most of those cases settled, but I recall at least one that did not, a case stands out in my mind – Tony T. v CTA.

Chicago Bus Accident LawyerI represented Tony T.  Tony got on a CTA bus one day a few years back, a healthy man, with a healthy right foot.  The bus driver was driving too fast for conditions.  The bus driver for the CTA went over a speed bump and sent Tony, who happened to be standing, into the air.  When Tony came back down on his right foot, his heel shattered.  He was taken via ambulance by the paramedics and diagnosed with a right comminuted calcaneus fracture.  Tony’s injuries were serious and permanent.  The CTA denied any wrong doing.  I took the case.  I tried the case.  Tony won and won big.

During the trial of this matter, I stated that this case was ironically about Credibility, Trust and Accountability – CTA.  In Tony’s case, I argued that the CTA’s defense lacked Credibility.  CTA bus drivers are equipped with courtesy cards.  If someone on the bus is hurt, under CTA’s own rules, the bus driver is expected to pass out courtesy cards to the other passengers on the bus.  These courtesy cards give witnesses the chance to write down what happened.  In Tony’s case, the bus driver did not pass out a single card.  Instead, the bus driver called his supervisor to the scene who was highly skilled in doing things to cover up incriminating evidence.  Interestingly, the supervisor didn’t put a darn thing in his investigation report regarding speed.  How convenient.

I argued Tony’s case was about Trust.  I explained to the jury that common carriers (like the CTA) owe its passengers the duty to use the HIGHEST degree of care consistent with the type of vehicle used in the practical operation of its business, in this case, a bus.  I explained to them that in determining the liability issues of a common carrier case, we are in essence determining how responsible we will make the professional transportation companies – the airline companies who use our airways, the railroad companies who use our rails, and in this case, bus companies who use our roadways.  The law recognizes that when ordinary citizens such as Tony pay his fare to use a common carrier, such as the CTA, he gives up control of his safety.  He Trusts that he is going to get from point A to point B w/out injury.

It is a sobering thought to realize how dependent each of us is, every day, on our common carriers.  When we get on a CTA bus, whether in our own neighborhoods or in downtown Chicago, we are at the complete mercy of the professional drivers who transport us.  We Trust them to operate their vehicles in accordance with the highest degree of care, like the law says they must.  When we get on a CTA bus, we are completely at the mercy of the driver.  We Trust that they know the conditions of the streets on the routes which they drive and drive accordingly.  We Trust that they know the condition of their buses and drive accordingly.  Tony’s case illustrated in a dramatic and graphic way just how dependent each of us is on the conduct of our common carriers.  In this case, this Trust was broken.

Lastly, I discussed Accountability.  I won’t discuss in detail Tony’s injuries but I asked the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to hold the CTA Accountable for its actions.  I asked the jury to apply the law to the facts of the case and they did just that.  The jury awarded my client several hundred thousand dollars.  The jury made the CTA Accountable.  The jury delivered to Tony the only thing he ever asked for -  justice.

Dealing with the CTA can be tricky.  If you were injured in a CTA accident, do not delay. Evidence needs to be preserved.  Witnesses need to be interviewed.  Call Willens Law Offices for a FREE consultation at .  We can help.

Photo Credit: amseaman via Compfight cc

How to Write a Demand Letter to the Insurance Company

You or someone you love has been in an accident of some sort and has suffered injuries.  The accident was caused by the fault of someone else and you need and deserve to be fully and fairly compensated under the law.  You have contact with the negligent person’s insurance company.  Your injuries are healed, you’re back to work, and you want your case settled so you can get your life back on track.  You’re ready to begin settlement negotiations with the responsible insurance company and you are thinking, “I need to draft the best Demand Letter EVER!”

So you want to send a demand letter to the responsible insurance company but you don’t know how.  That’s ok.  Here’s a secret that many of my fellow personal injury attorneys may not agree with – You don’t need to know how to write a demand letter.  Demand letters are usually not worth the paper they are written on.  A thorough demand letter explaining liability, damages, this, that and the other thing serves no real purpose.

In regards to my thoughts on demand letters and how they are fairly worthless are thoughts I didn’t have early on in my career as a personal injury lawyer.  I used to write super-thorough demand letters.  I would start by describing how my client’s accident happened and why their client was completely at fault.  I would title that section “Liability.”

Liability

In the section – “Liability” - I would go on and on about what happened, about why my client did not in any way contribute to causing the accident, about how I expected a jury would find in my client’s favor regarding liability…  Talking about what a jury would do before a lawsuit was filed?  Beginner mistake.

Damages

I would title the next section of my letter – “Damages”.  I’d essentially give a play by play of all of the medical treatment my client had in very specific detail.  I’d go into detail about various doctor appointments, procedures performed, therapy sessions and medicine taken.  I’d discuss the physical pain my client experienced, his emotional suffering, the things he could no longer do as a result of the accident (whether temporarily or permanently).   If there was scarring or disfigurement, you bet I’d discuss it.  I’d discuss my client’s job and how much work he missed as a result of an accident.

Demand

I’d usually have a section called “Demand”.  Of course this section would discuss how wonderful my client was, about how a jury would love him and award him gobs of money.  I’d then demand way too much and probably make a couple threats about filing a lawsuit if I did not hear back from the insurance company with a substantial offer… and soon.

A Demand Letter That Works

Then, something happened that caused me never write a thorough demand letter again.  I went to work for an insurance company for a couple of years in a management capacity.  I realized that those letters really don’t get read that much and when they do, it’s usually just so an insurance adjuster can have a chuckle with his insurance adjuster pals.  You see, insurance adjusters evaluate a case based upon evidence, not by what someone argues in a demand letter, whether it’s written well or not.  The demand letter should be simply – “Enclosed please find the following….”  (See below for an example of one of my demand letters).

After working for the insurance company, I got back into my true calling – representing accident and injury victims.  The thorough demand letter is no longer part of my arsenal.  If I want to discuss details or even argue with an adjuster, I’ll pick up the phone and discuss those things I think are relevant and may not be contained in the documents I send him for some reason or another.  A demand letter is not the most important part of obtaining a fair and full settlement for your personal injury case.  The evidence is.  Let me say that again in different words – Demand letters don’t get you full and fair settlements.  Evidence does.  My current demand letters look something more like:

 

Big Bad Insurance Company

ATTN: Big Bad Insurance Adjuster

PO Box 0000000

Dallas, TX 75266

                Re:         Claim No:                            xx-xxxx-xyz

                                Our Client:                          John Doe

Date of Accident:             4/2/2014

                                                       DEMAND LETTER

Enclosed please find the following:

  1. Photos;
  2. Illinois Crash Report;
  3. Wage Loss Verification Form and past tax resturns;
  4. Medical Expense Summary;
  5. Medical records and bills from the following providers:
    1. Highland Park Fire Department;
    2. NorthShore University Health System;
    3. Dr. Feelgood;
    4. Dr. Feelbad;
    5. Physical Therapy Center;
    6. MRI Center; and
    7. Walgreens.

 

Pursuant to 215 ILCS 5/143.24b, please provide me with a certified copy of you insured’s policy limits.  Also, kindly call me upon your review of said materials so we can work toward resolution.  Thanks in advance for your consideration. I look forward to working with you.

If you would like some assistance in trying to resolve your personal injury case, call me for a free, no obligation consultation  at .