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I Was Injured. Should I Sue?

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.

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.

Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer in Chicago?

A question we receive quite often is: Do I Need a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer? Our answer is simple: Most people, regardless of their intelligence, simply don’t have the knowledge and experience to advocate for themselves effectively.

Insurance companies are businesses, BIG businesses. The founder of Willens & Baez, Matthew L. Willens, used to be in management at a major Chicago-based insurance company. Having experience from both sides of the aisle has proven invaluable to the firm’s clients.

Insurance companies, like any other business, are driven by bottom line dollars. They collect as much money as they can in premiums from individuals and businesses, then pay out as little as they can in claims. That’s how they make millions, sometimes billions of dollars. The longer they can hold onto their money, the better for their bottom line. This isn’t to say that insurance companies are wicked or immoral. However, it’s important to remember that the only person working to protect your best interests is the lawyer you hire – not the insurance company trying to minimize their own damages.

To level the playing field, generally it makes sense for Illinois personal injury and workers’ compensation claimants to retain skilled attorneys. A recent study found that claimants represented by lawyers received on average two to three times more than unrepresented claimants did. Statistically speaking, it just makes financial sense to get an attorney. In addition, you’ll also save time and reduce your stress level about your case.

The Negligent Parties Insurance is Paying for Everything, Do I Need a Lawyer?

You’ve been in an accident of some sort.  The accident was clearly the fault of the other person involved.  You have been contacted by a representative from the at fault person’s insurance company, (he’s called the “insurance adjuster”), and you’ve been assured not to worry – that you will be taken care of.  The adjuster took care of your property damage claim without issue.  He may have even taken care of some of your medical bills.   The adjuster seems to be a pretty nice guy or gal.  Careful!  You are in dangerous waters!!

The Goal of an Insurance Company: In its simplest form, an insurance company’s goal is simple – collect as much money in premiums from people like you and I, and pay out as little as possible in claims.

That doesn’t make insurance companies wicked or immoral.  It does make them millions and billions of dollars though.  The adjuster described in the paragraph above is part of that extremely profitable money making scheme.  If he treats you well, makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, makes you feel like your needs are being met, and you do not need a lawyer to help you out, he is doing a good job for the insurance company he works for.  Trust me.  I used to work for a major insurance company.

What is an Insurance Adjuster? Ask yourself, “What does and insurance adjuster adjust?”  The answer is “Risk.”  If you are handling your own personal injury case against an adjuster who is in the business of risk adjustment, the risk to the insurance company he works for is minimal, no matter how smart you are.  He’s in the business of insurance risk adjustment.  You’re not.  Advantage to the adjuster.  If the adjuster is doing things such as getting recorded statements from you, not giving you good counsel about the best kind of medical treatment to obtain, then he’s most likely decreasing his company’s risk, thereby minimizing the real value of your claim.  Again, he’s doing his job.  That doesn’t make him wicked or immoral but he does have a large advantage over you.

Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer if the Insurance Company is Treating Me Well? I bet you think I’m going to say “Absolutely.”  I’m not.  You may not need a personal injury lawyer at all.  In some cases, frankly, you may be better off without a lawyer.  However, after an accident, you should definitely consult with a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer.

Does the lawyer I hire to handle my personal injury case really make a difference?

Usually when someone has suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, or fault, they don’t know where to turn for legal help.  Some people call a non-personal injury lawyer they know already for assistance.  They’ll call a friend or a relative they know who is a lawyer.  Sometimes, they’ll call a lawyer who has helped them in the past with a legal matter, like the guy who helped them with a divorce or a real estate closing.   I have no problem with that.  It’s a good idea.  However, what happens all too often is the lawyer decides to take matters into his own hands and handle a personal injury matter on his own.   This is despite having zero to very little experience handling personal injury matters.  I’ve had a recent experience with this.

A lawyer I know out in the western suburbs of Chicago called me a little more than a year ago.  He is a general practitioner but primarily handles divorce cases.  He let me know that he agreed to handle a car accident case for a former client of his.  It was a pretty clear liability case and his client suffered a shoulder injury that required arthroscopic surgery.  He had gathered all of the medical records and bills and shipped them off to the responsible driver’s insurance company.  He and the insurance adjuster that he was dealing with reached a stalemate with negotiations.  The last demand was $65,000 and the insurance company’s last  offer was $50,000.  The time limit for filing a lawsuit was coming up quickly.  Therefore, the lawyer let me know that he wanted to refer the case to me and I agreed to take it on.   I thought he was under-evaluating the case and taking all the wrong steps to maximize its value.

I filed suit and aggressively litigated this matter.  As an experienced personal injury lawyer, I knew the right steps to take and when to take them.  I knew that the best way to achieve a full and fair settlement was to push this matter towards a trial date.  In fact, it wasn’t until after we received a trial date from the judge that any “real” negotiations began.  The case recently settled for $150,000.  So back to the question, “Does the lawyer handling your personal injury case really make a difference?”  I think so.


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Why Choose Willens & Baez

Millions in Case Verdicts & Settlements

Over the past two decades, Mr. Willens and his team of Chicago personal injury lawyers have been instrumental in obtaining numerous million-dollar-plus recoveries on behalf of clients in a wide variety of injury cases. One of the personal injury verdicts he was involved in was recognized by The National Law Journal as one of the Top 100 Verdicts in the country in the year in which it was tried. One of the verdicts he helped secure set a state record.



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