Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"I Was Injured By A Driver From Another State--How Will This Affect My Personal Injury Claim?"

Good question—glad you asked! It may have a major effect on your claim in certain circumstances. It’s what I call the “absent defendant” scenario.

Recently I resolved an auto accident claim for a client hit head on by a worker imported to our area from many states away. It was a bad crash, and the client’s treatment after the crash was reasonable, but there were no serious or permanent injuries.

As is customary, I tried to negotiate a settlement without filing a lawsuit. Eventually I was rewarded with a ridiculously low offer from the insurance company. But I knew (and so did the insurance company) that, if I filed a lawsuit, the at fault driver’s geographic distance/being out of state would translate into leverage for the client, and eventually a better offer.

Here’s why. In every case, the insurance company makes economic decisions as to how to proceed in defense of the case. In many cases, it would be cost prohibitive for them to locate and eventually bring their insured/negligent driver back to Ohio to be present at trial.

In fact, I learned early on in the case that the insurance company could not even locate the driver (so they said), so I knew that if we went to trial, there would be an “empty chair” at the trial table. This is usually not an optimal situation for the insurance company for obvious reasons—“out of state driver smashes local citizen and fails to show up for trial.” You get the picture.

As it turned out, weeks before trial, the offers were increased and the case got resolved.

In cases where the collision caused more serious injuries, the insurance company may well decide to pay for the expenses of bringing the driver to trial.

Bottom line: lawsuits are about leverage. In many cases, the “absent defendant” offers leverage that can translate into a better offer or verdict. More often than not, however, it requires filing a lawsuit to bring that leverage to bear.

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