THE PITFALLS OF HANDLING YOUR OWN INJURY CASE

Aug 18, 2015

Recently we had a client who was involved in a motor vehicle collision who hired us to represent him. We will call him Joe. Joe was rear ended and went to the emergency room and followed up with one visit to his family physician. His medical bills totaled $1218.75. His health insurer paid a total of $553.71 in medical bills. Ultimately, with Joe’s consent, we agreed to a settlement with the at fault party’s insurance company for $3,000.00. We negotiated an agreement with his health insurer in which he would not need to pay the $553.71; the at fault party’s insurer paid his medical bills.
 
When the paperwork and settlement check arrived, Joe decided that this was not enough money. He was fixated on what could have happened to him in this collision.  He might have been killed or maimed or permanently injured. He wasn’t; he just couldn’t get over what might have happened. His physician gave him a clean bill of health nine days after the collision. Joe was convinced that a jury would surely award him more money if they heard his story about what might have happened to him.

Joe chose to file a lawsuit and take his case to Court, thereby reneging on his agreement to settle the case. We informed Joe that wewould not be involved in his decision to back out of his agreement to settle with the insurance company. At that juncture, the insurance company could have enforced the settlement leaving Joe in the same place that he started with the addition of the time and emotions involved in a court proceeding.

When a client informs us he wishes to settle a case and then changes his mind we cannot undo what has been negotiated in good faith. We advised Joe that he was certainly free to pursue the case on his own as he was convinced that he could sway a jury with what might have happened to him and subsequently they might award him more money.

Joe decided to file a lawsuit. He spent $400.00 just in the filing fee with the clerk of courts. Initially we negotiated no reimbursement to his health insurance company. But after Joe filed the lawsuit, his health insurer decided that since Joe might be awarded more money, they wanted to claim the money they paid for his medical bills. In addition, the insurance company of the person at fault in the collision retracted the $3,000 that they had offered us prior to suit because now they needed to spend money to defend the case. In a meeting with the judge, the judge informed Joe that he would have to have his doctor come in and testify at a trial. Joe’s doctor wanted a $1,000.00 for his time in testifying at a trial.

Joe ultimately came back to us and wanted to know if we could revive the deal that we had worked out originally with the insurance company prior to his filing suit. The insurance company refused claiming they spent money defending the case. Thanks to some arm twisting by the judge, the insurance company paid Joe the $3,000.00 they agreed to pay beforehand. Joe now had to reimburse the health insurance company ($553.71), incurred $400.00 to file the lawsuit, and he had to pay us.  In the end, Joe lost about half of his original offer when he changed his mind and decided to try to handle the matter himself.  

Willis & Willis Co., L.P.A.
670 West Market Street
Akron, OH 44303

Local: 330-535-2000

Fax: 330-434-5248

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