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Achieving fair compensation from an insurance company

I have written before about how important it is to obtain legal advice before negotiating a settlement of a personal injury claim with an insurance company.

All you want is fair compensation.  I define “fair compensation” as the amount of financial compensation a court would require the insurance company to pay to compensate you for your injuries and other losses.

With seat belts and air bags, the vast majority of injuries sustained in car crashes are “soft tissue” in nature.  That simply means that there are no fractures.

Fair compensation for one soft tissue injury might be completely different from fair compensation for another.

Let’s say there is a rear-ender crash.  There are three injured victims, a husband, wife and a friend.  None of them suffer fractures, i.e. their injuries are “soft tissue” in nature.

The wife misses only a day or two of work, has perhaps a dozen therapy sessions, and her symptoms completely resolve within 6 months.  Fair compensation for her injuries and losses might be less than $10,000.00.

The friend misses very little time from work as well, but he undergoes more treatment because his symptoms are more persistent.  Even with the more extensive treatment, his symptoms never fully resolve.  He is able to get back to many, but not all of the activities he previously enjoyed.  Fair compensation for his injuries might be close to $100,000.00

The husband isn’t so lucky.  Try as he might, his symptoms prevent him from every returning to his physical job.  He undergoes extensive therapies without significant benefit.  He is left with symptoms that never go away.  Fair compensation for his injuries might be over $750,000.00.

As you can see, asking around to find out what other people have settled their soft tissue claims for is completely unreliable, because no two claims are alike.

You can access actual court judgments on line now, but once again, no two claims are alike and it takes a lawyer to be able to interpret and apply the case law to your particular injuries and losses.

The least reliable source of advice about what is fair is the insurance company representative who is negotiating against you.  That’s sort of like handing a blank cheque to a Mexican street vendor, though at least a Mexican street vendor is unlikely to take you for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The only way to get reliable advice about what compensation is fair for personal injury losses is to consult with a personal injury lawyer.  That advice is typically free, by the way.

There is an added complication I am going to share with you.  Let’s say the insurance company makes their standard $5-10,000.00 offer for your soft tissue injury and you consult with a lawyer who tells you it’s unfair.  You hire the lawyer and he or she is able to negotiate the claim up to approximately $100,000.00.

Excellent job, right?  Not necessarily.  What if even 10 times the initial insurance company offer isn’t fair?  What if the lawyer tells you that the much higher offer is fair compensation, but it really isn’t?  Perhaps the lawyer has made an error when assessing the case.  Legal opinions are just that: opinions.  Opinions can be wrong.

You wouldn’t know any better.  You aren’t a lawyer.  You thought the $5-10,000.00 offer might have been fair.

I have just learned of a real case where this happened.  The first lawyer on the case managed to negotiate the insurance company up to approximately $100,000.00.  He strongly advised his client to accept the offer.  His client wasn’t so sure and sought a second opinion.

It’s not easy to find a lawyer to take a case over from another lawyer.  The first lawyer this client consulted for a second opinion turned him down.  He got lucky with the next one, though: an excellent lawyer in Surrey by the name of Edmund Caissie.

Edmund just settled the case for $475,000.00.

That wasn’t a “run-away jury” or overly sympathetic judge.  That was a settlement agreed to by the insurance company to compensate an injured victim for very real losses arising from soft tissue injuries.

What’s the lesson in that?  Perhaps really do your homework before you choose the personal injury lawyer to handle your case.  I recommend to anyone consulting with me for an initial consultation to interview a number of lawyers, ask doctors, therapists and others in the medical community, as well as friends and co-workers for recommendations so that the right choice of lawyer is made in the beginning.

Of course, from the story I just told, it appears you can’t go wrong with Edmund Caissie!

Regardless of who you hire to assist you with your goal of achieving fair compensation, consider seeking a second opinion before accepting a settlement offer to give you the peace of mind that you are making the right decision.

Published April 26, 2012 in the Kelowna Capital News