Posted on September 25, 2013 in Automobile Accidents
Do You Want Your Case Handled by a ‘Settlement Mill’ Law Firm?
A “Settlement Mill” is a law firm that has developed a practice model that achieves many of the aims that “tort reformers” have. They get your case over cheaply and quickly, because they settle almost every claim and nearly never go to court. They resolve claims predictably and consistently, on account of cozy relationships with insurance adjusters who have a predetermined agreement as to what claims are worth. Unfortunately, this volume business requires that they process claims so quickly that they hardly screen clients, and presumably pursue more fraudulent claims as a result. Their rush to settle cases leaves their clients undercompensated, and the problem grows with the extent of the client’s injuries. They often rely on paralegals and other non-lawyers to handle settlement negotiations, running afoul of ethics rules. And they claim fees that are high in light of the cookie-cutter nature of their work. And all of this makes insurance companies very happy.
Professor of Law Nora Freeman Engstrom detailed a study she had done in the NYU Law Review in which she concluded, quite naturally, that insurance companies prefer working with “Settlement Mills” rather than law firms like mine. This is due to their shared financial interests.
“Settlement Mills” and insurance companies both want the same things: a quick certain end to every claim. So paying out settlements on questionable cases is ok with insurance companies as long as it is done as quickly as possible. In turn, settlement mills cooperate by often agreeing to settle cases at a discounted value.
This business relationship is extremely profitable for both the insurance companies and settlement mills, but at the expense of the injured party. I believe there is an obvious conflict of interest, and many personal injury victims settle cases on the advice of their settlement mill attorney without knowing the true value of their claim.
These “Settlement Mills” use advertising to attract accident victims who may be unsophisticated. Attorneys who work for settlement mills often have very little, if any, trial experience, and have no intention of ever bringing a case to trial. Obviously this makes the insurance company’s job much easier when they know the attorney is willing to roll over and settle as quickly as possible.
Insurance companies benefit from paying less on claims, and “Settlement Mills” take a nice percentage of the settlement without doing much actual legal work. Due to the financial benefits there has been a huge increase in the number of these types of law firms. You’ve see their misleading messages all over TV, radio and billboard advertisements. It’s obvious to me that these firms are hurting my profession by negatively affecting the way consumers view personal injury attorneys. Attorneys are viewed as simply motivated by profit, and it gives consumers a negative impression of an industry that should really be acting in the best interests of the victim.
To make sure you do not unknowingly hire a “Settlement Mill” to represent you for a personal injury case, ask questions and take the time to educate yourself about the personal injury process. Some of the questions that accident victims should ask before agreeing to hire an attorney include:
“How many years of experience do you have with handling personal injury cases?”; “What percentage of your overall caseload is dedicated to personal injury claims?”; and “How many times have you taken a case to trial in your career?”
If you don’t get the right answers to any of these questions, you might want to talk with another attorney or do some online research. Order my free book Your Guide to Accident Claims in Florida: Don’t Wreck Your Injury Case to educate yourself about Florida personal injury cases and how to hire a lawyer. Knowledge is power when it comes to your personal injury case, and since you only have one chance to pursue a claim it is important that you hire the right attorney for your case from the beginning.
Don’t hire a "Settlement Mill" law firm, (unless you really want to). Get educated on how to choose an attorney for your Florida personal injury case.