Settling Motor Vehicle Cases

Let’s be honest: Very few plaintiff lawyers go to trial anymore. Nationally, only 2% of all auto claims get filed, and only 1% of that 2% filed ever go to trial. It is even lower in some locations. It is a problem, and it is impacting your settlement values and those of nearly every lawyer nationwide who is handling auto cases. The latest statistics from the US Department of Justice suggest that the number of tort claims filed in state courts has fallen 80% since 1992 and that the value of claims has fallen by approximately 60% (adjusted for inflation) during the same time. It isn’t your imagination – you are probably getting a lot less on all of your cases than you did at the beginning of your career.

But we recognize that, despite this, a lot of lawyers will keep settling all of their auto cases. Trial Guides started with a book on the Colossus bodily injury software system that provides settlement values for most auto insurers. While we have since developed an entire library dedicated to how to win in trial, we thought we should provide settlement lawyers a resource for how to increase settlement values in their auto claims.

Top 9 Resources for Lawyers Settling Motor Vehicle Cases

The list below focuses on specific skills, knowledge and methods that will help you improve your settlement offers. To see all products sold by Trial Guides that relate to settling motor vehicle cases, please click the button at the bottom of the page.

Recommended Resources

Demand Letters

For Auto, Trucking, Premises, Med Mal, and Other Cases

The settlement offers for most auto claims are determined by one of four bodily injury software programs: Colossus, Claims Outcome Advisor, ClaimIQ and Exposure Manager (“Xm”). There is nothing else in the legal industry like this video, because it addresses all four of those programs in detail. Aaron DeShaw, author of Trial Guides’ first book on the Colossus claims system, returns with a video that discloses to you everything you need to maximize settlement offers in auto cases. Joined by the nation’s leading demand letter legal consultant, Charlette Sinclair, the pair provide you insights on how to write demand letters for all of the major insurers including Allstate, GEICO, Farmers Insurance, Liberty Mutual, and many more – revealing how the demand letters for each of these insurers should be slightly different to maximize claim value. They also address information and a proposed format for State Farm (the only major insurer not using bodily injury claims software). This DVD gives you the formula for what the insurers are looking for in your cases when determining claim value. It is, in essence, a reverse engineering of the software used by insurers to evaluate claims, giving you insights about how to honestly and ethically maximize your client’s settlement offers based upon their actual injuries. DeShaw and Sinclair walk you through what they do for demand letters including the flow of what they cover and how they cover it, from beginning to end. They discuss multiple other formats of demand letters and why they fail to obtain maximum settlement offers. They also discuss writing narratives for injuries that are known to be excluded from bodily injury software. Depending on the insurer, much of this information is transferrable to demand letters written for premises liability cases and workers compensation claims.

Also included in this video set are additional sections on using graphics in your demand letters (DeShaw and Tyler Komarnycky from High Impact Graphics), demand letters in trucking cases (Morgan Adams), product liability cases, and medical malpractice cases (Sean Gamble from Friedman | Rubin). In addition, there are sections featuring Florida trial lawyer Matt Powell on case timelines for a larger volume firm, and special insights from DeShaw and Powell on handling minor impact cases, spinal injury cases, and cases involving pre-existing conditions.

This information on how to write demand letters has transformed lawyer’s careers. If you settle most of your auto cases, there is no product more important.

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Colossus: Lawyer Forms

When trial lawyer Aaron DeShaw originally wrote the Colossus books, his research uncovered unprotected documents that provided the specific factors used in determining claim value. Two of the five largest value drivers in the Colossus and Claims Outcome Advisor bodily injury software system (used by the majority of auto insurers) are called “Duties Under Duress” and “Loss of Enjoyment of Life.” Each of these have multiple factors that provide monetary value to a claim. DeShaw created forms for both of these categories to capture important information about your claims that would otherwise go uncompensated. The Duties Under Duress form on this CD contains nearly 100 different factors that will provide value. The Loss of Enjoyment of Life form on this CD contains over 100 different factors that will provide monetary value. Without these factors identified by your client, discussed with their doctor, and claimed by your office, your client does not get the settlement offer they deserve on their claim. Other forms and a sample demand letter are also included on this forms CD. These documents are discussed in the upcoming Demand Letters DVD.

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Mastering Motor Vehicle Cases

To maximize claim value, you need to expand your knowledge of auto cases. Dr. Arthur Croft co-authored the very first medical treatise on whiplash injuries - Whiplash Injuries: The Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome. Over the decades since that time, he has published hundreds of articles on traumatic injuries, causation, epidemiology, accident reconstruction, and the junk science often used by insurers and insurance defense experts. He brings it all together on this comprehensive video set. This is our most important product for handling all types of motor vehicle claims.

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Whiplash and Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

A Guide for Patients and Practitioners

Handling motor vehicle cases involves a variety of topics including medicine, injury causation, epidemiology, crash reconstruction, biomechanics and many issues surrounding insurance claims practices. In Dr. Arthur Croft’s first book, he addresses a number of these topics, dispels myths of crashes involving minor vehicle damage, and provides lawyers with the research citations to create an effective rebuttal when negotiating with an adjustor who doesn’t understand the science or medicine of traumatic injuries. High points to this book include an annotated list of risk factors for injury in auto accidents, an annotated list of risk factors for permanent injury, and a list of scientific literature that dispels the myth that all spinal injury claims resolve within 4-12 weeks. This content provides a wealth of information for initial reserve setting letters, demand letters, and for responsive letters when negotiating with adjustors.

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Traumatic Injuries

What is the difference between a $5,000 settlement and a $100,000 settlement? Often the facts are the same, and the only difference is the doctor or lawyer involved in the claim. Clearly, you want your office to be the one that obtains the best settlement values for your clients. The question is, are you willing to do the work? The reality is that in order to obtain maximum settlement values in your cases, you need to fully understand the client’s injuries and obtain a diagnosis of that condition by a credible doctor. This seems self-evident, yet we regularly see lawyers who miss important and valuable injuries in their cases that are worth multiple times the settlement they obtain. This video discusses commonly missed injuries to the spine, inner ear and brain that can substantially increase the value of your client’s claim if properly diagnosed. You may be surprised by what you can achieve once you are armed with this information.

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Preparing for a Defense Medical Exam

Whether it happens during PIP/MedPay coverage, or whether it happens in litigation, a defense medical examination is almost always strongly biased against your client. The question is, does your client do something to support a negative finding against them? Hopefully not, because that creates the most problematic obstacle to overcome and can dramatically impact settlement value.

This DVD is for your clients, not for you. Lawyers play it for each client before their defense exam, to ensure that they understand the basics of what will happen, that the defense doctor is not on their side, and what tricks they should watch out for at the DME office. This minimizes the time you need to spend repeating the same advice to each client, and allows you to focus only on the points that are most important to the client’s specific case.

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Working with Chiropractors on Auto Cases

A Trial Guides Webinar Recording

Approximately 50% of motor vehicle cases involve chiropractic treatment. Some lawyers worry about cases where the primary treating doctor is a chiropractor. Others get six and seven figure verdicts in cases where a chiropractor is the primary expert witness.

In this Trial Guides webinar recording, trial lawyer Aaron DeShaw, a former Doctor of Chiropractic, shows you how to work more effectively with chiropractors. First, he reveals a more effective way to qualify D.C.s to avoid motions as to their qualifications and win the ones that are raised. Next, he shows how to most effectively use chiropractic testimony in your arbitrations and trials. The webinar will reveal that contrary to many lawyers’, jurors’, and judges’ beliefs, chiropractic education requires equal, and sometimes superior, education to general practice MDs, especially in certain areas at issue in traumatic injury cases, such as spinal injuries, neurology, and radiology.

DeShaw also talks about where the societal bias against chiropractors arose and how to potentially address that with the adjustor. This webinar will change your practice if you handle injury cases involving chiropractic treatment.

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You Can‘t Teach Hungry

Creating the Multimillion Dollar Law Firm

If you settle cases instead of litigating, your focus is more likely on the business aspects of the practice of law. This book addresses the business of running your firm, including how to hire and retain associates. Whether you are a fan or a competitor, it is hard to argue with the success of author John Morgan. In the past 30 years, he has built the largest plaintiff personal injury law firm that has ever existed in the United States and the firm has as many 400 lawyers, thousands of support staff and as many as 100,000 clients. The first of his two books is on the economics of running a profitable law firm from the early stages. Morgan & Morgan have increased the amount of litigation they do since he authored this book (and more than doubled in size), but it gives you a good insight in terms of how to survive and thrive while running a settlement law firm. If you like this book, his second book, You Can’t Teach Vision, will help you build an even better law firm by mixing settlements and trial work.

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AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment

Fifth Edition

Yes, this is a medical text. But if you settle cases, you should know this book intimately. Why?  Because at most auto insurers, an AMA impairment rating is the second largest driver of settlement value, only behind the injury diagnoses themselves. So, for any injury your client experiences, you should know whether it qualifies as a permanent impairment, and if so, the right doctor you can refer to for an AMA permanent impairment rating. Don’t bother with the 6th Edition, it’s controversial, its validity is disputed, the majority of doctors don’t use it, and as a result, it shouldn’t be admissible. For this reason, insurers and their bodily injury software programs continue to use the widely accepted 5th Edition. And, no, it isn’t just for workers compensation cases - something adjustors and defense lawyers will often misrepresent. See the upcoming Demand Letters DVD for more about how and why you should be getting permanent impairment ratings on those clients that have a legitimate impairment claim when you plan to settle the case.

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