Don't Settle Your Personal Injury Case During Warm Months
When clients have reached maximum medical improvement and want to settle their case, it is not unreasonable to do so. Settlement may be a reasonable course of action after the client has considered the benefits and risks of filing a lawsuit in one of Maryland’s courts. Our position is to respond to our client’s preference and to make every effort to settle his/her case. After seeking to obtain the maximum recovery, it is the client, and only the client, who has the authority to either accept or reject any settlement offer received from an insurance company.
Twenty five years ago, the best time for settlement was in the fourth quarter of the year because the fourth quarter offered the best opportunity to obtain the maximum settlement amount. As the end of December approached, insurance companies wanted to "close their books on as many cases" as they could. Because it was the behavior of insurance companies to be more generous in the fourth quarter, we advised clients that they could receive considerably more in settlement by waiting until November or December to begin negotiations. Most clients followed our advice.
However, over the years, our claim settlement strategy has changed with regard to the timing of the settlement. The following is an example illustrating why we have made this change. A client who suffered soft tissue injuries in an automobile accident in May had reached maximum medical improvement in September. (“Maximum medical improvement” means that additional medical treatment will not improve the person’s condition or that the proposed treatment is “high risk”, such as surgery, which the client declines to undergo.) We had advised the client not to settle the case in September because it had been our experience that late December could produce a better financial result for the client. The client followed our advice and waited until December. Between September and November the client began to have symptoms of increased pain and loss of strength in the injured areas. The warm spring and summer weather and medical treatment appeared to have resolved the client’s injuries but when the weather turned colder in the fall and early winter months, the client’s symptoms from the injuries reappeared.
As we delayed settlement for other clients, similar problems reappeared for them. We then took the position that it was best not to settle personal injury cases until after our clients understood how cold may affect their injuries. Interestingly enough, one of our clients said she could not wait until December to settle her case. She worked in a building that I knew had a walk-in refrigerator. I wanted this client to have the experience of how cold weather might affect her areas of injury that appeared at the time to be resolved. Therefore , I recommended that she stand in the walk-in refrigerator for awhile to experience the effects of the cold on her injuries. The client’s supervisor called my office in order to obtain justification for our client entering the walk-in refrigerator and I explained why I wanted her to do this. The supervisor permitted my client to experience the cold within the refrigerator and, as a result of the cold aggravating her condition, my client went back for additional treatment and then we settled her case. I have a client right now who visited a spa that had a therapeutic room in which the temperature was allegedly near 20 degrees Fahrenheit. I do not have feedback as of the date we are writing this article as to whether the cold reactivated symptoms from this client’s accident injuries or not.
The danger in prematurely settling a case is that when the client accepts the settlement and releases the opposing party, he or she cannot obtain additional compensation at a later date. Our position is that the client and his or her attorney should hold off settling the case until the client has experienced the winter months. We appreciate that clients want to move on with their lives but to settle the case too early results in more than a compromise.
Fred Antenberg has over thirty years’ experience handling personal injury cases. Call Fred for a free initial consultation -- 410 730 4404.