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When you sustain a personal injury from a car accident, a faulty product or in some other way, it is a difficult and complex thing to endure.  When pursuing damages for your injury, you want to make sure the law firm you hire is the right one for you.

Interestingly, we recently found a study published in the New York University Law Review [86 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 805-886 (Oct. 2011)] that revealed a fairly alarming trend:

“Many personal injury cases today are handled by high-volume law firms that take a mechanistic approach to handling cases rather than an individual one — firms which the author, Nora Freeman Engstrom, calls “settlement mills.”

In this study, Ms. Engstrom, who is an assistant professor at Stanford Law School, reviewed evidence from eight large personal injury firms across the U.S.  From her research, she found that high-volume “settlement mills” actually dedicate very few attorney hours to each individual case.  Additionally, claims handled by these firms are often settled at a lower value than they may have been if handled by a conventional attorney.

If you or a loved one is looking to hire an attorney for a personal injury case, please review the information below, as summarized from Ms. Engstrom’s report, to ensure the firm you hire has your best interests in mind.

What is a “Settlement Mill”?

According to Ms. Engstrom, personal injury “settlement mills” provide a service that is quite different than traditional counsel.  Rather than offering individual attention to each client, settlement mills pursue large volumes of claims in a fairly formulaic or “cookie-cutter” manner.  These firms handle cases quickly and systematically, Ms. Engstrom says, which often reduces the value of a claim.  Her research also revealed that these mills rarely file law suits or expend resources to vet cases and that case managers were likely to handle cases rather than actual lawyers.

Simply put, the business model of these “settlement mills” seems to value quantity of claims versus quality of service provided.

According to the study, personal injury “settlement mills” typically:

  • Advertise more aggressively on TV, radio and billboards
  • Maintain an unusually high number of claims at a given time
  • Do not expend extensive resources to pursue a claim
  • Do not offer many, if any, face-to-face meetings between lawyers and clients
  • Emphasize settlement versus actual trial litigation

For claims that have less merit or are lower value, these “settlement mills” could, in theory, serve a purpose, Ms. Engstrom says.  However, according to her data, the trend has contributed to a decrease in value for more serious, meritorious claims.

The article concludes that insurance companies like settlement mills because they settle quickly and cheaply, even in catastrophic cases, without litigation.

Bar organizations can do little about law firms that operate in this manner because federal courts bar tough regulation of legal advertising.  Their operations operate “under the radar” because most of them almost never file their cases in courts.  They are the poison oak of the legal system, operating in a manner generally contrary to the interest of their clients and the public, and just as difficult as poison oak to limit.

Here at Marianne Howanitz PA, we go out of our way to give you personal, ethical, aggressive representation that holds the insurance companies accountable for your pain and suffering.  We never compromise and settle for less than you deserve.

 

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Halloween is just around the corner and everyone’s in the mood for scary movies.  Remember the movie Christine?  Pretty scary for the time, right?  Well, this is not about that kind of phantom vehicle, sorry. This is about another scary kind of vehicle-the Phantom Vehicle. (Cue evil laugh)

A phantom vehicle is one that causes injury, death or damage either with or without making physical contact.  For example, if a vehicle runs you off the road and causes you to crash, they are considered a phantom vehicle.  The name refers to the fact that in most such cases, the driver of the phantom vehicle, much like a hit and run driver, leaves the scene, and thus in the subsequent accident investigation, the identity of the phantom vehicle is unknown. Only eye witness testimony, surveillance video or dash cam recordings may assist in identifying the phantom vehicle.  It is also critical to get the name and address of any witnesses who saw the phantom vehicle as they can help you establish your claim.

Most Uninsured Motorist insurance policies will provide coverage to customers who have been injured as a result of a negligent phantom vehicle.  However, many of those policies put restrictions on how phantom vehicle claims can be pursued.  For example, some policies require that a phantom vehicle accident be reported to the insurance company within 24 hours of the crash.  Meanwhile, other policies attempt to require that some physical impact between the vehicles occurred.

Phantom vehicle claims can be really tricky, so a wise consumer might want to consult an experienced Florida accident attorney.  I have handled many such cases and would be honored to help you, too.

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Every car accident claim needs a strong foundation of evidence to establish fault for the crash and show the extent of the damages you or your loved one suffered.
Even though you may be the innocent victim of someone else’s negligence, when it comes to your day in court, YOU have the burden of proving who’s at fault and what your damages are.  The at-fault driver or owner of the car does not have a duty to preserve evidence for you to present your case.

Physical evidence from the accident comes in many forms. First is pictures and video, which have become increasingly easier to gather thanks to camera phones. You or someone at the scene should take photos of the area, any damaged property, the vehicles involved, and your injuries. Also see if there are any nearby buildings with outside surveillance cameras that may have captured the crash.

So…what do you do?  If you or a loved one is injured due to the negligence of another, you need to make sure you get an attorney that will aggressively investigate your claim and lock in all of the evidence at the get go.  That’s our “lock and load” stage.  Whether it’s visiting accident scenes, junk yards, inspecting vehicles, obtaining surveillance videos or tracking down witnesses and getting their statements, we are on it.  Don’t hesitate to call me immediately from the accident scene.  I want to be there when you need me most.  When it comes down to it, you want an attorney that’s not afraid to get “down and dirty” for you!

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Listen to any morning traffic report or talk to any friend and you know — car accidents happen all the time. And everyone’s got their own story. So how do you separate fact from fiction?

Here are five of the most persistent car accident myths compiled by Christopher Coble, and why they’re they are just plain wrong.

If You’re Not Hurt Right Away, You Can’t Sue for Injuries Later.

Some injuries, especially those like whiplash, can take weeks or months to develop noticeable symptoms. As long as you’re within your state’s statute of limitations, you can file an injury claim. Even if you don’t feel hurt, you should probably seek medical attention immediately, just to be safe.

The Other Driver and I Can Work It Out.

One of the biggest mistakes after a car accident is admitting fault. And this can happen easily, even by mistake, if you’re negotiating on your own with the other driver. While a minor fender bender may only require the exchange of insurance information, anything more serious may require legal assistance.

The Police Will Determine Whose Fault It Was.

If your car accident involves significant damage or any injury, you should call the police so they can write an accident report. And while this report may come in handy in court later, the police don’t ultimately decide blame for an accident. It’s possible that insurance companies, lawyers, and the courts could battle over liability, so you should supplement any police report with your own notes, pictures, evidence, and recollections.

Your Insurance Company Will Handle Everything.

While insurance is a great, and a legally required thing to have, your policy may not cover everything, and the company may not be eager to pay out what is covered. You should review any offer your insurance company makes and be especially wary of talking to the other driver’s insurance company or attorneys.

I Don’t Need an Attorney to File My Injury Claim.

It’s possible a minor accident won’t necessitate the advice of an attorney, but if there’s any dispute regarding who was at fault, the damages, or enforcing payment, you might want a good lawyer on your side. This is true even if you’re planning on settling your claim out of court.

Hopefully you’ll never find yourself involved in a serious car accident. But if you have been, you may want to consult an attorney regarding your options.

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A black box. Also known as event data recorder it is traditionally associated with airplane accidents because it helps the investigators to determine what went wrong. But the technology is no longer limited to aircrafts. In fact, you most likely have a black box beneath your seat or behind the dashboard in your car. Almost all new cars are already equipped with one of these small devices and if you drive a car that is not older from 5 years, you most likely have one yourself. If you are not sure whether your car is equipped with a car black box or not, you can check the owner manual. The data from the car black box is a reliable record of the driver’s actions few seconds before the accident and is an important piece of evidence when there are no witnesses of the accident or/and the drivers are blaming each other for causing the collision. It records various data depending from one car to another, most often the speed, turning, braking, accelerating, decelerating, etc. about five seconds before the collision. However, those five seconds are usually enough to get the necessary information about the events that led to the accident. Even more, the data from the car black box has been also used as evidence in the courts and had a major influence on the outcome of the trial.

It is vitally important to contact an experienced Personal Injury Attorney as soon as possible after your accident in order to preserve as much evidence as possible.