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.