Even after 26 years of doing this I still get nervous a bit when I step into the courtroom. I worry I may stumble over my words. I worry a witness might change course and testify differently than they did in their deposition. I worry the judge may make a bad ruling that precludes or admits evidence that shouldn’t be precluded or admitted. I don’t let these worries get the best of me, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t present.

One of the weightier things I worry about is that the jury is going to look at me and my client and blame us for the fact they have to give up time away from work or home or their normal life in general to settle a dispute they, quite honestly, might not care too much about. I mean, we wouldn’t be here if the Plaintiff didn’t file the lawsuit, right? Well, that isn’t the whole story and unfortunately the jury never gets to hear the whole story.

The law limits what I can tell jurors about how we got where we are. The jury will never know the following:

Before the lawsuit was ever filed we made a settlement demand to the Defendant’s insurance company. We gave them all of the medical records and bills, property damage photos, the traffic crash report (if there is one), and all other relevant information we may have. The demand for the insurance company to settle within the policy limits they provided to their insured (the Defendant). For example, if it is a $25,000 policy we offer to settle at or within that policy. It is only after we have tried to settle, and couldn’t, that we filed the lawsuit. We just don’t file a lawsuit immediately after the crash happens.

It is not uncommon that after the demand is made the insurance company’s first offer is below the medical bills. When this happens, the odds of being able to negotiate the claim without a lawsuit are slim. The insurance company has either (1) grossly undervalued the claim and/or (2) is daring the attorney to file suit. Admittedly the second doesn’t happen to us very often as they know not only will I file, but if the case doesn’t settle I’ll gladly go to Court and try it. Here is an example of the former, and an actual letter I sent to a Defendant when I had to serve him with the lawsuit:

My name is Michael Kristof. I represent ________. He is the individual that __________ crashed into back on January 17, 2022. I am writing this letter to you to explain why you are being sued.

Often times, when people get sued, they want to blame the Plaintiff or his attorney. They don’t understand what has happened to get to this point because their insurance company hasn’t explained it to them. I want to make sure you know how we got here.

Mr. _______ has $20,182.00 in medical bills. This isn’t surprising given the severity of the collision. I provided the medical bills and records to your insurance company- Farmers. In response, they offered to settle this claim for $19,852,64. Can you believe it? In a case where this crash is clearly your fault and which totaled out the vehicles, your insurance company offered to settle for less than the medical bills. Imagine if it was Mr. _______ who was speeding down the parking lot and slammed into you and my client’s insurance company didn’t even offer to pay the medical bills. I bet you would be upset. We are upset.

We didn’t want to sue you. But we really didn’t have a choice. Negotiating in this instance is just a waste of time given the initial offer. You will want to call your adjuster and let her know you have received this suit so that Farmers’ can provide you with a legal defense.

I am sorry it had to come to this. I imagine you are both nice people. Thank you for your time and I look forward to meeting you when I take your depositions.

After the lawsuit is settled we try and work with the insurance company’s lawyer to settle the claim. We just don’t say “see you in Court.” We sincerely try to work out a fair settlement. One that represents a reasonable value for what our client has lost.

The jury never gets to hear what the settlement negotiations were. They never get to hear that the insurance company only offered to pay the medical bills even though the law says that if this case goes to a jury the jury “will award” a fair amount for the past and future pain and suffering endured by the Plaintiff.

So, why am I posting about this? To put to rest the misconception that its always the Plaintiff’s fault a jury is summoned and good people like you are asked to sacrifice your time in the pursuit of justice.