Not all injuries are the same, and neither are the firms that handle them. What’s more, choose the wrong firm and you could be leaving thousands—if not millions—on the table. Unsure what type of firm is right for you? Read on for an explanation of the two basic types of personal injury firms and their relative strengths and weaknesses.
Understanding Settlement Mills
A “settlement mill” is a law firm whose business model is designed to receive, process, and settle as many cases in as little time and with as minimal an effort as possible. They rarely file lawsuits and almost never take cases to trial. Instead, they typically rely on paralegals and case managers to perform the majority of the work and seek to settle cases with the insurance company extremely quickly on a going-rate system.
This model of quick turnaround and predictable payouts has advantages for a few types of cases. These include those involving minor or temporary injuries (often called “soft-tissue” injuries), or cases where the injured party’s own negligence may have significantly contributed to the accident.
In contrast, those parties with serious or permanent injuries, or those whose loved ones have died as a result of the accident, would do best to look elsewhere. Such cases require significantly more attorney attention and commitment than typically provided in a settlement mill. In order to seek out all potential defendants, research and prove the full damages suffered, and push insurance companies to pay the full value through litigation and trial if necessary, injured parties need a serious and committed attorney to take charge of their case.
While not all law firms that aggressively advertise on television and billboards qualify as settlement mills, most are. Other indicators include clients frequently dealing with paralegals and case managers rather than the attorney.
The Advantage of the Traditional Firm
Unlike settlement mills, traditional firms don’t base their business model on high volumes and a fast turnaround. Rather, they take a quality-over-quantity approach, selecting those cases they believe to have greater value and merit. Attorneys, not paralegals or case managers, carry the brunt of the case, and they are unafraid to file a lawsuit and take the case to trial in order to secure the appropriate value for their client.
Where a settlement mill may get their client 10-50% of the case value, a more traditional firm typically claims 80-100% of the value for its client.
Interestingly, traditional firms generally charge the same compensation rate as settlement mills (typically 33%). Therefore, you pay the same rate, get greater attorney attention and participation, and generally received better payouts when you use a traditional firm over a mill.
The only downside to asking a traditional firm to look into your case is that the firm may turn you down if it does not think you have a strong enough case to pursue. This costs you nothing and does nothing to prevent you from taking your case to a different firm for review.
Making your Choice
Long story short: Don’t assume the names you hear on television are your best options. Instead, ask yourself: would you rather have $50,000 in 6 months, or $500,000 in 12 months? If your answer is $50,000, then go ahead and call the names you see on TV and billboards.
If your answer is $500,000, you need to do some research. Ask friends and family or look online for recommendations. Call several firms to see which ones actually put you through to an attorney, then ask that attorney questions until you feel comfortable with their experience and personality. Doing these things will take you a bit more time up front, but will put you in a much better position to receive the full compensation deserve for your injuries. After all, you only get one chance to make your personal injury case.
If you would like a traditional firm and an experienced personal injury attorney to review your case for free, please contact me directly at (801) 365-1020.
For a more in-depth analysis on the differences between settlement mills and traditional firms, please review Professor Nora Engstrom’s article on the issue, Run of the Mill Justice.
Christopher J. Cheney