It was a blip on your radar screen. A call from a driver that he bumped a four-wheeler. No one hurt. Minimal damage. Just a little bent metal. The police come, information exchanged and both drive away.
You take the report, note the file, and put it in its final resting place. Closed case.
Wrong. Six-months year later this file arises with a letter from a lawyer. His client, an occupant of the four-wheeler (driver or passenger, take your choice) was grievously injured by your mammoth truck. He has suffered since the accident and has been deprived life’s joys. He is kind enough to give you an opportunity to settle this matter reasonably before filing suit.
How did we get to this point? How did a minor matter blow into full-fledge litigation? More importantly, are your ready to aggressively respond to this dark side of our legal system?
The sad reality of today’s society is that yours is not just a fleet of trucks. Instead, it is a covey of eighteen-wheel ATM’s, carrying a million dollars in mandatory insurance coverage.
Further, the financial perversity of the litigation reality is that any case, be it minor or without liability, bears a burden to you, including costs, fees, and risks. This burden gives weight to the claimant’s argument that any minor incident is worth something even if fault is dubious at best.
The weight of this argument is based upon two elements. First, it looks at each accident in isolation. Second, it assumes that you were neither prepared to aggressively respond nor had the stomach to fight, but would instead rather toss money at the claimant…and, of course, his attorney.
Viewing the financial impact of a minor accident in isolation ignores the reality of the overall effect of these accidents. The cumulative effect of these minor scrapes is the hemorrhaging of your money which your drivers logged thousands of miles to earn.
How many miles were needed to earn the money you paid on “business decision” settlements last year? What could your company have done with that money? More importantly, how much could you have added to the bottom line with that money?
Stop the bleeding. Prepare for these accidents, execute your plan, and defend these claims where it is either not your fault and/or there were no injuries. Turn the tables on the plaintiffs’ attorneys and give them an economic downside by making it clear they are in for an uphill fight that will be fought to the end.
Several summers ago, I had three trials in which I defended minor impact claims. In each case, we admitted fault for the accident, but denied that we caused any injuries. In all three cases, the jury did not award any damages to the plaintiff.
In the last of the three cases, the jury came back with a question. What was there to ask? We admitted liability. The only question left for the jury was whether we hurt him and, if so, how much did we owe? What possible question could the jury have?
The question was whether they could make the plaintiff pay my client’s legal fees. After informing the jury that under our system, they could not do so, the judge told plaintiff’s counsel and me, “Don’t go far, boys. They’ll be back soon.” They were. No damages.
The point of this story is not that you can will all minor impact or no liability cases. The point is that not all cases automatically warrant throwing money at the plaintiffs. Proper and aggressive preparation, execution, and defense can limit, if not eliminate, the financial hemorrhaging that these cases produce.
The keys to the low impact care are to PREPARE, EXECUTE, and DEFEND aggressively.
For additional information please visit: www.cdl-law.com.