If you were alive in the 1970s and 1980s, you might remember a very common bumper sticker that simply stated, "Hit me! I need the money!" People would put this bumper sticker on the rear of their car, jokingly inviting folks to rear end their vehicle so they could "cash in" on some easy insurance money.
Back then, it was very common to get a quick and easy settlement from most insurance companies. In fact, an unspoken "formula" of 3X medical bills was used to "calculate" what you could expect in your accident case. For example, if your bills amounted to $5000, you would expect a settlement offer of at least $15,000. These were gravy train days for injury lawyers. For many insurance companies, fighting these claims wasn't financially prudent, so they would pay out settlement to anyone who got into a car accident. An entire cottage industry of "fake" and staged car accidents was born, involving people who fake/exaggerate injuries, lawyers who help them stage accidents and stuff their cars with more accident "victims," and doctors who all wanted an easy pay day.
Flash forward to present day. No one has those bumper stickers anymore. It's not because they fell out of fashion - it's because it's no longer true! Insurance companies got wise to the tricks being played on them. They hired teams of in-house insurance adjusters and lawyers to fight these cases. In fact, I was one of those lawyers! The insurance industry waged war on what became known as simple "soft tissue" cases. Soft tissue cases are ones that simply involve minor aches and pains to the muscles and ligaments. Insurance companies commissioned doctors to study soft tissue cases, and most insurance companies came to the following conclusion: "We are not going to pay much money anymore on soft tissue cases. Simple strains and sprains generally resolve over time, so we are going to fight your claim!"
Therefore, I still have clients who are surprised when they are not offered $25,000 on their soft tissue case. They argue, "But this was a traumatic accident for me! My world was turned upside down!" They go on and on about how the insurance companies are not fair, etc. They are partially correct. The insurance companies are not fair and often offer paltry amounts on these cases. However, the insurance companies have effectively fought these cases over the years, and they know that in most cases, juries agree with them. Most jurors have aches and pains simply getting up in the morning, and they have no patience for most plaintiffs who take up an entire week of the court's time (and the jury's time) to complain about soft tissue injuries. In my experience, most juries are offering little to nothing on these types of cases. In fact, they are sometimes even stingier than the insurance adjusters.
So here is the simple truth. If you have a minor accident and have soft tissue injuries, you are going to be offered little to nothing on your claim. If you have moderate to significant property damage, you will generally get a better offer because insurance companies will lend more credence to your claim if there is more property damage. Even then, we are not talking big bucks. Most cases settle for about $5000 to $15,000. I was handling a soft tissue case recently where my client was appalled that all she was being offered was $10,000. Her medical bills were about $4000. I tried to explain that this was a reasonable offer given the fact her injuries were soft tissue in nature.
Once again, the bumper stickers no longer exist because the "pay-out" environment no longer exists. Now you are lucky to get 2X your medical bills, if that. Most insurance companies won't even accept your medical bills as is. They will argue your bills are high and will slash them significantly. In fact, some insurance companies will spend $25,000 to avoid paying you $5000. Is that fair? Probably not. Is it true? Yes it is.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,