Alternative Case Resolution
This Attorney is highly qualified in ensuring that all medicA landowner or property owner has a duty to maintain their premises in a safe condition to tenants, visitors, guests and anyone lawfully on the premises. A supermarket or store has a duty to maintain its premises in a safe condition for its customers, employees and anyone lawfully on the premises. Many times a client may have sustained a serious injury when he or she was on someone’s property and he or she fell on a defective condition or as a result of an unsafe condition. These type of cases include but are not limited to cases involving a defective stair railing or step, loose floor boards, an unsafe balcony or deck, building code violations, areas under construction, uneven walkways, an unsafe elevator or escalator, falling overhead merchandise in a store, inadequate security or inadequate lighting, a hole on a walkway or parking lot or an unsafe natural or unnatural accumulation of snow or ice. Many times the owner of the property or the person or persons responsible for maintaining the property in good condition are responsible for the client’s injuries, the medical expense, lost wages, out of pocket expenses and a client’s pain and suffering. This Attorney is experienced in all types of “slip and fall cases”.
Many attorneys shy away from such cases because insurance companies may aggressively defend such cases resulting in the case to go to court. Such a case differs from an auto accident case because there are no immediate benefits such as PIP benefits. A good number of insurance policies covering a property may have a MedPay policy but in many instances it could be for a low sum of money such as $1,000.00 or $5,000.00. Many times there are no MedPay benefits available. Therefore, unless the client has health insurance, their medical bills may not be paid until they obtain a settlement or other resolution of their case. If the case goes to court, the medical providers may not be paid for years. Some medical providers are unwilling to wait to be paid and often, the client is unable to pay the bills especially if their injuries result in his or her being unable to work for a period of time. This Attorney is experienced in working with providers to ensure payment of the bills upon the resolution of the case.
al bills and liens are taken care of and resolved when the case is over. In fact, many times over the years, there have been occasions that this Attorney has been contacted by a client of another attorney and informed that his or her case was settled for a definite sum of money but that there was a substantial medical bill or lien on the case that had not been paid. This Attorney has not settled personal injury cases with these loose ends! Any potential settlement should include all unpaid medical bills or liens. The client certainly does not want a bill to go to collection and be forced to deal with the bill on his or her own or pay the bill out of his or her share of the settlement. Cannot stress enough how often this occurs!
Certain government sponsored plans such as Mass Health, Medicare or Medicaid have a lien (or claim) by operation of law. This means that it is paid out of the client’s settlement and it does not have to give the client or his or her attorney notice of its lien. This Attorney must be responsible for ensuring that the lien is resolved. This Attorney has actually had to pay minimal liens for sums such as $3.50 to such government plans. They want their money no matter how small. These government agencies can “come out of woodwork” years later seeking to be repaid on a lien on a case that was over long ago. Therefore, it is imperative that the attorney resolve the lien when the case is being closed.
In determining how or when to resolve a case, many times settlement is highly recommended instead of taking one’s chance at a jury trial because so many variables are involved in moving forward with a trial. Massachusetts courts are in crisis because of slashed funding. Cases have become more and more backlogged. Cases can languish in the courts for years. Additionally, there are higher litigation costs which take away from any money judgment. There can be expenses for filing fees, sheriff’s fees, deposition transcript costs, expert witness fees and so forth. Expenses could increase into the thousands. If a jury awards a client less money than a proposed settlement or if a jury awards a client more money but the litigation costs incurred decrease the net award to less than a settlement, then a client doesn’t win. This Attorney will carefully weigh, discuss and recommend a settlement if it appears reasonable in light of all factors and if going to court does not make sense financially.
Another way to resolve a case is to submit the case to either arbitration or mediation. The insurance company must agree to this process. If the insurance company does not agree, then the client has no choice but to have his or her case filed in court. Some clients do not want to go to court because he or she does not want to wait for the time period to get a trial date which can take years. Some clients don’t want to testify in a courtroom or do want to go through the process of having his or her deposition taken which can appear to be an invasion of privacy. Arbitration or mediation could be a good alternative.
In a mediation session, the parties meet with a neutral professional mediator who many times is a retired judge or an attorney. Mediations can last several hours. It is said that a successful mediation ending in settlement is one where both parties do not believe that he or she got everything he or she wanted but in the end is satisfied with the settlement. A good mediator is one who “works the case”. This Attorney has been disheartened on many an occasion when an agreed upon mediator meets with both parties and their counsel and starts the session with …”what can be do to resolve this today?” This Attorney has found that this “can’t we all get along” mindset is not effective in resolving a disputed case. Usually, the parties would have exhausted their negotiations before reaching mediation. The parties need a mediator who is going to listen to each party’s position, assess the case and then try to get the parties to reach a settlement that everyone can live with. A successful mediator will treat each party with respect and consideration. This Attorney has been involved with hundreds of mediations over the years and knows mediators who are more effective and better set up to resolve disputes. Mediations cost money, usually on an hourly basis. Certainly, the parties do not want to spend money and not arrive at a settlement. That would not be money well spent.
Arbitration is one where the client’s case is submitted to an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators and the case is decided by the arbitrator or the panel. The decision is final. The client will have a “mini” trial in front of the arbitrator and submit all evidence in the way of testimony, medical records, bills, photographs and all other evidence. An arbitration can be desirous because a client has a definite date and time for an arbitration hearing, a hearing could be obtained in a matter of weeks or months versus a number of years going through the court process and a good neutral arbitrator makes a final decision and the client can receive his or her award shortly after a decision. There are no post trial motions or hearings or appeals to a higher court. The finality of that process can give a client peace of mind and his or her “day in court”. He or she will get to tell his or her story, produce his or her evidence and a third party will decide the case. This Attorney has also been involved in hundreds of arbitrations over the years. In her experience, clients tend to do better in the end than a jury trial. Juries these days can be biased. They also may not compensate a client for the proper value of his or her case. Arbitrators have experience in weighing liability and valuing cases so arbitration can be a smarter route at resolving a case.
In the end, the best resolution of an accident case is one where the client is adequately compensated for his or her monetary losses and pain and suffering. This experienced Attorney will afford the client an edge in obtaining the best resolution for the case.