The Emotional Costs of a Claim/Case Can Be High, Too…

After taking notes from Orange County attorneys for personal injury law, I always tell clients that while your case or injury claim may have legal fees, court costs, deposition expenses, travel costs, and other expenses there is also an “emotional cost” to carrying a case, a claim, some litigation in your head, around your neck or on your shoulders. It can take a huge toll on folks- people always tend to stress significantly over their “case.”
When you are involved in a particularly aggressive, nasty bit of litigation your credibility is challenged, a snarky defense lawyer from challenges everything you say, they call you a liar or sometimes it seems that the other party just makes stuff up. The defense tactics may seem extreme, and they are – they are calculated to make you uncomfortable- to make you regret your involvement in the claim. The tactic may be to beat you down – to take a quick, cheap settlement and go away quietly. Sometimes you feel that while you are the victim of someone else’s negligence or attack it seems like YOU are the one being attacked. The insurance company and or defense counsel can pile on the paper & add hoops for us to jump over that nobody saw coming…  The Judge issues rulings that seem to make no sense.  In such a case the emotional cost of litigation that you are carrying is not even measurable until the case is over.


My job as your trial lawyer, your counselor, your attorney is to guide you through this process, to protect you and to make sure we put your claim or case in the best possible position for the best possible result. Do you need a lawyer too? Festus area personal injury attorneys are the most recommended for the job.

When you get a case like that RESOLVED- as we did recently – it is particularly rewarding … especially when you feel like you had a good case but one with some risks you identified immediately -a case in which you fought hard – a case in which you put the case into the best possible position for a successful/cost effective resolution – and a case in which you were able to bring a recalcitrant party/insurer to the negotiating table and get the thing done.

We made that happen in my recent case.

–> MANY THANKS to my co-counsel Chris Carville for carrying the ball on some of the more recent aggressive defense motions and tactics! Chris did a tremendous job researching the complex coverage issues, preparing extensive briefs, and working with me in the Mediation.

During the month of March alone each party filed Motions for Summary Judgment, then responded to each other’s MSJs and filed replies. Following that flurry of filings in March, I think the parties filed an ADDITIONAL 1000+ pages or so of additional motions, depositions, case law and such for the Court to review…

With no trial date in sight due to Covid, we received a court ruling in our favor a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the afternoon before the Mediation the Judge granted a defense request and added the “magic words” of Ohio Civil Rule 54(B) to the decision… which made the decision immediately appealable.  While we were happy for the victory, this last minute change could have had the case tied up in the court of appeals for 12-18 months. Accordingly, we were VERY happy to get the case resolved fairly in Mediation the next day.

Some cases are easy… there’s a crash- the cyclist gets hurt – they call us &  we get involved right away – we investigate the crash- we notify the insurer- we monitor the rider’s recovery – we get the factual case together – we get the medical case together – we negotiate a successful ending without ever even filing a lawsuit.

My recent case was NOT that… at all…  Rather, it involved a VERY aggressive factual situation and a defendant who, we felt, was lying about what happened… it involved a cyclist with  severe injuries – many complex legal questions – a detailed lawsuit – aggressive litigation tactics – a 2nd lawsuit filed by the motorist’s insurance carrier arguing there was no coverage – & extensive motion practice in both cases…

As someone who has tried many cases to verdict in big and small counties all over Ohio, I enjoy the litigation process… In more recent times, though, I’ve come to view litigation as a last resort – it’s usually too risky, too expensive, too time consuming and extremely unsatisfying.

In some areas of law, you HAVE to litigate… every time… malpractice cases are like that – you almost NEVER settle one without extensive litigation. Likewise, sometimes in the cases I take on you HAVE to litigate…such as when the other side says our client was to blame and refuses to negotiate fairly. Sometimes you get the the sense that the insurer on the other side isn’t being straight with you… that happened in a “dog v. motorcycle” case once where we were told that the policy limits were $50,000.00 on a homeowner’s policy… that seemed odd. We sued & found out that yes, the policy on the “house” were $50,000.00 but… the policy limits on the surrounding “farmland” [where the dog escaped from] were $500,000.00!  Sometimes the injuries do not resolve and the client is still being treated as the Statute of Limitations approaches so we have to file suit to protect the Statute…

Typically, though, despite my long history as a “trial” lawyer, in most cases I advise the client, the injured victim, that they are better off with a fair settlement than with 2+ years of litigation, $1000s in mostly unrecoverable litigation expenses and the “emotional costs” of litigation.

Thankfully, in my practice I am able to get 80+% of the cases I take in resolved without litigation. The other 20% that end up in litigation tend to resolve during the process. Sometimes, like yesterday, that process involves 1000s of pages of motions and filings… but usually not.

To some…OK maybe a BIG… degree I think my success in getting cases resolved is because I am MUCH better at “picking the winners on Day 1” than I was a young, inexperienced lawyer. After 38 years of practice I’ve now handled 1000s of injury and death cases, and some 450+ “bike cases!” I’ve handled them from start to finish – from 1st phone call all the way through to settlement- trial – Verdict – appeal!

Having had experience managing 100s of cases in a “back-of-the-Yellow Pages” law firm as well as handling 100s of cases as in-house trial counsel for an insurance company I think I bring a unique skill set and background to the table. I can provide a very real view into both worlds for my client. As a result, I’m also very blunt with clients about what I think about their case where, as a I young lawyer, I was probably less so.

I also find that cyclists make EXCELLENT clients – my clients tend to be highly motivated folks who work hard to GET BETTER… they WANT to get better – they EXPECT to get out and ride again! As a group they do MUCH better than the average injured person in recovery if from even severe injuries!

So, bottom line- we were successful recently in getting a very difficult case resolved in a satisfactory way. Hopefully, getting to a satisfactory result should bring an end to the emotional cost the clients have been carrying for the years since the crash.

Sometimes, though, those emotional costs are never released… they are carried forever…

The day of my Mediation – September 17 – was also the anniversary of the death of Matt Billings. I thought about Matt and his family a lot as we worked through our Mediation.

Matt was one of the 5 riders involved in an absolutely horrific crash in Brecksville, Ohio five years ago – 9/17/2015. He was the lead rider of the group and died at the scene when he was struck by huge front end of the driver’s F-350 pickup. He died on his wife’s birthday and a month or so before his young daughter’s first birthday…

I represented Matt’s family in the civil litigation. As you can see from the photo, the driver “cut the corner” on the turn. He made the illegal left turn directly into the path of the oncoming group of riders. He said he “couldn’t see” the riders because he was blinded by the sun.

Having gotten involved in that case very early, we lived with the family’s pain and grief almost from Day 1 … We spent a week in Cleveland watching the criminal trial, and sharing the family’s shock and grief when the jury returned a Not Guilty verdict after 5 days of devastating testimony. I worked on the civil case for next few years – getting the astounding revelation from the motorist during his deposition that he had lied to the police about his use of alcohol. We finally reached a financial resolution to end the case, but money is never the right answer in a case like that.

Matt’s family will carry the scars and the pain and the grief of September 17, 2015 for the rest of their lives. Every year, the anniversary of his death will fall on his widow’s birthday with the birthday of his daughter following shortly thereafter. The best we can do as lawyers in a case like that is get the best possible result for the family… but we will always carry some of that grief with us as well -sometimes the emotional costs just never leave you…

Stay Safe My Friends!
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