We tell our San Antonio personal injury clients that we are not the type of San Antonio injury law firm that will wait a long time, send a lot of letters, and hope the other side insured company pays us without doing much work. We file our Texas personal injury and car accident cases. We think our clients are treated better when their cases are filed, set for trial and prepared for trial.
Justin: Welcome to Hill Law Firm Cases, a podcast discussing real-world cases handled by Justin Hill and the Hill Law Firm. For confidentiality reasons, names and amounts of any settlements have been removed. However, the facts are real and these are the cases we handle on a day-to-day basis.
Justin: With every new case that we get in the door, I have to sit down with a client and have to discuss with them expectations for the process, what to consider going forward, and try to set their expectations about a process that really is unfamiliar with most people. It’s unfamiliar because most people aren’t used to having to go through a long, drawn-out process to find resolution to a problem. They usually should be able to be resolved without court intervention. Insurance companies have realized that the longer they delay a case, the more time they can have holding on to money in their reserves. There is a financial incentive for insurance companies to hold on to their money and delay the payment of claims, even claims that they know they should pay out. One of the first things I tell clients when they come to meet with me and discuss hiring me is that unlike a lot of law firms and a lot of lawyers, I’m going to file the case. I’m not going to do what a lot of people do. There’s a different strategy among lawyers. Some lawyers take the position that they want their client to finish treating, do everything they need to do, figure out all of their damages, then send a letter, and try to resolve the claim. Then, if that doesn’t work 6, 9, 12 months down the road, then they’ll file a lawsuit. I was trained at a young age to file a lawsuit immediately because insurance companies have proven, time and time again, over a long period of time, that they’re not planning on doing the right thing. If they do the right thing, they’re not going to do it early on.
I explain to my clients there’s a few reasons that we need to file their lawsuit, and also explain to my clients that if they want one of those law firms that is going to go through a letter-writing campaign of trying to get their case resolved, without putting it in the court system, then I might not be the lawyer for them. One of the first things I tell them is that insurance companies rarely, if ever, will disclose the amount of insurance available in a case. Whether it’s a $30,000 policy in a car crash, or a $10 million, $20 million policy available in some other type of claim, including an 18-wheeler case in which someone lost their life, it’s very rare day that an insurance company will tell you what sort of insurance policies you’re dealing with, the layers of the insurance, or the insurance carriers. Some states require that the insurance carriers tell you how much insurance there is, what the limits are, and who the carrier is. Texas does not require that unless a lawsuit’s filed. If a lawsuit is filed, the defendants have to disclose the amount, the limit, the carriers, and all that information allows you to properly and adequately advise your client. It also allows you to potentially put the defendant in a Stower situation, which puts a lot of pressure on the insurance company to evaluate your claim because in those situations, there could be risk if they do not pay a claim when it would have been reasonable to do so.
Another reason that we file cases early on is we’re the plaintiffs. We have the burden of proof. We need to be on the offense. We have to prove our claim, we have to push the case to trial, and trial is the only risk that most defendants and insurance companies feel. If you allow trial to be pushed out by a year, it just delays your client’s resolution. We think it’s best and we believe our results have proven out that it’s best to be on the offense early on. The third thing that I advise my clients on when I’m discussing why we’re going to file their lawsuit is that getting to trial takes time. In many counties, it can take as long as 24 months. In Bexar County, usually 12 to 16 months, you can get a trial date. Now, your first trial date oftentimes may be continued if the defendant’s defense lawyers go to the judge and ask for a continuance because they have some things they need to do.
What I’ve seen is that for people that wait to file their cases, they’re dealing with that same process no matter what. If they file it a year after the incident, they’re looking at another year to get to trial. We file our cases immediately and we’re looking at a trial date within 12 to 16 months. Now, if our client is still treating and we still don’t know the extent of their injuries or damages at the time of trial, we can ask for a continuance, but that continuance won’t put us another year out. What I found that these three reasons that we file cases are things that end up benefiting our clients much better than if we sat on their case and waited, and then sent a bunch of letters. Recently this year, we resolved a case, a wrongful death, 18-wheeler case for a family. One of the proudest parts of that case for me and my office were that we were in pretrial, 13 months following the incident. We weren’t just filing their case or just starting discovery or any of those things, we were ready and prepared and at the courthouse about one year following the crash. That’s something that not a lot of law firms can say. That’s something that when I tell law firms, they can’t believe that we were able to get the case ready and get it to trial that fast. Pushing the case like that, being on the offensive, and never letting the defendants stop digging their heels and mount a proper defense allowed us to resolve that case in a very favorable way. It’s a strategy that I think is beneficial for our clients. It’s one thing that sets our law firm apart. It’s something I tell every client when they come in, that we’re going to file their case and we’re going to push it to trial. That’s why we think they’ll get a better resolution.
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