Settlement Lawyers v. Trial Lawyers

The number of civil jury trials has been steadily declining over the past few decades.  In the entire federal court system, there were only 400 personal injury trials in 2010.  Judges fully understand the importance and need for jury trials.  In Oregon, Multnomah County judges were so concerned about the trend in declining jury trials in state court that they actually put together a panel to study the issue. The panel explored a variety of reasons for declining jury trials, however, it seems the panel overlooked the main cause: the emergence of the “settlement lawyer.”

A group of lawyers who never would have survived a couple of decades ago, so-called “settlement lawyers,” have managed to thrive by marketing themselves to injured persons.  These “settlement lawyers” devalue everyone’s claims because the insurance companies know that they will not take cases to court.  Jury trials are disappearing because people who suffer personal injuries are not educated about how to choose a lawyer and often end up with a “settlement lawyer”.

“Settlement lawyers” accept the low-ball offers from the insurance companies and make a full contingent fee, even though an honest contingent fee is premised on the lawyer’s willingness and ability to take a case to trial if a fair settlement offer is not made.  Most plaintiff’s lawyers set contingency fees, meaning they only collect fees if you win your case.  The low settlements made by these “settlement lawyers” get entered into the insurance company computers and are used to value new claims.  “Settlement lawyers” are causing a downward spiral, actually helping insurance companies under-value claims. Some cases are best settled, but if your insurance company knows the attorney will settle, it undervalues the claim.

These “settlement lawyers” also do not work up cases for trial because they aren’t going to try the case. Many of them also don’t understand the rules of evidence, because they rarely, if ever, have used them in court. Knowing what evidence is admissible is crucial to the ability to properly value a case.

In 2010, there were only 100 civil jury trials in Multnomah County.  So far this year in 2011, we have already tried 10 cases as of the end of June.

Make sure you hire a trial lawyer if you are injured.  Here are three questions to ask your current or perspective lawyer:

  • How many trials have you had over the last 2 years?
  • What’s your biggest jury verdict?
  • How many years have you been a plaintiff’s attorney representing injured people?