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Balke & Williams

When I began practicing about 20 years ago, cases would often settle for around three times the medical bills. For example, if a plaintiff had a $10,000 hospital bill, it would be fairly easy for them to get an offer of $30,000 from the insurance company. Ever since Allstate (and other insurers) hired consultants from a group called McKinsey & Company, this has not been the case. The consultants from this company are Harvard and MIT business professionals who suggested that rather than paying three times the amount of the medical bills, Allstate should delay, deny and don’t pay while simultaneously using a public relations campaign to influence how the public views people who sue.

The main example of this is the Stella Lybeck McDonald’s case, which was used as public relations fodder to persuade the general public into believing that everyone who files a claim is a cheater or a wimp, and that most claims are simply ridiculous. Very few people were actually aware of the facts behind the case: for example, McDonalds kept the coffee at 190 degrees. As a result of spilling very hot coffee, the plaintiff in this case sustained third-degree burns all over the lower part of her body. The goal of the public relations campaign was to make it seem like the injury wasn’t severe so that juries would stop awarding three times medical bills.

It worked. Due to the advertising Allstate and State Farm secretly did through McKinsey & Company, the average jury award has decreased from three times the amount of the medical bills to slightly over the amount of the medical bills. In some cases, juries only award the amount of the medical bills, or even nothing at all.

With larger cases, though, a Plaintiff might well get more than three times medical bills. For example, assume a scenario in which someone was injured in a car accident and initially needed $10,000 worth of treatment. They then develop radiculopathy, which is numbness and tingling in the extremities, and as a result require follow-up visits and a lumbar fusion surgery. Lumbar fusions are very serious surgeries that have poor outcomes about 20 percent of the time, so they are risky to do. If the surgery leaves the plaintiff with a $150,000 medical bill, the pre-existing $10,000 hospital bill, and a disability that renders them permanently unable to drive for more than a couple of hours or complete physical tasks, then three times the amount of medical bills might be too low of an amount. Oftentimes this is where we have leverage, because many jurors will have either had a lumbar fusion themselves or know someone who has, and will therefore understand the seriousness of it. As an innovative way to get a large award, sometimes we won’t even put the medical bills into evidence. In other words, we won’t tell the jurors how much the medical bills are because doing so would anchor the jury too low in their award.

How Do You Advise Clients Who Are Unwilling To Bring Personal Injury Lawsuits?

Approximately 80 percent of new clients are unwilling to bring personal injury lawsuits, and I completely understand the fear: being involved in an accident, having to find an attorney, and getting medical treatment are all stressful to deal with. Until someone gets to know an attorney, it’s stressful just to speak with them, and having to give a deposition or go through a trial is even more stressful. Insurance companies try to put plaintiffs on trial. Oftentimes, they will downplay what their client did and demean the plaintiff’s experience by arguing that their situation is not as serious as they claim. In fact, I have attended defense seminars where they actually taught defense attorneys how to do this.

The first deposition involving the plaintiff is a question and answer session between the plaintiff’s attorney and the insurance company’s attorney, which can be an intimidating process that makes the plaintiff feel as though they are being interrogated for something that someone else did to them. Plaintiffs often feel as though they don’t have a choice but to go through the process, since the insurance companies will not offer a fair settlement. The reason they won’t offer a fair settlement is because the McKinsey & Company consultants have already dissuaded them from paying a fair value, and have convinced them to make the plaintiff hire an attorney and provide a deposition. The idea is that if the insurance companies do this to every plaintiff, then at least half of them won’t actually hire an attorney or pursue their claim in court, and this translates to a lot of saved money for the insurance companies.

For more information on Three Times’ Medical Bill Rule In Illinois, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (815) 495-5598 today.

Balke & Williams

Call Now For A Free Strategy Session
(815) 495-5598