By Scott McPherson, Personal Injury Trial Attorney
Several years ago, I had a seriously injured client and we had a big problem. The at-fault party, or “active tortfeasor,” had injured my client as a result of automobile negligence involving a car he was picking-up. However, there was only $100,000.00 in bodily injury insurance coverage, which was grossly inadequate to compensate my client.
I considered all of the facts leading up to my client’s injuries, and decided that a case of “apparent agency” could be claimed. Personal injury attorneys deal with issues of actual agency all the time, but suing on the basis of an “apparent agency” is rarely successful or supported by the facts. In essence, what the attorney is claiming on behalf of his injured client is that while the at-fault party was not an agent of the defendant-corporation, the defendant-corporation placed this person in a position so that it would appear to the plaintiff that he was an agent, and the plaintiff relied on what he or she thought was an agency relationship.
After years of depositions and court hearings, the case was ready for jury trial. Prior to going to trial in a Florida personal injury case, it is required that the parties attend a mediation conference first. A mediation conference is the Court’s way of saying, “Before you take up time on my calendar, I am going to require that the parties meet and attempt to resolve this on their own.” At the end of a 12 hour mediation in Downtown Tampa, a multi-million dollar settlement was obtained.
I think what frustrates many good and experienced trial lawyers can be found in cases like this one. We know that 95% of all “personal injury attorneys” would have taken 1/3 of the $100,000.00 policy, and explained to the client how unfortunate it was that there was not more insurance. For many attorneys, even had the thought of apparent agency occurred to them, it is unlikely they would have risked tens of thousands of dollars of their own money, not to mention the staggering resources involved in litigation against a large corporation.
Whether injured by a dangerous product, or an automobile accident, before you hire an attorney you should ask yourself:
1) Is the injury attorney really a litigator? (While most cases do settle, what if your case requires litigation?)
2) If I receive a low ball offer from the insurance company, will my personal injury attorney fight for me? Will he or she risk the firm’s own money and resources, even with no guarantees of success?
3) If I hire this injury attorney, does he or she have the experience to properly analyze my case, and make all claims necessary that will lead to the most beneficial result?