Yesterday, after our firm won a bad faith lawsuit with a verdict in the $1.4 million range, I thought of an old friend and legal colleague, Rick Freidman. Rick encourages lawyers to take more of their clients’ civil cases to trial. Friedman has written a number of books on the subject, which we have discussed in Rules of the Road, by Rick Friedman. He makes the following points about why it is important for attorneys to regularly take their insurance malpractice claims cases to trial:
The pursuit of justice: Friedman emphasizes that attorneys’ primary responsibility is to seek justice for their policyholder clients. By trying bad faith cases, attorneys can hold malpractice insurance companies accountable and ensure that policyholders receive fair compensation for their losses.
Authorization for policyholders: By litigating, lawyers can empower their clients by giving them a voice and an opportunity to share their story. This helps policyholders regain control and dignity after experiencing frustrating delays and underpayments from insurers who promised to do otherwise.
Deterring the insurer̵7;s misconduct: If more lawyers take their cases to trial, it acts as a deterrent to potential malpractice insurers. The prospect of being held publicly accountable in court may encourage individuals overseeing claims departments to act responsibly and ethically.
To strengthen the civil justice system: Friedman argues that taking more cases to trial contributes to a robust and efficient civil justice system. When attorneys consistently litigate to uncover and develop the kind of evidence needed for a successful trial presentation, it sends a message that the legal system can and will hold insurance companies accountable for their wrongful claims practices.
Challenging unfair settlements: Friedman believes case trials can help challenge unfair settlement practices. By refusing to accept inadequate offers, attorneys can send a clear message that they are committed to fighting for the best interests of their policyholder clients.
Maintain integrity: Friedman advocates that lawyers maintain their professional integrity by taking cases to court when necessary. He believes that lawyers should not shy away from litigation simply because it is difficult or time-consuming; instead, they should prioritize their client’s needs and pursuit of justice. The jury trial provides a sense of the community’s voice when bad faith cases are brought to trial.
Influential legal precedents: By taking cases to trial, lawyers can contribute to the development of legal precedents. Successful litigation can lead to new case law that benefits not only their clients but also future litigants facing similar issues.
To educate the public: Tests can help educate the public about various issues, such as malpractice by insurance companies or systemic problems within a given insurance company. Through litigation, we can raise awareness and potentially influence public opinion, which can lead to positive changes in society.
Building Lawyers’ Exam Skills: Friedman believes that lawyers should develop and hone their trial skills. Taking more cases to trial gives lawyers valuable experience and helps them become more effective advocates as we develop expertise in the issues these cases present.
One of my heroes, Martin Luther King, Jr., often mentioned in his speeches that the pilots who fly jets all over the world would never be able to reach the skies if it weren’t for a dedicated, skilled and passionate ground crew. In this case, our firm had the extraordinary efforts of four non-lawyers, attorneys Agnieszka Karcz, Sherrol Hall, Christopher McTaggart, and attorney Matthew Stalcup. The trial team consisted of Mike Duffy, Jon Bukowski and Larry Bache.
This Merlin Law Group team’s success acts as a deterrent to potential insurance company tortfeasors who know that we will aggressively pursue litigation to trial. Ultimately, a policyholder law firm that takes cases to trial promotes fairness and upholds the concepts of good faith and fair dealing. These efforts are making a positive difference in the insurance industry as policyholders can hold their insurers accountable for unreasonable claims settlements.
What were the alleged primary false claims? Although there were many, the main two, in my opinion, were delays and hiding a technical report.
My impression is that the trial attorney who was brought into the case at a later stage did a masterful and professional job of defending his client. We certainly learned some lessons and will be even better prepared for our next test. You don’t get better at presenting at trial by settling all your cases.
Winning is great, sure, but if you’re going to do anything in life, the secret is to learn how to lose. No one goes undefeated all the time. If you can bounce back from a crushing defeat and keep winning again, you will be a champion one day.