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Do You Really Need a Lawyer in Your Case Against State Farm

The case began when an elderly driver went through a stop sign in Millcreek, PA. A young woman and her mother were biking on the cross street. The car struck the young woman and she was thrown into the air. She landed on her head and back. Her mother and passersby rushed to her side. She had a concussion from the car accident and was groggy. She was made to lie still while emergency crews were summoned.

The EMTs soon arrived. The young woman was strapped to a backboard and taken to the emergency room. Fortunately, her concussion was a minor one and she had no broken bones. But she had significant sprain/strain injuries to her back that required narcotic medication to control the pain. After an evening in the E.R., she was released to her family and told to follow up with her family doctor.

Over the next several months, the young woman went through physical therapy and several follow-up appointments with her doctor. She steadily improved but never fully recovered. She’d reached the point where no further physical therapy was warranted and there was no surgery that could help her. But she found that her back still flared up when she exerted herself. She was able to finish her college degree and went to work full-time in her chosen career. However, this formerly active woman found herself limited in her ability to run and exercise.

The elderly driver who struck this young woman felt terrible about the bicycle accident. From the beginning, the vehicle driver made it clear that she felt responsible for the accident and for the injuries she caused. But the elderly driver was insured by State Farm Insurance Company and they did not share their insured’s sense of responsibility.

State Farm learned that the injured woman had a history of an eating disorder. They learned from her records that there were events in her life that she might not want to publish to a jury, that might embarrass her or even taint a jury’s impression of her. State Farm offered this young woman just enough money to pay her medical bills but almost nothing to compensate her for her pain and suffering or for her ongoing limitations. To people experienced in personal injury claims, State Farm’s offer was absurdly low.

The young woman didn’t know whether she was being treated fairly. She had no experience in insurance or personal injury litigation. She only knew what she was being told by the State Farm adjustor: “This is all your case is worth. We’re not offering any more.” Fortunately, the young woman had a relative who was an Erie lawyer. Her relative didn’t practice injury law and so he didn’t know whether the offer was a fair one, but he knew who he could turn to for good advice. He referred the young woman to the Erie car accident lawyers at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C.

We took the case. We’re accustomed to seeing unrepresented people get absurdly low offers from insurance companies, but even to us this seemed a ridiculous offer. When we tried to negotiate with State Farm, though, we ended up hitting a brick wall. They refused to increase their offer. “Go ahead,” they in effect said. “You’ll never try a case like this one. And you know us. Once we draw a line in the sand, we never blink. We’ll never increase our offer. Do your worst.”

The case progressed as so many do. State Farm denied that the elderly driver was responsible for the accident (even though she was plainly willing to admit responsibility). We went through written discovery where the insurance defense lawyers probed even more deeply into our client’s medical history. The insurance defense lawyer put our young lady through a deposition and we deposed the elderly woman who struck our client with her car. The elderly woman wanted nothing to do with the case. She told us at her deposition that the memory of the accident was still a nightmare for her. State Farm, however, didn’t seem to mind that they were putting their own insured through such a difficult process. State Farm paid a high-priced doctor from Pittsburgh to come to Erie and examine our injured client. The doctor wrote a report admitting that the woman was injured. Still, State Farm refused to budge.

The lawyers in the case got a notice from the Judge. Would we like to have a meeting where the Court would help us to try to settle the case? The response from State Farm? “Nope, we’re not budging.”

Finally, the case was ready for trial. State Farm videotaped their high-priced doctor for use at trial. We were scheduled to depose the first of our client’s treating physicians for use at trial. The trial itself was just a couple of weeks away.

State Farm blinked. Out of the blue, they increased their offer. The offer was one that would have settled the case had it been made at the outset. But the costs of all that litigation (for example, doctor fees for reports, as well as testimony and court reporter fees for depositions) had made it impossible for us to settle the case at that number. We rejected their offer.

Ultimately, the case settled. Not long before the trial term, State Farm offered 4.5 times what they’d initially offered. The case settled for more than what it would have cost State Farm if they had just been fair from the beginning. It settled only after costing State Farm unknown thousands in defense lawyer costs and the costs of their high-priced doctor. It settled only after putting the elderly woman who State Farm insured through litigation that would have been unnecessary had State Farm made their offer earlier. It settled only after costing the innocent injured woman unnecessary delay, grief, and expenses.

Awarded: 450% More Than the Initial Offer

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Mr. George and his entire office staff were very kind and helping me through my first ever experience with the law. He was able to get me exactly what he said he would in the outcome of my trial. The entire staff was very informative and kept me up to date on everything. Very pleased with my experience and would most definately recommend him to others.

Allison, July 8, 2017