I came across a Stanford law professor’s study on the effect of “settlement mill” type personal injury law firms on personal injury case settlement results. If you’re searching for a New York personal injury lawyer, it’s worth a read! But since you probably won’t read it (it is 63 pages long!) let me summarize it for you.
Before I go any further, I’d better explain what we mean by “settlement mill”.
In the words of the law professor who did the study, a “settlement mill” is a “high-volume personal injury law firm that aggressively advertises and mass produces the resolution of claims, typically with little client interaction and without initiating lawsuits, much less taking claims to trial”.
These personal injury firms make money by quickly processing a huge volume of cases (like a “mill” churns wheat). The cases must be under-worked because preparing a case for trial takes too much time. To get the case settled, they often take much less in settlement than the client would get if she had hired a dogged lawyer prepared to fight for her all the way to the courthouse doors. The mills make their money on volume, not quality, of work.
This way of doing business differs markedly from the traditional personal injury law practice, which we at Michaels & Smolak follow. In the traditional approach, personal injury lawyers take the time to build and advance each client’s personal injury case. Even though it is time-consuming, and doesn’t bring in the fast buck, in the end the client usually fairs better at trial or in a settlement. That’s because the insurance company or its lawyer sees that we are well prepared to try the case to a jury, which could lead to a considerable verdict, and because we have uncovered nuances of the case — overlooked by the “mills” — that can make it stronger.
Traditional personal injury lawyers (like us) spend so much time on each case because we care about our reputation among the clients and the attorneys who refer us the cases. Since most of our cases come from referring attorneys and former clients, we need to continually “prove” ourselves to them. We have a smaller case load than the “mills” , but work each case more carefully and thoroughly.
In contrast, the big-advertising “settlement mill” lawyers don’t care too much about word-of-mouth reputation. They are getting their cases not from former clients, and not from referring attorneys, but from bombarding airwaves and billboard. A dissatisfied customer is no big deal — the next customer wont’ come from her referral, but from advertising.
The law professor concludes that “settlement mill” clients generally fare worse (get less money in compensation) than the clients of traditional personal injury lawyers.
Here’s a blog post from a Florida personal injury lawyer who also summarizes the Standford study (though not as briefly as I have).
Bottom line for my readers: Be careful what kind of New York personal injury law firm you hire. If they are on TV round the clock, and on every other billboard, they may be a “settlement mill”, and you might want to talk to other lawyers regarding their reputation before deciding to hire them.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central and Syrcause NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.