Congratulations to my partner, attorney Jan Smolak, who recently settled a Syracuse personal injury case in mediation for a confidential amount above seven figures. Although we are not at liberty to discuss the details of the settlement, nor any of the specifics regarding the injury (we signed a confidentiality agreement with the insurance company), nor the exact amount, I can say that Jan, once again, did an outstanding job.
I interviewed Jan about this result after his mediation. Here’s what he said: “My client was very satisfied with the result. As usual, I can’t say much about the case because the insurance company insisted on a confidentiality agreement. But I can say this: The settlement was a win for our client. She is very happy with the result. And that’s my definition of winning.”
Why did the insurance company insist that the settlement be “confidential”? This happens a lot with large settlements. Insurance companies worry that, if word gets out that they have paid out a significant sum of money on one case, plaintiffs with similar injuries in other cases against them will hold out for more money and refuse to settle for less.
At Michaels & Smolak, we don’t like confidentiality agreements. We believe other injured victims should be able to know what their case might be worth by seeing what kind of settlement other plaintiffs achieved. But sometimes we need to sign these confidentiality agreements to get our client the largest settlement we can. We are of course ethically required to think first and foremost about what is best for our client, not for other injured victims.
Jan settled the case after he had sued the defendant, taken depositions and moved for and received a “summary judgment” ruling in favor of his client. This means he proved to the judge that the defendant was liable for the injuries without even having to go to trial. the judge agreed with him that the proof he presented on “liability” was so strong that no trial was needed. After Jan got summary judgment, the only issue for a jury was, how much the pain and suffering was worth?
At that point, the insurance company asked Jan to “mediate” the amount of money due to his client. Mediation is a formal form of negotiating a settlement out of court. Insurance companies often want to “mediate” when they are up against a lawyer with a good track record in court, to avoid the possibility of a high verdict, what they refer to as a “runaway jury” verdict.
The insurance company had every reason to be concerned about going up against Jan Smolak at trial. He has been listed in “Best Lawyers in America” and named in “Super Lawyers” for many years now. This means that other lawyers and judges rate him as a top lawyer. His settlement and verdict numbers over the years amount to many millions of dollars.
I asked Jan whether he thought some people might consider his settlement too high. “Absolutely not”, he said. “I realize that insurance company propaganda has led some people to believe that large settlements and verdicts are a “money grab” by greedy lawyers and their “exaggerating” plaintiffs. But at Michaels & Smolak we have never had a client who would not give the money back in exchange for her or his pre-injury health and well-being. This settlement was good because it was fair. It was not good because it was a windfall for our client.”
I would be remiss if I praised only attorney Jan Smolak from this fantastic Syracuse, NY personal injury outcome. Our whole law team was involved. Lawyer David Kalabanka attended the mediation with Jan and helped with the negotiations. I myself helped Jan with his summary judgment motion papers. All our lawyers met numerous times to discuss strategies for the case. Our stellar staff spent countless hours preparing pleadings, copying documents, reviewing and summarizing medical records, and setting up depositions and the mediation. That’s the way we do things at Michaels & Smolak, as a team.
In sum, I am very proud of lead attorney Jan Smolak and our whole team for this fantastic outcome!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.