Monday, May 16, 2011

Persistence Pays

   In Alaska, the loser is required to pay a portion of the winner's attorney fees.  Sometimes, the defense becomes the "winner" because the amount recovered is less than the amount offered before trial.  These are hard-fought motions because the only thing worse than being an accident victim is having a court order you to "pay" for the privilege of being an accident victim.

   I spent a lot of time on one of these motions last week.  It was a complicated case in which a client had been formally offered a significant sum of money to resolve a case involving 2 injuries.  While the offer was pending, the client reached an agreement to settle the less serious of the 2 injuries on the condition that the combined settlement offer for both injuries be taken off the table. 

   The case went to trial and the jury's verdict disappointingly found fault but, at the same time, found that the client should not recover money for his losses, but also found that his ongoing medical bills should be paid as they were incurred.  While less than the client had hoped for, the recovery of future medical expenses was at least some consolation.

   Despite this small victory, the insurer proclaimed itself the winner based on the settlement offer the client had agreed would be taken off the table.  The insurer asked for $60,000 in attorneys' fees and approximately $20,000 in costs from a 100% disabled man who had not worked for 4 years. 

   At first, the judge agreed with the insurer.  Last Friday, however, the judge reconsidered and effectively changed her mind.  A lawyer has to be persistent and fight on every issue.  You have to play your hand hard.  See