This past week, our firm won a significant Westchester County car accident verdict in a case in which Allstate Insurance, as its custom, refused to make a reasonable offer. The case was simple. Our client, a woman in her late fifties, was hit by a car while walking to work and suffered a left hand injury, and other injuries of lesser severity. Allstate knows that attorneys are now fearful to go to trial in Westchester car accident cases, (not to mention slip and fall cases, dog bite cases or product liability cases as well), because Westchester juries tend to be very conservative and favor defendants, either because they think verdicts are too high in general, there are too many lawsuits, or their insurance rates will go up. Additionally, under the No-Fault Law in New York, plaintiffs must meet the “threshold”, which generally means that they must have a fracture, a disfigurement, or some type of permanent injury to recover any compensation. Thus, Allstate, more than any other insurance company, has a practice of forcing plaintiff attorneys to go to trial (Allstate’s strategy is well known and has been posted on various Internet sites) in the hope that plaintiffs won’t sue and lawyers won’t take cases when they see that Allstate is the insurance company for the wrongdoer.
We called Allstate’s bluff, (they offered a measly $10,000) and the jury awarded our client a total verdict of $105,000 for past and future pain and suffering. In addition to the fact that this Westchester auto accident jury taught Allstate the lesson that they will be held accountable when the evidence is there, the other positive development from this case was our experience with the new “Summary Jury Trial Program”, with Judge Gerald Loehr presiding.
Judge Loehr is an extremely intelligent and fair judge who has been assigned to run the “SJT” program, as it is known. This program allows attorneys to avoid the prohibitively excessive costs of doctor’s testimony, by allowing the attorneys for both sides to simply provide the jurors with all of the medical and hospital records instead. Secondly, only two witnesses are allowed for each side, the case is generally completed in one day (the maximum is two) and no appeals of the verdict are permitted. In the right case, especially where doctor’s testimony is not absolutely essential, the SJT is the perfect solution.