One question that we get repeatedly is “can I settle my Virginia auto accident case on my own?” With greater frequency lately, the answer to this question seems to be “not if GEICO is on the other side.”
All auto insurance companies function basically the same way. The goal is to bring in more money in premiums than they pay out in settlements or verdicts. Some companies accomplish this by trying to get their adjusters to a car crash victim’s house early on after the crash. Others accomplish this by holding on to their money for as long as possible by dragging out the settlement process. Lately, GEICO has started leaning heavily towards holding their money as long as possible.
Some time ago, our firm began the practice of simply filing lawsuits in cases where GEICO was involved. While most companies will review a demand package and make a reasonable effort to get the case settled before their insured is served with a lawsuit, GEICO did not really make this effort. What we would see, however, was that GEICO would make a significant increase in the offer shortly after the lawsuit was filed. This bump would usually cause the offer to get into the range of values that our client might have expected to receive at trial and so the case would settle.
Lately, however, GEICO has eliminated that practice in favor of making a dozen or more very small increases in the settlement offer during the course of litigation. It is not uncommon for us to get a call from a GEICO adjuster offering another $200 or $300 in the hopes of settling the case. As you might imagine, $200 rarely makes a difference in personal injury cases.
Most troubling, a GEICO adjuster told us recently that she “does not evaluate cases based on what will happen at trial.” We have had insurance adjusters tell us a number of silly things, but this might be the silliest. Of course you have to evaluate the case from the perspective of what might happen at trial – how else do you know what a case is worth?! Determining settlement value in an auto accident case depends on a variety of factors, all of which are viewed through the lens of “what is this case worth if I present it to a judge or jury?”
If GEICO is making such silly arguments to experienced trial lawyers who routinely take auto accident cases to the courthouse, we can only imagine the frustration that someone who is dealing with them on their own faces.