Insurance companies are not set up to pay fair value. Quite the contrary. Their entire business model is premised on paying as little as possible to settle claims. And they are brilliant at it (just check the Fortune 500 list). Their efforts at money savings start with their processes for setting reserves, extend down to their claims management software, and ultimately end with their training and management of adjustors.
Which means that, in all but the most obvious cases, securing truly just compensation for a plaintiff -- particularly the catastrophically injured -- requires something extraordinary. A demand package that not only bucks the status quo that insurance adjustors are trained to expect, but that is based on a proven model of inspiring transcendent results.
Our model leverages expertise in three disciplines to inspire adjustors to write policy limits checks: Storytelling, Video, and Technology.
Every one knows at this point that storytelling is important. Human beings are the descendants of generations of storytellers. As children, stories teach us the values of our society. As consumers, stories inspire us to buy products. And as attorneys, stories carry even more unique power: the power to persuade.
But merely understanding the importance of story is not enough. Nor, for that matter, is knowing how to tell a great story. We must be able to both identify the right type of story to inspire action, and tell it well -- hitting the right chords at the right moments to trigger the response we want.
And, when it comes to inspiring action, there is one type of story that far exceeds all others in power: The Heroic Epic.
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Imagine being an insurance adjustor; the kind who handles large injury claims. You come into your office and review a series of voicemails from plaintiff's lawyers returning your phone calls and lecturing you on the law and why you're wrong about your valuation. When you finish your return calls, you review a stack of pixelated, low quality faxes awaiting your attention. Then you do your case-update calls, reaching out to claimants' lawyers to seek updates on treatment status.
Your reward for finishing these mundane tasks? The most exhausting task of your day: reviewing demand letters. These documents vary slightly, but are far more often routine and predictable: lengthy, technically worded letters that threaten litigation if you don't pay policy limits. Attached to the letter is a stack of medical records...which it's your job to pour through, mine the proper medical billing codes, and input them into your practice management software.
As you carry out these tasks, you secretly hope that the medical specials will be high enough to support a policy limits offer. Your goal isn't to save your billion-dollar corporate employer money, after all; it's to process and close claims. And nothing closes a claim more quickly than a policy limits offer approved by the computer (i.e., without supervisor approval).
But, far more often the not, the software spits out an approved settlement range that is almost certain to anger the attorneys on the receiving end, and trigger a new cycle of frustrated lecturing. And on the cases that exceed the utility of the software, either due to complexity or size, you face an even more daunting opponent -- a supervisor who will want to know what methodology you're using to value the claim. Leaving you with two choices: Engage the attorney in a sufficiently professional and friendly banter to build enough trust that you're offering every dollar you can to get the case settled, and pray that he believes it and accepts the offer; or pitch your supervisor for more authority (an action that you've learned to take very sparingly, and only in the most exceptional of cases).
This is your life. All day, every day. Phone call after phone call, file after file. Predictable, rote, uninspiring -- and, often, dehumanizing.
In an instant, however, things change. You receive a short demand letter -- one that requires less than two pages of reading before it links to a website. You open your web-browser and type in the simple domain, which features customized information about the claim and a video. The monotony is broken. Your job just got a whole lot more interesting. And, whether you realize it or not, your adventure is about to begin.
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The above description isn't a random hypothetical. It is a formulaic description of the "ordinary world" -- the first stage of a universal epic storytelling paradigm known as "The Hero's Journey." First identified by anthropologist Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey describes a shockingly predictable pattern used in thousands of epic stories that span cultures, continents, and time itself: From The Odyssey to The Matrix, King Arthur to The Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, countless stories of ordinary people performing heroic acts have followed the pattern for thousands of years.
The first stage tells the story of an ordinary person content to live his ordinary life before en extraordinary event separates him from it. The second stage follows the protagonist's trials and tribulations, leading to the actor's key moment where he will be asked to overcome his doubt and fear and take a heroic action. The third part concludes with the person returning to their world after conquering their fear, "slaying the dragon" and concluding their story.
Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Simba, Neo and Katniss Everdean have all followed this same pattern, as have countless other heroes. They were ordinary, common characters when their stories began. They only become heroes after life required them to make heroic decisions. And they have primed your adjustor to play out the saga in their own lives (even if they don't know they're doing it).
So how does this ancient storytelling paradigm relate to a personal injury claim?
These stories provide us with the perfect template for inspiring an insurance adjustor to do something heroic: to take the extraordinary risk of putting their neck on the line and recommending a settlement to their supervisor that was previously unimaginable. And this is the template we use -- consistently, predictably, and reliably -- in every case to secure above-market settlements for our clients.
Indulge us for a moment. You're sitting in the gallery of a small courtroom in Andover, Ohio. A young, plain-looking lawyer stands before a jury, pleading for justice for his client, a railway union organizer. He makes an impassioned argument for their moral and righteous judgment. A defense attorney stands up and interjects, objecting and asking the judge to order his opponent to refrain from overly emotional argument.
Looking around the courtroom, there are a few obvious signs that the scene is from another time: There are no video screens in the courtroom; there is a court-reporter transcribing everything by hand; and the judge, jurors, and lawyers are all white men. But, if you close your eyes and listen, the words you hear sound no different from the present day: The burden of proof, the objections, and the instructions to the jury are virtually identical to those spoken in courtrooms in 2019.
If the rest of the practice of law had remained as timeless as trial work has, it may not be so unreasonable to ship stacks of paper to insurance companies asking for money. After all, if it was good enough for Clarence Darrow and Moe Levine...
But, the progress-resistant time machine does not extend beyond the four walls of the courtroom.
In the world outside the courtroom Americans rely on technology for answering almost every conundrum we face. And, more and more often, we turn to video to guide us in finding answers. Entrepreneurs pitch trainings on webinars. Online education has made everyone with an internet connection into a potential college student. Social movements spring out of viral videos. And learning how to change your oil, make the perfect guacamole, or identify the strange noise your radiator is making is only a Youtube video away.
Indeed, many products no longer come with instruction manuals -- but, instead, simply provide links to online videos. After all, why read a series of written instructions when you can watch a video of someone who is wiling to show you how to do it?
The same logic applies to demand packages -- which, ultimately, are nothing more than a plaintiff's lawyer's best effort to educate an insurance adjustor as to the value of the case. That's why we produce video demands. Our clients refer to these videos as "mini-documentaries," in which we empower plaintiffs and witnesses and provide them with a platform to tell their own stories. We do so with sharp stereo sound and crystal-clear, cinematic 4K video -- both meticulously edited to provide an insurance adjustor with the most engaging visual presentation possible. And we piece it all together with explanatory graphics, to facilitate the adjustor's comprehension and assimilation of the information presented.
The end result is the most powerful argument conceivable for a maximum settlement offer: The people who have actually experienced the event, telling their own stories, in the exact medium (video) that we all use to educate ourselves every day.
The feeling is a horrible one -- a mixture of anger, frustration, and powerlessness. And, in a business in which unpredictability is a hallmark, its cause is entirely predictable: a lowball settlement offer that makes a lawyer wonder whether an insurance adjustor even read the demand.
But what if we didn't have to wonder? That question got us thinking...
We live in a world where technology delivers businesses the ability to tailor their advertisements to people standing within a 200-foot radius of their storefront; allows online retailers to identify what products we might be interested in based on our search histories; and provides advertisers with access to our social media feeds for products targeted based on search history. Even mom-and-pop web design companies now offer analytics packages that identify where viewers come from, what they do on a website, and where they go afterwards.
We might not agree with much of what Big Data has done with this technology. The genie is out of the bottle, however, and it can never be put back in. But it can be used for good. And it's difficult to imagine a better use than ensuring accountability for an industry in which insurance companies have the legal duty to their insured to do their due diligence in evaluating and assessing a claim.
That's why we host all of our demand packages on custom websites. To avail ourselves of the same technology that Big Data uses to sell us -- technology that allows our clients to know exactly what an insurance adjustor viewed (and, perhaps more importantly, didn't view).
Not much can cure the disappointment of a lowball settlement offer. Which is why it is so important to maximize the likelihood of an exceptional settlement. Because our demand packages are created to be easily absorbed, engaging, and powerful, we generally succeed at helping get cases settled.
But, in the rare instances that we don't, our clients are left with a consolation prize for their lowball settlement offer: Clear data and analytics explaining exactly what the insurance adjustor neglected to view. And we know that while there is no total cure for "lowball disappointment," a demonstrable claim for bad faith isn't a bad alternative.