How to Know When You’re Dealing with a “Settlement Mill”

Sometimes a seemingly high-powered legal firm that handles personal injury cases is nothing more than what is known as a “settlement mill.” A settlement mill is a high-volume personal injury practice that rarely takes a case to trial because they make more money by settling every case quickly. Settlement mills generally do not ultimately benefit the plaintiff. For this reason, insurance companies love settlement mills.

The Telltale Signs of a Settlement Mill

The law firm whose ads you see repeatedly on local television stations can be tempting. But keep in mind that watching the advertisement may be the only time you’ll ever see the big-name lawyer. Instead, you may be shunted off to a paralegal and never see a lawyer—any lawyer—at all. You may not even speak with one. The paralegal working your case may have quotas and be more concerned with “hitting their numbers” than helping you to the fullest extent. Instead, a settlement is often reached rather quickly, and you may feel pressured to accept it. The firm may offer to reduce their contingency fee if you will take the settlement offer, or may structure their contingency fees to be significantly higher if you insist on going to trial.

If I’m Getting a Quick Settlement, Why is This a Bad Thing?

With a settlement mill, the lawyer rarely has any intention of going to trial, so they may not adequately prepare your suit. Not preparing your case effectively means that the lawyer doesn’t really know all the facts, which can affect your settlement; a well-prepared case can gain you a larger one. Also, in some cases, your very best chances lie in going to trial. A settlement mill lawyer won’t want to do that.

Settlement mills rely on a volume of cases to make their money. Insurance companies enjoy doing business with settlement mills because they know the firm will take smaller amounts of money in order to move on to the next case. Insurance companies are often willing to pay out a few thousand dollars on hundreds of cases, even questionable ones, in order to avoid going to trial over the one case that could end up costing them millions. In such a situation, you may end up settling for much less than you deserve to recover based on your injuries and the other party’s negligence.

Settlement Mills Are Not There for You Personally

A settlement mill will not help you navigate your way through the sometimes confusing medical care and rehabilitation system. They have no advice or attention to offer you. Instead, they want to close your case quickly so they can move on to the next one. Remember, they make their money by dealing in volume, not in helping you with your injuries.

In brief: Settlement mills may not be on your side. Insurance companies are never on your side.

How Can I Avoid a Settlement Mill?

We understand that, when you are injured, you may want to move quickly if you believe you have a case. But that means you may feel pressure to get on with it—to find a law firm and make things happen—once you suspect you have grounds for a suit. One of the most important things you can do is to fight the urge to hire the first lawyer you find simply so you can move forward.

It’s better to interview a number of personal injury attorneys before you hire one. Personal injury lawyers will usually give you around 30 minutes of free consultation time where you can ask basic questions about your case and about the person who will be your attorney. While he or she will not have the details of your case and will not be able to provide you with specifics, they should be able to give you a general assessment of your case’s chances.

Always check an attorney’s background and for any history of complaints with the local bar. It’s also good to research the results that they often obtain in cases similar to your own.

Finally, don’t hire an attorney simply because you saw their name in a television ad or on a billboard. When you are seeking the best attorney for your situation, performing due diligence is critical, as is finding a good “fit.” Hire the attorney around whom you feel most comfortable and whom you believe will represent you well.