If you’ve been paying attention to the news, television commercials, or online ads, you’ve most likely heard about “frivolous lawsuits” for personal injuries. The insurance industry and Fortune 500 companies have been spending millions of dollars over the last three or four decades to indoctrinate the public against “frivolous lawsuits”.
The most often used example is the McDonald’s hot coffee case, in which an 83-year-old woman sued McDonald’s for burns she received when coffee spilled on her lap while she was parked in her car. Was that lawsuit frivolous? In our experience, opinions vary depending on what facts people know, or assume. Most people who think that lawsuit was frivolous assume that the woman sued McDonalds after she spilled hot coffee while driving her car. That assumption is wrong. The woman was a passenger, and the lid came off her cup because it ha not been put on properly. The coffee was dangerously hot. It was hot enough to cause third-degree burns, through the woman’s clothes, in three seconds, and was more than 30 degrees hotter than the coffee served by McDonald’s competitors. McDonald’s knew that its coffee had caused burns to approximately 700 people before this. Regardless, McDonald’s made a business decision not to reduce the temperature of the coffee because that number of burns paled when compared to the billions of cups of coffee that it sold every year.
Before trial, McDonald’s had offered to settle for $800, which was not close to the woman’s medical expenses. She had spent 8 days in the hospital and received treatment (including skin grafts) for about two years. The woman had offered to settle for what she had to pay out of pocket for her medical expenses after her health insurance paid the majority of her medical bills, but McDonald’s refused.
Your opinion may differ, but we think that lawsuit was anything but frivolous, especially because it led to McDonald’s finally changing its policy and serving coffee that was less likely to cause such horrible injuries.
While you’ll read a lot about frivolous lawsuits, no one talks about the frivolous defenses that insurance companies make when they defend their insureds. We cannot count the number of times:
- insurance companies have claimed that someone besides their insured was at fault, even when their insured rear-ends our client’s car that was stopped at a red light.
- insurance companies have claimed that they are entitled to a set-off for payments that they previously made when they had never made any payment and they obviously knew that. In fact, insurance companies rarely, if ever, make payments to the person injured by their insureds until the case settles or the jury returns a verdict. Of course, this leaves the injured person having to pay for their own medical expenses even though they’ve lost paychecks after being away from work due to their injury.
- insurance companies have claimed that our clients did not do enough to treat their injuries.
- insurance companies have claimed that our clients did too much to treat their injuries.
- the insurance company searched to find any other cause for our client’s injuries, even if it was something that happened when our client was a child and had not had symptoms of an earlier injury for many, many years.
- insurance companies have claimed that their insured had not been served the proper legal papers when they never even spoke to their insured to confirm this.
We could go on and on, but you get the point. At Kadish Twersky Law Firm, we understand insurance companies, frivolous lawsuits, and personal injury law. When you are injured, we work hard to get your medical bills paid while dealing your insurance company, so you don’t have to. As personal injury lawyers in Everett, we get our clients the fair compensation to which they are entitled.
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