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Settling the McKinney Dog Bite Case

The attempt to reach a resolution outside of court in the McKinney case involved putting together a settlement package. Settlement packages are a compilation of the liability facts, any witness statements, and damages. If applicable, the package may include medical illustrations or a medical summary that lays out the medical treatment to that point and what more is likely to be needed in the future. All of that was presented to the dog owner’s insurance company so it could evaluate its own case and place money in what is known as “reserve” to cover the cost of a potential resolution based on the evidence.

When an insurance company sets a reserve on a file or case, the insurance company is setting aside funds to potentially pay a claim.  Reserve funds typically have to be invested in lower return, safer investments than non-reserved funds.  Because the insurance company wants to make as much as possible in returns on premium dollars, there is a natural push back to limit those reserve funds as much as possible.  The state however will periodically audit or review a certain portion of these files or claims for adequacy.  Should the reserve be inadequate, the state can order those reserves increased.  Should a high enough percentage of those claims or files be under-reserved, the state can order across the board increases in reserves.  When that happens vice presidents of big insurance companies job’s are at risk.  So, there is pressure to have rea reserves on a case or file. One of the goals of the initial settlement packet is to make sure that evidence is developed so that the reserve is set high enough to cover the eventual settlement. In the McKinney case, the insurance company was not interested in settling at the early stage of the demand.

The pre-filing time period is the time when insurance companies are likely to engage in a settlement, but often the more exposure the insurance company has to higher damages, the less likely they are to settle that early. That was the result in the McKinney case, so a lawsuit was filed and the case went on to the discovery stage. That involves paper discovery in which interrogatories, production, requests for disclosure, and sometimes admissions are put on the table. Then depositions are taken of witnesses to tie down stories and see what the facts are.  In this stage of the case, the trial lawyer has to develop the evidence so that if the case is tried, the lawyer has what he needs in form for the trial, he knows what the other side has developed for the trial and he narrows issues and dispels misunderstandings about the evidence.  At the close of this phase all sides typically have everything they expect to have ready for trial.

Mediation

The next stage was the judge requiring a settlement conference with a mediator. If the dispute is resolved in mediation, it generally means neither party is 100 percent happy but the matter is settled. In the McKinney case, mediation failed to reach a resolution, so it went forward toward trial. Both sides prepared to pick a jury in a process known as voir dire.  As we prepared to seat a jury, the insurance company reevaluated their position and finally offered enough money to the client that it was accepted and the case was settled.

Details of the Settlement

An agreement to settle does not necessarily mean the case is close to a conclusion. The terms of the settlement must still be negotiated, and in the McKinney case, there was an issue of whether confidentiality would be part of it. Eventually, the client was happy with the settlement agreement.

The key to getting a good final settlement is in the final wording, which is the details. It begins with the major terms of the agreement with the knowledge the details will be filled in later in the process. In the McKinney case, the defendant wanted a confidentiality agreement, but the plaintiffs persisted in rejecting that demand because of the nature of the case, a need to make the community aware of the existence of a dangerous dog situation and that there are consequences for not maintaining a safe situation.

The wording of the details must be dealt with carefully, or the agreement could end up creating rights for third parties that did not exist before to seek part of the injured party’s recovery, costing the plaintiff unnecessarily. The defendant’s side also faces a prospect of potentially paying out additional funds if care is not taken in the wording to make sure that folks with valid claims against the recovery are satisfied, so the final agreement often can take much time and effort.

Was the Client Happy with the Settlement?

The McKinney client had been closely involved in legal circles for many years and was aware of the different ways the case could have turned out. In this case, she was very comfortable with the final settlement.

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Michael Taylor
Michael Taylor
19:46 12 Feb 20
McCraw Law Group is an exceptional firm and I could not ask for more than what I received with their services. All of... their staff, from the clerks to the attorneys, were extremely helpful and caring and constantly asked me if I needed anything or if I had any questions or concerns. If you need to have someone on your side and trust them to have your best interests in mind, I would place that trust in The McCraw Law Group.Would I recommend them to my friends and family? I would without a doubt.Would I like to have them on the other side of a courtroom and going against them? Absolutely Not.To the staff that handled my case, I greatly appreciate all of your work and the result speaks for itself. Thank you!read more
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Justin Hansen
12:29 07 Feb 20
The staff at the McCraw law group are second to none. They are intelligent and hard working people that will do their... best to make sure you are set to recover physically, emotionally, and financially from any injury. Thank you so much!!read more
Zane Allen
Zane Allen
04:39 18 Dec 19
I was in an accident in March and had injuries resulting from the crash. Obviously my first call was to a doctor to get... checked out but was told I was going to need physical therapy. My second call was to the McCraw Law Group. They took care of all of the grunt work so that all I had to focus on was getting better. They were very communicative about the process, and better yet, they were incredibly responsive to any emails, calls, and questions. I was very appreciative and thankful for all of their hard work. They are a great group of people to work with when you’re needing the help.read more
Elisa Dean
Elisa Dean
15:38 16 Dec 19
I recommend The Mccraw Law Group to anyone who is hurt in an accident.My experience has been wonderful. They do the... best they can to get the most from the insurance company. My communications have been with Vanessa, Suzanne and Jason.Jason is very special to me. He understood my needs and was very caring and the sweetest attorney I have ever met. He was honest and did everything he could to bring my case to a conclusion.Vanessa and Suzanne are very sweet and are there to help every step of the way.read more
Fernando Salas
Fernando Salas
19:07 10 Dec 19
First time needing a lawyer. Everything went extremely smooth and quick. Mr. McCraw went to my house after my car wreck... and I knew at that point that I was in good hands. Everyone who works there are so nice and will answer any questions or concerns you have. Thank you guys for all of your help.read more
Adelyn Braswell
Adelyn Braswell
17:02 10 Dec 19
When me and my family recently got hit by a drunk driver. They helped us with everything we needed. We had so many... questions and didn’t hesitate to answer. It was our first time with any lawyer so they made everything so easy for us, and got it all done so quick. They did everything in their power to get us all the money we deserved. They were all so friendly and I would recommend them to anyone.read more
Courtney Brooks
Courtney Brooks
16:12 12 Sep 19
I had a wonderful experience from beginning to end with the McCraw Law Group. My case was accepted and I was kept up to... date on how it was proceeding, and when it came to a settlement, we got more than expected. Everyone was very kind, the court proceedings went smoothly and I was extremely satisfied. I will definitely use them again if anything else arises.read more
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