Episode #3: Pre-Litigation Law is Legit!By Stewart J. Guss on September 10th, 2020
For this episode of the Breaking Down The Law Podcast we’re joined by Brantley Sasseen, a personal injury attorney in Houston who specializes in pre-litigation legal services. He’s joined by Breaking Down The Law Podcast host, Ashley Rodriguez.
During today’s episode we’ll be asking Brantley what goes into a personal injury claim, which is known as pre-litigation or the portion of your case that occurs before trial or settlement discussions. Brantley has over a decade of experience in pre-litigation and will share his advice on:
- Pre-litigation is the process of collecting information about an accident or injury once an individual selects a law firm to help them with their case.
- Your lawyer will assess what insurance coverages are available, try to identify the liable party, instruct additional pre-litigation investigations assignments, help the client with seeking medical care for their injuries and recovery treatments, and filing the claim with your insurance provider/s. They will also aggressively follow-up with your insurance provider and their claim adjuster to ensure your case is addressed quickly and not stuck in legal purgatory.
- Once you receive a settlement offer from the demand package sent in by your firm, you either accept the offer or your lawyer will counter depending on what your needs are.
- Benefits of pre-litigation include having more control of your outcome vs. going to trial and possibly losing without compensation. This is why pre-litigation settlements can be advantageous to secure car accident settlements.
Brantley discusses these points and so many more, so we hope you’ll join us for this episode!
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Breaking Down The Law Podcast with Stewart J Guss and Ashley Rodriguez!
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Transcript [This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors]
Intro : 0:09
Breaking down the law Breaking down the law a podcast hosted by attorneys and legal specialists discussing everyday law and how it affects regular people, regular people. Let’s break down the law with our host Stewart Gus Ashley Rodriguez. They have the inside scoop on everything legal and newsworthy.
Ashley Rodriguez : 0:35
Hey, everyone, welcome to breaking down the law. And this is Ashley and today we have a special guest with us.
Brantley Sasseen : 0:41
Hey, this is Brantley Sasseen senior executive attorney here with the firm.
Ashley Rodriguez : 0:46
Hi, Brantley, thank you for joining us. You’re a pre litigation attorney.
Brantley Sasseen : 0:51
We often refer to attorneys in terms of the duties that they handle and the truth is that there’s you don’t necessarily have pre litigation attorneys and litigation Attorneys really all attorneys are equipped to handle all of those aspects. So the distinction is more so in terms of how we compartmentalize things and the departments that we internally have. And here at the firm, we have two senior executive attorneys, and we’ve sort of divided and conquered those responsibilities. And I primarily handle everything that falls into the pre litigation side of things.
Ashley Rodriguez : 1:24
And so and it’s personal injury, right?
Brantley Sasseen : 1:26
Correct. All personal injury.
Ashley Rodriguez : 1:28
Is there a specific reason you chose personal injury? Or did you just fall into that?
Brantley Sasseen : 1:32
Little bit of both. I happen to graduate law school at a time when the economy was not great. It was 2009. And jobs were scarce. They were hard to come by. And at the end of the day, you have to make ends meet somehow. And so you kind of take whatever comes your way. And the first job essentially, that I was able to find was with really a general practice firm, but they were largely focused in Personal injury and oddly enough on the defense side at the time, so here obviously we we do all plaintiffs work, representing the people who are injured in those situations. But I started off on the other side, actually on the defense side. And from there was just able to develop some skills and some experience in that particular industry and continue with the general practice thing for a while, after eventually coming down here to Houston, and then ended up with Stewart and the rest is history.
Ashley Rodriguez : 2:29
So would you say that doing that defense side first gives you more of a unique experience to know really kind of how to help the plaintiffs because you’ve been on both sides?
Brantley Sasseen : 2:40
I definitely think so. One of the things that we see pretty commonly these days is that even though you may have an opposing attorney on the other side, on the defense side, really the entire industry has come to where different side is beholden to the insurance company. So even though you have a person with a face and a name on the other side Who’s the actual defendant who caused the wreck? Really, it’s the insurance company calling the shots and making the decisions. And there are a lot of behind the scene requirements that they have of the defense firms that work with those insurance companies as well. And having some insight into how that process works and what the communications may even be like, behind the scenes between defense counsel and insurance companies, certainly, I think affords a unique perspective to how we choose to approach things on the plaintiff’s personal injury side as well.
Ashley Rodriguez : 3:33
So since you work in the pre litigation side of things, what do you think are like the benefits of that side of the law before you get to litigation?
Brantley Sasseen : 3:43
Yeah, so the probably the most obvious benefit is the speed with which you can potentially resolve a case and a claim. Anyone who has ever experienced litigation before and it’s no secret that that process takes a long time. That’s due Due to the fact that there are certain deadlines that are simply set by the court and or the statutes that we have here in Texas, and there’s no negotiating that there’s no changing that it’s just set and you’re just stuck with it. And it’s very common that even on what seems to be an obvious case, that should be settled or an easy case, so to speak with might call it in litigation, there’s a lot of you still kind of have to go through the motions, you still have to complete certain parts of the process. And even on the quick side of things and litigation, specially here in Harris County right now with the size of the dockets that our civil courts have, that can be nine months in to the process just to get to the early resolution. If you’re looking at you know, going all the way to trial, for example, can easily be 1824 months before you you hit that trial date, and sometimes even then that trial date that you’re expecting to go, you show up or you’re prepared. for it, and it gets reset, because the court just doesn’t reach the case. So that’s the most obvious reason to try to resolve cases in a pre litigation process is that I kind of have it a lot sooner. Interesting. What I also tell people is that leaves things in your hands and you are the one essentially in control, at least to a certain extent of that settlement. At the end of the day. If you’re talking about going to court, and then especially going to trial point in time that you have a judge or a jury deciding that case, you’ve lost all control, you are going to be stuck with whatever that decision is. So sometimes it can certainly even be frustrating, you know, the insurance company may not want to pay as much as you think the case is worth or you may have a ton of medical bills and it may be tough within the insurance limits that are available to get all of that covered and still get a certain amount of money in your pocket that you think is fair. But at the end of the day, at least you still have control of that at least you can have some guarantee of I’m going to be able to receive I’m going to be able to resolve this and I’m not gonna end up in a position where I’m just stuck with everything because some other can be a game people or person have made that decision that that’s so that’s the the biggest benefit of it, I believe.
Ashley Rodriguez : 6:14
Can you kind of describe the process of pre litigation like how does it start? Where do we where would someone start? If they were, I could say in a car accident, and then they came to us and hired us, then how does it go?
Brantley Sasseen : 6:26
Yeah, absolutely. So as soon as someone is signed up with us, there’s a few things that have to happen. Initially, obviously, we’ve got to get a claim set up with any applicable insurances that are in place, and sometimes as a precursor, that it’s an investigation to find out what insurance coverages if any, are available. Obviously, there’s also going to be an investigation into the liability aspect of the case. Unfortunately, that is not always necessarily clear. At least at first glance, sometimes A police report states some facts or states that a wreck happened a certain way or even maybe assigns some fault to one party or the other. And an investigation may reveal that that’s not entirely accurate. Sometimes the insurance companies want to be difficult, they don’t want to accept liability, even in what seems to be a pretty clear case. So some additional work is sometimes required to contact some additional witnesses and basically piece together all of the evidence or information that we have available to try to present the case or the claim in the best manner possible,
Ashley Rodriguez : 7:37
because you have that they’re liable in order to have a case.
Brantley Sasseen : 7:39
Ultimately, you do have to prove that so and when we talk about proof, we’re really talking more so about when we go to court proving a certain thing. In a sense, you are proving it to the insurance company, but really at the end of the day, on the pre litigation side, it’s more about trying to present it in such a manner that you get the insurance company to accept responsibility, at least To the extent that they’ll do so. So those are sort of the first things that happen, get the claim set up, get all of the evidence that we can possibly get gathered in the initial time frame. And then other than that, we certainly help our clients try to receive the best medical care that they possibly can to start recovering from the injury. So really, you have those two things, it’s the insurance and the claim side of it. But then it’s also the the treatment side of it and recovery from your injury. So we do a lot of coordination, trying to make sure that especially for folks who don’t have health insurance, for example, that we help them find a way to facilitate still getting the medical treatment that they need. And that’s not an easy thing to navigate, especially for someone who’s never been through the process before. And that’s a big part of the service that we’re able to offer. From there, assuming that you kind of get past those initial phases. I would say the bulk of the time after that it consists of almost waiting that’s so frustrating. You never know exactly what medical treatment you’re going to require, you may not even necessarily know all of the injuries that you have. So you’re going to get in with a doctor, you’re going to get a treatment plan, you’re going to see if you start responding to some of that care. If not, they’re probably going to have to do some diagnostic testing, we’re gonna have to take a look at what those diagnostic results are, and if they have additional recommendations from there. So that can be anywhere from a couple of months to many months, or even over a year, sometimes depending upon the extent of injuries and the amount of treatment that the doctor believes is warranted. But once you reach the end of that medical treatment process, and you are sort of at the limit of either what the doctor can do for you or you have recovered to the extent that you can from those injuries, then we have a couple of different processes from there. The first one involves collecting all of your records and bills, your medical records and bills so that we can put together a complete demand package, get a complete picture of everything covered and get that over to the insurance company, depending upon how many metals providers and revolve how extensive the treatment was. That can happen anywhere as quick as you know, three or four weeks getting all of that into sometimes it can take as much as you know, eight to 12 weeks if we’ve got a whole lot of providers involved, and especially if you’ve got some hospitals and whatnot can sometimes take a bit on the longer side to actually get those records and bills.
Ashley Rodriguez : 10:19
Yes, you’re waiting for them. And you have no control
Brantley Sasseen : 10:21
we’re sort of at their mercy at that point in time, we certainly do everything we can to try to expedite that because we hate waiting and waiting and waiting. But sometimes it takes a little bit on the longer end. But once we get all of that in our demand department, which again is under my purview, as part of the pre litigation side of things, they prepare a complete demand package to be sent to the insurance company or companies that may be involved. Then we assign one of our associate attorneys to review that demand package, beef it up, tweak it make any changes that they believe are warranted and once they sign off on it, essentially and say it’s good to go. Then we have that sent out to The insurance company or companies that are involved from there, it can take normally a week or two for the insurance company to actually receive the demand. And then for actually to get into the hands or on the desk of the adjuster that’s going to be handling the claim. That’s one thing that I think a lot of folks would not necessarily expect. You think we’re mailing this demand to that adjuster. They’re going to get it as soon as the mail is delivered. It’s not actually the way it happens. Most of the time, most of the insurance companies have processing departments that may not even be in the same state and building as the actual adjuster who’s assigned to your claim. So that processing department has to receive the demand, unpack it, scan it in, and then eventually it makes its way over to the adjuster so
Ashley Rodriguez : 11:45
and we hope he’s not on vacation,
Brantley Sasseen : 11:46
we hope so sometimes they are sometimes they are but we certainly hope not. But once the adjuster gets it from there, we’re usually calling about the same time that it’s going to be in their hands maybe a little bit afterwards to number one Confirm that they’ve received it. And number two, make sure that they’re starting that evaluation at one thing that we certainly know is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And if you’re not calling, if you’re not even pestering them a little bit to be quite honest about it, then you’re going somewhere to the bottom of the pile, and you’re probably not going to hear from them for some time. So about two weeks in after we’ve mailed out that demand, we start calling the adjuster to say, Have you got it? Do you have a response for us yet? The truth is from the time that the adjuster gets that demand in their hands, it typically takes about 30 days for them to complete an evaluation, and then provide us with a response to our demand package. And suffice it to say if the response is fair, and enables us to have a reasonable conversation about potentially getting that case settled, and we’ll crunch some numbers on our side, we will communicate with our client, obviously, about any offers that come in, but certainly if we have a workable offer about what those numbers look like and then assuming we’re all able to be on the same page. There’s still some back and forth negotiation that typically happens with the insurance company with the adjuster at that point. But eventually we will arrive at a final number, so to speak. And then we will ask them to send over the final paperwork and work to get that finalized. And I won’t talk too much about the post settlement process because that’s actually it’s under my purview, but it applies equally to pre litigation and litigation. It’s kind of after the settlement happens but that’s it in a nutshell. So that’s that’s kind of the entire pre litigation process. I could talk for hours a giving the inner workings of all of that, but I think those are the highlights for the most part.
Ashley Rodriguez : 13:37
Yes, definitely a long process feel like we get it done as fast as we can. And I think that’s kind of due to we kind of have a big department. So I mean, you have several people that work for you to do this process.
Brantley Sasseen : 13:50
Absolutely. And for Mr. Guss, having done this for 20 plus years. I’ve been doing it for about a decade myself at this point. There are a lot of things when you first Start off that you just don’t know, you don’t know to anticipate that it may take a little bit longer for that adjuster to get the demand in their hands. You don’t know that this hospital is notoriously difficult, you know, and then takes, on average two months to actually provide you those records and bills. So definitely when you come here, when you’re you’re having us work on your case, you get the benefit of that experience. We know which ones are going to take a bit longer and we can anticipate that and in start certain parts of the process perhaps sooner than someone who would not be anticipating those things would.
Ashley Rodriguez : 14:34
All right Brantley. So is there anything else you think that we really need to know about pre litigation,
Brantley Sasseen : 14:39
not specifically about pre litigation? I think a question that I often get is why personal injury and I think you hinted at that a little bit earlier. I think that oftentimes personal injury, especially plaintiff’s attorneys, dealing with personal injury, get a bit of a bad rap, right. We’re the ambulance chasers. That’s what everybody knows. That’s what everybody thinks that we’re only out for the money. The truth of the matter is that personal injury is funnily enough very personal to me. When I was a junior in high school back in the 90s, my grandfather was actually killed by a driver who was under the influence. And I can just remember the, honestly, the torment that that inflicted upon upon our family at the time, it’s, you know, so unexpected, the shock of it, and then, you know, having to face the reality after the fact. And so I have personally lived that I’ve seen what that experience is like, and I know that navigating that and trying to think about, honestly dealing with an insurance company and dealing with claims and that side of things is the last thing that you really want to think about. You certainly want justice you certainly want for the person who’s caused that situation to be responsible, he’d be held responsible. But the the intricacies of it and navigating some of the more administrative side is just, again, it’s the last thing really that’s going to be on your mind. And while I hate that part of our job that we are often meeting and dealing with people in sometimes the worst situations that are ever going to have in their life, I’m happy that we can help alleviate some of that burden that they otherwise might have. And then so in that sense, it it’s a very personal thing to me. And I’m happy when we’re able to make that part of the process or make that part of someone’s life at least a little bit easier.
Ashley Rodriguez : 16:39
Yeah. And I think that it helps that you can have that personal connection with them because you understand what they’re feeling truly because you’ve been there.
Brantley Sasseen : 16:46
Ashley Rodriguez : 16:47
All right. Well, thank you for joining us today.
Brantley Sasseen : 16:51
Absolutely. enjoyed it.
Ashley Rodriguez : 16:53
And stay tuned for our next episode about the litigation process.