A lot more frequently these days we hear insurance companies bragging about winning more sinkhole trials. Well first of all, they are trying more of them so the numbers are bound to go up and there are more cases to select from so the odds are also bound to go up. I wanted to make a few comments on this issue. A rough guess would be that in the past insurance companies won only about 25% of sinkhole trials and in the past two years that number has, I am only guessing, risen to closer to 50-60%. What we see in response is that the carriers are really trying to use this as leverage in negotiations. I say you have to really take these numbers for what they are worth, and thats not much. First, even if carriers are winning lets say 50-60% of trials now that means they are losing 40-50% of trials. In almost any legal arena you would expect, and hope for the sake of justice, have a 50/50 split on wins at trial. Thats really what you would expect out of a fair and just legal system anyways. So the reality is that the carriers aren’t getting the upper hand, they have simply been able to bring the balance back to level. Next, you must remember that even in cases the carriers win they spend an increased amount of money on expert and legal fees and on the cases they lose the pay for the homeowners expert and legal fees on top of their own. So in reality, even winning more trials actually costs them more money. I understand the concept that each side really has to take some cases to trial every year to keep the “balance” and so I personally have no issues with the carriers taking more cases to trial. It’s how this system should work and proves that it is fair and working properly.
The thing I would caution about is carriers claims about about how many trials they are actually winning. Remember this, as the homeowner you are bringing the claim. The insurance company has the ability to pay you or not pay you. In other words, it is a bit of a one way street when it comes to selecting a case to go to trial. If a case is really bad for a carrier, they can get out of it any time. They just have to pay the claim and then take their chances at a hearing on attorney fees. We have had countless cases like this including ones where the carrier bailed out literally just hours before trial but, you don’t hear about these cases. On the other hand, if they think they have a case they can win they can just not offer any money (or very little). This guaranties they will go to trial. When you look at it that way, the carriers basically can hand pick cases they, and only they, want to go to trial. Really good cases in favor of homeowners will never go to trial. They will always settle because the carrier can just pull the plug whenever they want. That means no wonderful case in favor of a homeowner will ever go to trial and every single case that goes to trial is one that the carriers were sure they were going to win, and they still only won half of them.