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IDENTIFYING U.S. GEMS IN YOUR PRACTICE

The article addresses ways to maximize claim value for smaller claims, where the difference between judgment value and settlement value is less than $20,000. Bear in mind that few adjusters will settle claims for more than fifty cents on the dollar without at least the threat of litigation, so it's important to know when to engage U.S. counsel to avoid leaving significant value on the table.

The following factors will significantly increase the value of a U.S. claim over a similar B.C. injury claim:

1. Wrongful Death - This is typically a seven or eight-figure claim in the U.S. as opposed to a five-figure claim under BC's Estate Administration Act. Damages include the present day value of the decedent's lifetime earnings less consumption and even fear of imminent death and pain and suffering before death.

2. Defective Products Claims - Unlike BC's negligence standard, products liability in most states is governed by strict liability - if the product is defective, the defendant is liable, period. This may be true even if the defective product injures the plaintiff in Canada.

3. Emotional Injuries - Typically very modest in BC, we once obtained a jury verdict of $1.5M for a BC plaintiff who was involved in a catastrophic accident with her family in Washington, even though her physical injuries were very modest.

4. Serious physical injuries - Generally speaking, damage awards are significantly higher in the U.S. than they are in Canada, since they are not limited by caps on non-economic claims. We obtained reportedly the highest jury verdict ever against an ICBC insured, US $9.1 M, in a 2004 Washington case.

When your client has been injured in a U.S. accident or by a defective product manufactured in the U.S., and the case involves any of these factors, you owe your client a duty to engage U.S. counsel in order to maximize the value of his or her case. This might mean simply filing a lawsuit to legitimize the threat of litigation or might very well lead to trying the case rather than settling it for a fraction of its value

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