Resource Center

Verdicts and Settlements

There are only two ways to receive payments from insurance companies: if they do so voluntarily (a settlement), or if we take them to trial and beat them and they are ordered to pay (an award). While it may seem like a situation of six of one, half dozen of the other, it really is not. In fact, the distinctions are very significant and can have an important impact on how a claim is litigated, and whether or not an injured Iowan should resolve his case. Accordingly, the following considerations are important to note with respect to awards and settlements.


First and foremost, the timing of settlements and awards can very greatly. A settlement can be reached at any time following an injury occurring as a result of a car accident. It should be certainly noted that an insurance company is never going to pay top dollar on a claim within days of an accident unless the injuries are extraordinarily minor. However, in some instances and based upon an individual’s goals, it may be appropriate to settle a case even for less than top dollar if payment can be received much sooner as a result of not needing to wait for a trial.

For example, if an insurance company offered a reasonable amount prior to filing a lawsuit, in some instances it may be advisable for a Plaintiff to resolve the case for such sum as opposed to waiting 18 months or more for the chance to receive more given that the claimant might also receive less.

On the other hand, a plaintiff in an automobile accident case is likely looking at upwards of 18 months before a case is submitted to a jury, although the exact amount of time varies widely based upon the jurisdiction and circumstances of the case. Accordingly, all things being equal including the amount received, (which they are certainly not) it would be better to settle the matter than wait for an award from a jury.


If we knew the answer to this, we never would have to wait – most of this wouldn’t be an issue. Obviously, if you have an amount on the table or, in other words, your experienced auto accident attorney has gotten the insurance company to offer their absolute top dollar, you know exactly how much you can have at that point. On the other hand, if the matter is submitted to a jury, no matter how well-presented the case, you never know for sure what a jury is going to award, if any at all. So the difference here is risk.

In some instances it may be worthwhile to a claimant to risk an amount of money that has been offered for the chance to receive significantly more. On the other hand some folks believe that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and as long as an offer is in the ball park, it is worth getting the matter resolved.


Another strength of the settlement is that it gives you some control over the payment including when it is received and how it is structured. For example, awards for compensatory damages like medical bills can have much different tax treatment than awards for lost wages. When settling a case, what damages an insurance company agrees to pay for can be negotiated just like the amount. When a case is submitted to a jury, whatever they award is how it will be structured. So while taxes must be filed and paid appropriately, sometimes a settlement might have better tax implications than does an award. (For a complete discussion on tax implications of awards, please refer to Taxes, Awards & Settlements).

Also, should you take a case to trial and receive a verdict, that decision can be appealed in certain instances. Accordingly, you might be looking at another 1 to 2 years or even longer depending upon the extent of the appeal process. Settlements on the other hand are not appealed and as such are once again much less risky. Having a control over the settlement process can be a big benefit depending on the circumstances and may or may not encourage someone to avoid the risk of trial.

Upside Potential

One big reason to take a case to trial is for the opportunity of a big jury verdict. You have probably read about extraordinary sums of money that people have won by going to trial. While these are certainly dramatized by the media, they do happen. They do NOT happen nearly as often as most people tend to think. Only the most extraordinary verdicts are generally reported upon, and as such people tend to think that juries are more generous than they tend to be in reality.

However, like many investments, trials are high risk and can be high reward. And I can guarantee you that an insurance company has never paid way more than what they think a claim is worth just to be nice! For those who can afford to take the risk or who merely want the opportunity to have their case heard, trial is worth the time and expense.

Time and Expense

Trials are difficult. They are trying physically and emotionally. They can include personal and character attacks by opposing counsel on you and your friends and family. While competent counsel can mitigate some of these issues, they cannot be prevented entirely in all cases. And even the simplest of trials requires a lot of time and money during preparation. The toll that trials can take is not worth the potential reward for some.


For all of their practical differences, settlements and awards are both, in their simplest form payment from an insurance company. Accordingly they also have similarities. Both will terminate any additional or further causes of action against the same person or company for the same claim. They also both generally terminate the litigation process, unless some type of appeal is filed as is set forth above. So once you receive your money, the process is substantially concluded.

Settlement or Trial?

Ultimately, there is no right answer for whether to settle a case, or take it to trial. Most importantly, you need to have an attorney that is adept at negotiating favorable settlements. But it is also imperative that you have an attorney that is willing to and does take cases to trial on a regular basis. If not, something as seemingly meaningless as your attorneys reputation with an insurance company or defense firm could compromise the value of your claim! Accordingly, the best solution is to sit down with your experienced car accident attorney and determine the best course of action for your individual claim.

10 Initial Steps Everyone Needs to Know if They Are in an Auto Accident

Accident Check List

1. Stop Your Vehicle

No matter what type of vehicle you are operating – whether it is a moped or a semi tractor trailer – you are required by law to stop your vehicle after an accident or collision. No matter how minor the damage and even if you feel that no damage has been done at all, you are required by law to stop your vehicle. If you fail to do so, you are can be prosecuted for a criminal offense which, depending on the type of accident that is left, can result in maximum penalties of prison and significant criminal fines. Accordingly, upon becoming involved in a collision, stop as close to the site as is safely possible while ensuring not to block traffic or put you, the occupants of your vehicle, or others in harms way. It is advisable to use your emergency flashers to ensure maximum visibility and it may also be necessary to warn oncoming traffic or use cones, reflectors, lights or any other highly visible mechanism to ensure the safety of those involved.

2. Assist People in Immediate Harm

If an automobile is on fire, leaking gasoline, at risk of being hit by oncoming traffic or otherwise at risk, if it is safe to do so, provide help to remove any occupants from any immediate danger. Once again, remember to only do so if it reasonably safe to do so and any remedial actions you take will not put yourself or others in more serious danger.

3. Check for Injuries

Check to see if anyone has been injured and if so, immediately call 911. You can also use a vehicle’s emergency response button if any of the involved vehicles or others that are stopped are so equipped. Inquire if anyone present is a medically trained professional than can render assistance or first aid. If so defer to their judgment and direction. If not, do NOT move an injured person. Doing so can aggravate or lead to additional or further injuries. Comfort any injured people to the best of your abilities and wait for emergency responders to arrive.

4. Ensure Safety

Make sure that all children or anyone requiring special assistance at the scene are tended to and protected. An accident can be traumatic enough on mature adults. For children, especially if a family member or friend may be injured, the situation can seem catastrophic even if it is not. Accordingly, make sure that an adult is available to keep children and any others requiring assistance out of harm’s way and consoled and calmed.

5. Exchange Insurance Information & Call Police

You are not required by law to contact the police if there are no injuries and both parties are in agreement that it is unnecessary. However, be forewarned that all injuries or vehicle damage are not always immediately apparent. Accordingly, if an accident is caused by another driver, it is almost always advisable to call the police unless absolutely no damage is done and you are certain about that. The responding law enforcement agency, whether it is a local police department, the Highway patrol, or other agency, is trained to investigate accident scenes. Accordingly, it is very important that you are thorough in your explanation to the officer and ensure that you provide all details and observations that you remember. You are required by law to not interfere with the officers investigation by providing false information However:

6. Do Not Implicate Yourself

If you have reason to believe that the officer may suspect you of criminal activity, other than merely causing the accident, do not implicate yourself. For example, if you are under the influence of alcohol, you are NOT required to implicate yourself for OWI as you have the Fifth Amendment right to refrain against self-incrimination. For more information on Driver’s rights including the right against self incrimination, please click here: Iowa Drunk Driving Rights.

7. Gather Information

Even though it is a responding officer’s job to fully investigate an accident scene, just like any other profession, there are great law enforcement officers and ones that are much less experienced or adept at performing certain such duties. Accordingly, get as much information as you can while at the scene. Write down all of the following information that you can obtain:

  • The other driver’s information including: full name, address, phone number, cell phone number, work number, place of employment, date of birth, driver’s license number, license plate number, and auto insurance information.
  • Witness information including: full name, address, phone number, cell phone number, work number, place of employment.
  • Investigating officers full name, agency, badge number.
  • Description of the vehicles involved, where they are in relation to the accident site, nearby landmarks for reference, approximations of speed, direction and other observations, diagrams or drawings of the scene.
  • Any other important information that you think of.

If you don’t know if information is important, record it. It may not seem so at the time, but it is amazing the infinitesimally minute details that law suits turn on if it eventually must come to that.

8. Seek Medical Attention

Oftentimes a person involved in an accident doesn’t even know that they have been hurt initially. You may be in shock or just merely be overwhelmed by the situation. Regardless, if you feel that you may be injured or even if you don’t know, get checked out. If that means going in the ambulance, do so even if you don’t know whether or not you need to. If it even means going to the emergency room in the hours or days following, do that. Its much better to go to the doctor and find out nothing is working that not and not know that something is.

9. Call Your Insurance Company or Agent

Your Insurance policy will require that you notify your insurance agent within a reasonable amount of time after the accident takes place.

There is one caveat to this: If there is absolutely no damage or injury, do not call your insurance company.

Even if an insurance company does not pay out on an accident, they keep records of all such information. Also, while the information that they keep to determine rates is often proprietary or, in other words, a company secret, accidents can cause your rates to go up whether they are your fault or not. Accordingly, if your insurance company does not need to be notified (because they will not be compensating you, anyone else, or providing any service), then do not notify them.

On the other hand, should you fail to notify them and ultimately need to make a claim, an insurance company can deny an otherwise valid claim if there has been an unreasonable delay in reporting the same.

Accordingly, if you are not sure, it is better to speak to a qualified claimant’s attorney before reporting an accident.

10. Contact an Attorney

The general rule of thumb is: The more serious the accident, the more important it is to contact an attorney and the sooner you need to do so. God forbid that a loved one is seriously injured or killed in an accident. However, if such a catastrophic event takes place, an experienced claimant’s attorney, in certain situations, will employ experts as soon as minutes after an accident if promptly notified to undertake an independent and exhaustive investigation of the scene. This could be a firm employee, a private investigator, or even an accident re-constructionist, depending on the circumstances. However, the more serious the injuries, the more imperative it is to ensure that all details and evidence of the accident are properly recorded and preserved. Attorneys are available on call at 1-866-743-6652 24 hours a day for such emergency situations.

Did you Know

8 Key Facts About Insurance & Insurance Companies

1. Insurance is a For-Profit Business

Insurance companies receive your premiums on a monthly basis and send you “friendly” reminders if you forget to pay on time. In the event that you do not pay, the insurance company unilaterally terminates your agreement with them. Their goal and business is to pay out less in claims than they receive in premiums. The higher the amount of premiums they receive and the smaller the amount of claims paid out, the greater the profit margin. “Insurance” is a self serving industry where insurance companies directly control their risks and in many aspects, their profit margins.

2. The Insurance Adjuster Works for the Insurance Company

The insurance adjuster is the person who determines how much and when your claim is paid. The insurance adjuster is not the same family friend that sold you your insurance policy. They work for the insurance company and their primary allegiance is to their employer, not you. Again, the insurance industry is a for profit business.

3. Settlements Are Permanent and Final

A settlement of a personal injury claim is permanent and final. Even if additional symptoms and expenses are incurred, the majority of all settlements require a global release releasing the responsible party and ultimately the insurance company from any future liability or obligations to the settling party. There are certain situations where settlements may be set aside however, they are rare and difficult to accomplish.

4. Insurance Companies Are Not Required to be Truthful in Negotiations

Many insurance companies will tell injured people that their claim is only worth a fraction of what the true value is. They further represent to the person that their offer will not get any better even if an attorney is involved. These representations are designed to convince the injured person to settle their claim for an amount that is a fraction of what the true value may be. This is considered fair negotiation tactics which many individuals succumb to when attempting to negotiate with the insurance companies by themselves.

5. Insurance Companies Pay the Settlement or Verdict, Not the Individual Being Sued

When you file a lawsuit or make a claim for injuries suffered in a car accident, the person’s insurance company pays your damages, not the individual. This is the whole reason the law requires insurance before a vehicle can be operated on a public highway. While the individual may be named in the law suit the insurance company is bound by way of the insurance contract to defend and ultimately pay any damages awarded within the contracted for limits of coverage. Insurance is a written contract.

6. Insurance is a Written Contract

Insurance is a written contract between you and an extremely wealthy and extremely sophisticated corporation. The terms of the contract or insurance agreement that you enter into dictates what is and is not covered by insurance. Everyone should have a copy of their insurance policy along with the terms and conditions thereof and the limits available under the policy.

7. Insurance Companies and Hospitals Work Together to Lower Each Others’ Costs

Many insurance companies have now begun contracting with hospitals to pay medical expenses of their insured at amounts lower than what is billed by the hospital.

8. Insurance Premiums Are Not Increased Because Frivolous Claims Result in Unjustified Verdicts

Frivolous claims do not result in multi-million dollar verdicts despite the insurance industry’s attempts to persuade the public otherwise. An attorney is not permitted to advance a case that is frivolous, and there are pretrial procedures that permit judges to dismiss claims that are without merit. Most importantly, if a case does get to the jury no jury is going to find liability exists or award damages if not warranted. Juries are not stupid. If a jury awards multi-million dollars in damage chances are the offending party was unquestionably wrong, and the injured individual is severely and permanently injured if not dead.

Accident App

Nobody ever plans on being in a car accident.  They are unexpected, traumatic and always catch victims by surprise.  Most people do no thave a plan or even an idea of what to do if they are in an accident because they do not believe it will happen to them.  GRL Law’s Be Prepared App not only gives users a plan in the unfortuante event that they are in an accident it also helps drivers AVOID accidents by providing quick links to road and weather conditions and various travel related information.  Download it for free on iTunes or Google Play.

Lawsuit Process

So the insurance company won’t settle your claim for a fair and reasonable amount. We wish we could say this was a rare occurrence but unfortunately it is all too common.

Deciding Whether to Sue

After consulting with you experienced injury attorney such as one from GRL Law, you have decided that the best course of action is to file suit against the individual responsible for your injuries. But what does this consist of? How does a lawsuit work? What will happen? While all lawsuits are unique in the facts and law involved. The procedure of each is often similar. What follows then is an overview of what one might expect in a law suit filed in Iowa regarding an automobile accident.

Pre-Filing Investigation

An extremely important and often over-looked part of at the lawsuit is the work that goes into the suit before filing. This consists of investigation into all matter necessary to ensure that the lawsuit is filed properly and in a manner that best fits the circumstances. Sometimes, in a simpler rear-ender accident, the injuries may be relatively straight forward and the necessary investigation limited. In other cases such as semi-truck accident with fatalities, the investigation may be so complex that it is necessary to get experts such as accident re-constructionists or trucking experts involved before the lawsuit is ever officially filed. This extensive investigation is sometimes necessary to ensure that the a) the right parties are sued b) for the right things c) in the correct manner. For example, in a trucking accident case that GRL recently worked on, it was thought necessary to employ an expert well-schooled in compliance with federal safety standards for semi-trailers. This expert’s investigation revealed deficiencies in the maintenance and operation of the truck that no lawyer could have known without such a detailed analysis. It is just this type of detail oriented investigation and litigation that is what GRL Law prides itself on as separating itself from other professionals.

Initial Filings

Lawsuits in Iowa are initiated by filing a Petition. A petition, is merely a request for some relief from a Court in Iowa. In the case of an auto accident the Petition would likely set forth that the driver, owner, or other party was negligent and a as a result of that negligence the Plaintiff was injured. The Plaintiff is the one bringing the lawsuit who is asking for redress from the Court and the Defendant is the one being sued. There can be more than one of each depending on the situation. The Petition would likely go on to state that the Plaintiff was injured and damaged in a number of ways and that the Plaintiff requests monetary compensation (money) for her injuries. This is because the civil justice system generally only has one way that it can compensate a Plaintiff for a wrong committed against her, and that is money. Oftentimes plaintiffs would just as soon go back in time and have the juryprevent the truck from ever hitting her and her family. But until the Courts are able to invent a time machine, we are stuk with money as the means to make an injured person “whole” again. Which brings us to the last necessity of most civil petitions and that is a jury request. The Peition must specifically request that the matter be presented to a jury. Otherwise, a judge would decide the case alone which is generally thought to b less desirable in car accident cases.

So the Petition sets forth allegations regarding the what the Plaintiff alleges occurred and why the Plaintiff is entitled to compensation. The Defendant then has the opportunity to respond with a rpesonxsive pleading generally in the form of an Answer. In the Answer, the Defendant responds to each allegation and alleges defenses to the allegations that purport to establish, if proven, that the Defendant is not responsible for the Plaintiffs injuries or that the Plaintiff was not injured. After the initial pleadings are filed, the issues that are in dispute and must be litigated are, at least in theory, clear and the lawsuit enters the discovery phase.


Discovery is the process by which we obtain information from the other side of a lawsuit. In Iowa, the discovery limits are pretty broad. The thought is that if each side has all the information the other side has access to, then they should be more likely to be able to both analyze the merits of the lawsuit and come to some reasonable resolution. Discovery takes a number of forms but the most often utilized are:


These are written questions that are provided to the other side in a lawsuit that must be answered honestly and under oath. Each side can initially ask 30 questions but sometimes there may be less or more depending on the circumstances

Requests for Production

These are request for copies of documents and inspection of tangible things that need to be seen or analyzed. These are not limited to a certain number and often include the exchange of documentation such as medical records, medical bills, police and investigative reports, exhibits that may be used in trial, among others.


Depositions are actually statements taken by an attorney of a party or witness, under oath and often in person. Its often easiest to simply ask someone questions about a matter in person so that if you need more information or something explained in more detail, they can do so. Deposition are often taken of the parties, eye witnesses, and doctors among others

Pretrial Motions

After Discovery is completed, sometimes cases resolve. If they still don’t, each side has to prepare for trial. Certain motions or individual requests for the Court to do something or make specific ruling. are often brought prior to trial. Having an experienced injury litigator is important not only to know the procedure but to present the legal arguments necessary to ensure that your case gets presented to a jury and all important evidence is presented.


Trial is the time where each side gets to present all admissible evidence to a fact finder, generally the jury, and ask that the jury find in their favor. As counsel for Plaintiffs in automobile accident cases, we ask that the Court find the Defendant(s) liable and award money damages. The defense asks that the jury find the Defendants not liable and/or reward less than what the Plaintiff is asking for. The Plaintiff puts on all its evidence first. Then the Defense gets to put on evidence and rebut the Plaintiffs evidence. Then, generally speaking, the Plaintiff then gets to go one more time. There are opening and closing statements and the jury then decides who wins. Jury trials have been said to be popularity contests between the parties and the attorneys involved. This is once again why it is so important that you choose counsel that is best suited to prepare your case to be successful, whether it’s in pretrial settlement or an award from a jury.

Post-Trial Motions and Appeals

Cases can in certain circumstances be appealed. That process is beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice it to say, if you do not win at the trial, the case is almost always over for the Plaintiff. This is precisely why trials are so risky.

This entire process generally averages between 12-18 months in Iowa. Some claims need to be filed so that the other side gets enough information to engender a good settlement. Some cases have to be tried. Yet others can be settled before a Petition is ever filed. The one constant is that an injured Iowan needs an attorney that is well versed at all aspects of this process whether it be winning the popularity contest in front of a jury, or negositating a pre-filing resolution.

Honesty in Court Proceedings

Truth & Honesty In Trials & Litigation

Complete and direct honesty throughout the claim process is an absolute must if one is to ultimately succeed on the merits of a case. Often times attorneys and plaintiffs are painted as dishonest, money hungry characters that consider the truth in relative terms. This is done by insurance companies and defense firms who know that a jury’s perception of the plaintiff going into the case will shape their final verdict. However, this simply is not the case for an overwhelming majority of claims that are filed. A good attorney understands that the best way to increase the value of a case is to have a clean record throughout the case so that the credibility and honesty of his witnesses, and ultimately the plaintiff, cannot be impugned to the smallest degree.

Insurance companies and defense attorneys will routinely obtain a plaintiff’s current and past medical records during a claim or lawsuit. This permits them to determine whether the plaintiff is being truthful about any preexisting conditions or even the cause of their current injuries. Knowing this, providing a truthful and accurate account to doctors, law enforcement and other witnesses from the very beginning is imperative. Any inconsistencies in medical history or factual recitations can be magnified to a considerable degree. For example, if a case actually goes to jury trial, the jury is instructed as follows:

Credibility of the Witnesses

You will decide the facts from the evidence. Consider the evidence using your observations, common sense and experience. You must try to reconcile any conflicts in the evidence; but, if you cannot, you will accept the evidence you find more believable.

In determining the facts, you may have to decide what testimony you believe. You may believe all, part or none of any witnesses’ testimony.

There are many factors which you may consider in deciding what testimony to believe, for example:
1. Whether the testimony is reasonable and consistent with other evidence you believe;
2. The witnesses’ appearance, conduct, age, intelligence, memory and knowledge of the facts; and,
3. The witnesses’ interest in the trial, their motive, candor, bias and prejudice.

Contradictory Statement, Non-party, Witness Not Under Oath

You have heard evidence claiming [name of witness] made statements before this trial while not under oath which were inconsistent with what the witness said in this trial.
Because the witness did not make the earlier statements under oath, you may use them only to help you decide if you believe the witness.

Decide if the earlier statements were made and whether they were inconsistent with testimony given at trial. You may disregard all or any part of the testimony if you find the statements were made and they were inconsistent with the testimony given at trial, but you are not required to do so.
Do not disregard the testimony if other evidence you believe supports it or if you believe it for any other reason.

Contradictory Statements, Non-Party, Witness Under Oath

You have heard evidence claiming [name of witness]made statements before this trial while under oath which were inconsistent with what [name of witness]said in this trial. If you find these statements were made and were inconsistent, then you may consider them as part of the evidence, just as if they had been made at this trial. You may also use these statements to help you decide if you believe [name of non-party witness].

You may disregard all or any part of the testimony if you find the statements were made and were inconsistent with the testimony given at trial, but you are not required to do so. Do not disregard the trial testimony if other evidence you believe supports it, or if you believe it for any other reason.

Statements By A Party Opponent

You have heard evidence claiming [insert name] made statements before this trial while not under oath. If you find such a statement was made, you may regard the statement as evidence in this case the same as if [party’s name] had made it under oath during the trial. If you find such a statement was made and was inconsistent with [party’s name] during the trial you may also use the statement as a basis for disregarding all or any part of [party’s] testimony during the trial but you are not required to do so. You should not disregard [party’s] testimony during the trial if other credible evidence supports it or if you believe it for any other reason.

Truths & Untruths

As you can see, a prior factual statement that turns out to be incorrect or otherwise untruthful can have serious negative implications on a person’s case. It has often been said that a lie told repeatedly will not remain consistent but the truth can be told over and over with amazing consistency. That being the case, when making a claim for injuries arising out of a car accident, it must be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth from the claim’s inception. Attorneys can work with facts that may be adverse to the client’s position if they are aware of them up front, but surprises and untruths kill a case faster then the worst of facts. A witness swears to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth when taking the stand at trial, he/she should have that same mindset when giving initial statements to law enforcement, emergency personnel, doctors and their lawyers.
The accident & injury attorneys at Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm represent people who have been injured in accidents. If you or someone you love have been in an accident, please contact GRL Law’s attorneys at 515.226.0500 (or toll-free at 1.877-475-5297). When you call, an attorney will speak with you about your case, and explain Iowa’s laws pertaining to your situation. In some cases, it may be necessary to immediately preserve the evidence of the accident, invoke the help of a special investigator, or obtain statements. Time is of the essence. An attorney can take your call 24 hours a day.