We frequently hear about frivolous lawsuits (even though many of the frivolous lawsuit news and stories are fabricated or misstate the facts), but we rarely hear about frivolous defenses. Sadly, insurance companies will go to great lengths to save money – even denying liability in cases where liability is clear. We frequently see insurance company lawyers deny liability in the civil case after a local independent police department cites an individual for the crash, and even after the individual accepts responsibility through the traffic / criminal court. Just before trial, however, the civil defense attorney will almost always admit liability so that jurors are not aware of the frivolous liability argument. It is frivolous to maintain an affirmative defense until the eve of trial despite the complete lack of evidentiary support or contentions that do not align with the reality of the case.
The delay, deny, and defend strategy is used by insurance companies to wear down the injured party in hopes a settlement lower than true value is reached.
Why would a defendant wait to admit liability? There are a few reasons. First, the defense counsel has time on their side. Every day their client avoids an adverse judgement is another day of a plaintiff suffering from the hardships of medical bills, lost wages, and potentially delayed medical treatment. These factors apply pressure on the plaintiff to reach a settlement, even if the facts of the case overwhelmingly support the plaintiff’s argument.
Second, defense counsel is banking on a plaintiff’s lawyer sinking significant resources into proving the liability of the defendant. Proving a defendant was responsible for an automobile collision costs time and money, and defense counsel often believes it is not required to stipulate or admit client liability until just before trial proceedings are underway. The reality of the situation is that an untimely stipulation of liability carries real consequences to both the plaintiff and the court, depriving both of valuable resources and delaying a just outcome. Furthermore, it is within a trial judge’s discretion to award attorney fees to the plaintiff, should the judge find that a defendant improperly denied liability for the purposes of strategic benefit.
What should the injured party do when fault is denied in clear liability cases?
Good plaintiff lawyers will fight to introduce the delayed admission of liability at the trial phase, so the jury is aware of all the facts. The delayed admission and denial often increase a person’s suffering because not only are they inured, but they are now being blamed for a crash that was entirely someone else’s fault.
The Ohio court system takes any delay of justice seriously and has little patience for defendants attempting to compound the injury of the plaintiff through stall and diversion tactics. When a defendant attempts to admit liability on the doorstep of a trial, the jury is entitled to hear how justice for the plaintiff has been delayed for years, adding to their suffering for the mere sake of avoiding a just outcome for as long as possible. The added suffering can carry weight in the form of significant damages awarded to the injured person.