So there I was in the massive Exhibit Hall at the ILTA conference on Wednesday. I was at the end of my last full day at the Conference. My feet hurt, and I was tired. As I previously mentioned, ILTA provided a start-up alley in the very back of the Hall. In addition to the booths, there was a stage and some chairs. Ahhh, it’s a good place to sit for a few.
As I was resting my feet, a young man took the stage for a brief pitch. He trumpeted a product that, on first blush, I thought would merely automate the drafting of demand letters for plaintiffs’ lawyers. My first reaction was that it’s not very innovative. All you need is a form and a number. But as he talked and when I met up with him later, just like removing layers of an onion, he revealed the true nature of what he was doing. The more I learned, the more I felt he was really on to something.
The man’s name was Raymond Mieszaniec, and the company he founded with two others is called EvenUp Law. In his pitch, he revealed that it wasn’t just about drafting a demand letter. What EvenUp does is use artificial intelligence along with a team of people to determine and justify the amount of plaintiff demands in personal injury cases.
Here’s How It Works
Here’s how it works. The lawyer provides EvenUp with all the relevant facts, medical and employment records, and any other important information. Using AI and data analytics, EvenUp compares those facts to verdicts and other information I will get to in a minute. The program then spits out a number. This number is vetted, according to Mieszaniec, by a group of seasoned defense counsel and former claims adjusters for validity. The group also determines if there are other factors that might influence the value of the claim.
The goal, says Mieszaniec, is to provide a realistic number to the lawyer. That number can then be justified to a claims adjuster, hopefully smoothing the way for settlement in less time and with less cost. Mieszaniec claims that the program can also review the medical records and other materials and spot missing information or inconsistencies.
That, in and of itself, is valuable. But in talking to Mieszaniec later, I discovered that there’s more. Much more. Part of the problem in using litigation analytics to value a case is the lack of data. Most cases are settled, and those settlements are private and siloed across multiple law firms.
But Mieszaniec has convinced a number of plaintiffs’ lawyers to provide EvenUp with access to those settlement numbers in an anonymized way. So, the program is looking not only at actual verdicts in cases with comparable fact patterns. It’s also looking at settlements in cases with similar fact patterns.
Since over 90% of cases settle, that’s a big deal. It opens up for analysis so much more data. Indeed, it’s the settlement value that’s often critical in facilitating negotiations and resolution. In many respects, settlement data is the holy grail of data analytics for litigation. Up to this point, it’s just been hard to access.
Why Is This a Big Deal?
Insurance companies have tons of data reflecting settlements and verdicts. But plaintiffs’ lawyers historically have not. This creates a mismatch in information. As a litigator, I found that most cases fail to settle when one side or the other (or both) don’t have the information to assess the actual value of their cases. The EvenUp program brings closer alignment on both sides on case values, which should facilitate settlement.
There’s another value to this data and analysis. To entertain settlement discussions, a claims adjuster needs to set a reserve. The reserve needs to be accurate; that is, it needs to be what the case will realistically resolve for, no more and no less.
Once properly reserved, the insurance company can adequately plan for the cost of the claim. Doing that across thousands and thousands of claims enables the carrier to pay losses and adjust premiums. This ability allows insurance companies, without which business could not function, to remain profitable and stay in business. As a result, there is no reward for an adjuster to set a reserve and then see the case resolved for more or less than that number. Accuracy is important.
The sooner an adjuster can get their hands on the information they needed to set an accurate reserve, the sooner the case can be resolved. And the less attorney fees and costs would be incurred by the carrier. Plaintiffs’ lawyers, who are generally working for a contingency fee, should have the same interest. Get a realistic number and resolve the case as quickly as possible. Of course, the injured victims, the clients, have the same interest: get to a settlement that reflects what they should expect as quickly as possible.
The beauty of what EvenUp is doing is that it brings all these interests together as soon as possible. The lawyer gets a defensible and realistic number they can take to their clients to set expectations and that they can provide to the adjuster. The adjuster gets a defensible and realistic number that can be used to set a reserve. And if a mediator becomes involved, they have a number that can be sold to all sides. The bottom line is that the only losers with the EvenUp program may be the defense lawyers paid by the hour.
But even defense lawyers should see the value and opportunity. Years ago, I did a flat fee arrangement in a national engagement for a carrier involving similar cases nationwide. It became apparent that it was in my interest, the plaintiff’s and their lawyers’ interest, and the carrier’s interest to get cases to the mediation table as soon as possible. I asked the carrier what its adjusters needed to set a reserve. Then I convinced the plaintiff’s lawyers to provide that information to me with the filing of the claim. In return, I committed we would be in mediation in 30 days.
It makes everyone’s job easier
The result? We resolved thousands of individual cases in very short order. The carrier was happy, the plaintiffs were happy, and since I was being paid a flat fee, I was happy. That’s the power of what the EvenUp program can do. As Mieszaniec put it, “it makes everyone’s job easier.”
The pressures and competition among plaintiff lawyers for good contingency cases are increasing. Tools like those provided by EvenUP help lawyers evaluate and qualify the cases it makes sense to take. It also levels the playing field with the behemoth plaintiffs’ firms and the carriers. And where the pressures on adjusters to promptly resolve claims and move files (for which they are evaluated) are also increasing, a tool that helps both sides is pretty valuable. Finally like so many things with data analytics, there will no doubt be multiple use cases developed as EvenUp gets more and more data and more sophisticated. I could foresee defense lawyers, especially the more forward thinking ones, might want to access the EvenUp tools as well.
Mieszaniec recognizes that the key to all this is building trust. All sides have to know that the EvenUp number is a good one and well supported . Everyone also has to be confident that the EvenUp process by which the number is derived is sound. In part, that’s why he has a board of experts helping him.
But the key, of course, is the data. The data doesn’t lie. That’s why getting access to settlement numbers in similar cases is so important and valuable.
EvenUp has a pretty cool idea.