Attorneys You Know,
A Firm You Trust
If you have been seriously injured, you need an attorney with insurance industry experience to represent you. At Casale, Bonner, Hillman, & Southard P.C., we have the expertise to help you in your legal battle, and we have the confidence that we will succeed. If you require legal services regarding personal injury, family law, or estate planning, our team can provide the counsel you need and deserve. Located in Williamsport, PA, we serve clients throughout North and Central Pennsylvania.
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Attorneys you know, a firm you trust
“If you’re looking for a Philadelphia caliber Attorney, with a proactive no fail mindset, in a Williamsport, PA setting to actually level with you, reason with you, sympathetically understand your situation, and follow through on exactly what promises are made, Attorney Bret Southard of Casale, Bonner, Hillman, and Southard, P.C. is the one you need on your side.
You will not find a better Attorney!”
“Mr. Brian FitzCharles represented me with well-thought-out scenarios that could be in my case. He prepared me for the what ifs, the what is, and what might happen clearly and with compassion. I would retain them again.”
“This law firm defines the term customer service. They kept in constant contact with us and never let us feel like we didn’t matter. If you want someone who will fight for you and stand beside you look no further than Brett Southard and his associates. Can’t thank them enough!”
“Thorough and knowledgeable legal professionals. Used for the formation of our LLC and all of our personal real estate transactions as well as many of my clients. Would trust and recommend them for all legal needs!”
“Bret Southard went above and beyond to help me with a side swipe issue by an out of state driver. He was understanding of my situation, kind, courteous, knowledgeable, and very professional. I was taken very well care of by him and am thankful beyond words for his help and the outcome of my case.”
Why Choose Our Firm
With over 60 years of experience providing legal services around Williamsport, PA, our firm has established a reputation for excellence and obtaining positive results. We are committed to forming lasting relationships with our clients and appreciate their trust in us when they refer our practice to their family or friends. That is the greatest compliment to us.
From personal injury claims to complex family matters, our attorneys are well-seasoned in each area of practice. Regardless of the situation, we are confident in our abilities to help you get the compensation or legal protection you deserve.
How We Can Help You
Insurance Industry Experience
What many people also do not realize is that they only get one bite at the apple. Once you have settled your claim, you cannot come back later and ask for more. You may need surgery that was not initially anticipated. Perhaps that back injury never gets better, and the pain becomes progressively worse. Or maybe you discover that there is a torn muscle that was initially missed by medical professionals. Trust us, that warm fuzzy gecko will not care. Jake from State Farm won’t even visit you at the hospital!
If you’ve been seriously injured because of someone else’s carelessness, you need an experienced lawyer immediately. You need an attorney who has experience with the insurance industry – someone who knows the “tricks of the trade.” You need someone to guide you through what can be a stressful process and who can help you make intelligent decisions as to whether to settle your claim, when to settle, for how much to settle, or even whether it is in your best interests to refuse to take what is offered and proceed to litigation or even trial. We assure you that “Jake” and his shareholders are hoping you never take that step!
Insurance Company Tactics to Watch For
This may seem counterintuitive, but very often, insurance adjusters will call you early on after an accident to try to get a quick settlement. After all, they want to pay less and close their file. They benefit if your “one bite at the apple” is a small nibble. But if that fails, and you wisely get an
experienced insurance attorney to represent you, that insurance company will suddenly be in no hurry at all. Insurance companies are not known for their generosity – they don’t make money by paying claims. For every day they keep what is rightfully your money, their profits increase.
The insurance company not only makes money by trying to pay you less, but by paying it later rather than sooner, they profit on the delay by investing what is rightfully your money. Although Pennsylvania law allows for “delay damages” – interest on your verdict when it finally comes – those damages don’t begin until one year after the suit is filed. The reality is that even the most aggressive of attorneys settle most of their cases. In nearly twenty-five years of practice, it is a rare case we have seen delay damages awarded. This means that all that delay equals more money for “Jake” and his shareholders.
Delay is also a litigation tactic. Perhaps the injured party is elderly. If that person dies, the claim is generally not worth as much or perhaps is even dropped if the heirs don’t wish to pursue it. In any lawsuit, it is the plaintiff’s injured party who has the burden of proof at trial. Witnesses die, move away, or forget. Delay makes that more likely and benefits the insurance company, which does not have to prove anything at trial.
Anything But Independent Medical Examination
In most cases, the insurance company has a right to have an injured plaintiff examined by a doctor of their own choosing. On the surface, this makes sense. After all, why should they have to take the word of the injured party or his doctor? The reality is that although the industry calls this an Independent Medical Examination (IME), the examination is anything but “independent.”
The insurance companies know which doctors in a given area are considered to be “conservative” in their orientation. They know which doctors can be “counted on” to give them the opinion they want. And the insurance companies pay these “hired guns” thousands of dollars to perform an examination that is rigged against the injured party from the start. The doctors will perform “tests” like the “Waddell Head Compression Test,” which is nothing more than pressing on a person’s head in the hopes that that pressure will bring about complaints of pain, which of course, it will if the doctor presses hard enough. But the doctor will testify that such a test should produce no pain and therefore infer that the injured plaintiff is lying.
An attorney with insurance industry experience knows the doctors. Such an attorney knows the tricks and has the experience to effectively cross-examine these hired guns to minimize their impact at trial. After all, who should be believed, the doctor who has treated the patient for months or even years with no financial interest in the outcome of a case, or a doctor for hire who spends 45 minutes with an injured party and whose livelihood depends on making the insurance industry happy?
Surveillance & Monitoring of Social Media Websites
You’ve been badly hurt; you’ve been housebound for weeks, and your doctor tells you that you can perform activity “as tolerated.” Your lawn looks terrible so you decide to try mowing it. But unbeknownst to you lurking across the street in a van is an investigator hired by the insurance company to film you. You finish mowing your lawn and soon thereafter, the video of your lawn mowing is in the hands of the insurance adjuster. The adjuster is immediately suspicious because it is his job to seize on whatever he can to minimize the claim. He wonders, “How badly can this guy be hurt if he’s out for an hour mowing his lawn?”
The reality is that neither the investigator nor the adjuster has seen you for the hours and days after your lawn mowing adventure. They do not know that you are sore and putting ice on your back just to be able to sleep. I’ve seen this exact scenario play out many times. And an attorney with experience with the insurance industry will know how to refute what seems like ironclad video evidence of faking an injury. For example an experienced insurance industry attorney will know to request and obtain the “outtakes” – the hours of other video footage before and after you mowed your lawn that may show you limping – using a cane, or driving to the pharmacy for ice packs or pain relievers.
The insurance adjusters and their attorneys also monitor the publicly available portions of your social media sites, such as Facebook, and they pay particular interest to the pictures and videos.
Not only do insurance companies not make money by paying claims, but they also do not make money by hiring attorneys who are not thorough!
A word to the wise: They may well be watching.
The Preexisting Condition
Insurance lawyers and adjusters spend hours poring over an injured party’s medical records, fervently hoping to find the “preexisting condition.” You’ve had a bad fall and hurt your lower back. But you had gone to the doctor ten years ago complaining of back pain. Maybe you even had surgery back then. Now the insurance company finds that, and you can bet they will try to use it against you. Their bad sidewalk didn’t cause your back pain, they will argue. You’ve had a bad back for years!
An experienced insurance industry lawyer will know how to counter that argument as well. The law allows you to recover for the difference between what your condition was before the accident and what it is after. In addition, the law recognizes what is called the “eggshell skull” plaintiff doctrine. In other words, if someone wrongfully causes brain injury to another person who happens to have an “eggshell skull,” the person at fault is still responsible for the injury. That the injured person’s skull may have been defective does not excuse the wrongful conduct. Don’t let the fact that you may have had a prior injury stop you from consulting with an experienced insurance industry attorney.
Watch Where You Are Going!
What parent hasn’t said those very words to their children? And what adult doesn’t remember their parents telling them exactly that? The alleged fault of the injured party is a valuable arrow in the insurance industry’s quiver. Blaming the victim can be a very effective strategy, and indeed the law allows for a reduction in the value of a claim to account for the victim’s fault. In trip and fall cases, the victim is in a seemingly impossible catch-22. If the defect was small (but still caused harm), then
the insurance company will argue there was no negligence in allowing that defect to exist. If the defect is large, the insurance company will argue that it still doesn’t have to pay because the victim was at fault for not seeing it.
Make no mistake, these are tough cases, but all is not lost. With the use of the right experts, such as engineers, even small defects can be explained to be the danger that they are. Local codes are often helpful in that regard as well. For example, if the local code mandates a sidewalk elevation of no more than half an inch, the insurance company can not then argue that a one-inch elevation is “trivial.” Likewise, an experienced insurance industry attorney may well be able to get around the “watch where you are going” defense. Of course, codes exist because people do not always watch where they are going. Perhaps the victim was distracted by a display window or was carrying bags and couldn’t see the uneven sidewalk.
Once again, the insurance industry plays on guilt. “Maybe I should have watched where I was walking. Maybe I shouldn’t make a claim.” You’ve made Jake from State Farm very happy. Instead, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced insurance industry attorney, who may be able to help!
He's a Great Dog!
I even have pictures of him with my kids! Dog bites account for roughly 1/3 of all homeowners’ insurance payouts. The injuries from dog bites can be horrifying, particularly to children who like to get their faces at the same level as the dog’s head. Yet many people are reluctant to bring a claim, even for horrible disfigurement from a dog bite. They think, “It was my fault; I shouldn’t have pet a strange dog.” Or, more likely, the dog was a family pet of someone you know. Perhaps even a family member. Again, music to Jake’s ears. Cha-ching for the insurance industry!
The reality is that, at least in Pennsylvania, dog bite claims are often more valuable than one might think. For one thing, the old “one free bite rule” that allows a dog owner to escape liability for the dog’s first bite is no longer the law. Also, the law now allows a jury to find from that first bite alone the dog was so vicious that its owners must have seen this coming.
We have seen countless negligent dog owners say that their little pit bull wouldn’t hurt anyone. And we really have had them offer pictures of the dog with their kids. But an experienced insurance industry attorney knows what questions to ask to determine if the dog owner should have seen something coming. Did the dog growl at strangers? Bark? Act strangely?
These are cases that can be won, even if, by all appearances, the dog was “fine” before it bit you.
Which brings us to another reason many people never bring valid claims:
Isn’t It Wrong to Sue My Family?
Well, it depends. But the reality is that if an injured party only wants to pursue a claim against the family member’s insurance company, they can do so. We recently represented a woman whose husband had completely accidentally and totally negligently injured her severely. The husband felt terrible about the incident and still does. The client certainly wasn’t going to go to court to get a large judgment against her husband, but he had homeowners insurance. Our client’s daughter happened to encounter one of our partners at church, who advised her that her mother could pursue a claim against the homeowners’ coverage.
This poor woman was badly hurt and, in fact was in a nursing home. She wasn’t “that type of person” to pursue a claim. After all, it was her husband who had accidentally injured her. She was finally convinced to pursue a claim, and we were able to get her a sizable settlement. She was never going to pursue her husband’s assets, which after all, were held jointly with her. But she did successfully pursue the insurance coverage, which, after all, she and her husband had paid for.
Don’t let the insurance industry profit from your guilt over filing a claim – guilt they help create and reinforce! Contact an experienced insurance company attorney to see if you have a valid claim.