It’s an acronym used by insurance companies to describe certain kinds of auto accident injury claims. It stands for Minor Impact, Soft Tissue. Some insurance companies have a policy of denying these types of claims, notably GEICO. What the Baltimore injury lawyer gets in response to a demand package is a letter from a claims adjuster that says “we are unable to understand the nature of the injuries claimed in light of the minor damage to the vehicles involved.” This is true even though liability may be unquestioned, like in a rear-end collision. You get more of these denials in Baltimore than anywhere else in Maryland.
The problem with this unfair claims policy is that people DO get injured in auto accidents where there is little damage to the vehicles. I suppose this policy saves the insurance companies in a macro-economics sense, otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. Insurance companies get a lot wrong, but usually, their instincts are pretty good in trying to keep their money. I think they are relying on lazy plaintiffs’ injury lawyers who settle all of their auto accident injury cases. If the only way to make a recovery on a case is to go to trial, I’m sure there are a percentage of lawyers who won’t bring these cases, especially since the possible recovery is usually quite modest.
In a micro-economics sense, this policy is worthless. These kinds of cases can be, and are, won at trial. Other lawyers in our firm have had great success in trying auto accident injury cases where there is little or no property damage. I took an informal poll around the office, and none of us can recall trying a case like this and not recovering damages (other than where there was a liability issue).
I’ve also found that being willing to try these cases is great for client relations. Clients view a MIST letter as the insurance company saying they are lying. Clients aren’t stupid- this is exactly what the carrier is doing. Nobody will return to an injury lawyer unwilling to fight for them. I actually really enjoy trying these cases. It’s a challenge, and a great way to hone your trial presentation skills.
The key to doing this successfully is exercising care in case selection and trial preparation. Obviously, there are no cases where this isn’t important, but in these cases, often that’s all you’ve got.
Take care to find out if your client has a history of prior claims, particularly for the same kind of collision or injuries. Also, review the medical records with care. If there is an ER visit, compare the complaints at the ER to the complaint made to the doctors who provided the follow-up care. Also look for objective verification of injuries, such as an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI showing a straightening of the normal lordotic curve of the spine.
Also, get to know your client. The client’s background and impression are the keys to your case. If your client is established, has a family, and has a good track record of employment, there are fewer reasons for a judge or jury to doubt her injury claim. I tried a claim like this where my client had been employed for 11 years as an ER nurse at a large Baltimore hospital, which originally diagnosed her injuries. The defense had a hard time attacking her credibility as a witness, even though she had a similar prior claim.
I’m not suggesting that injury lawyers actively seek out these kinds of cases. But on the occasions where you find yourself facing a “this is soft tissue so forget about it” defense, remember that you can try and win these cases.