How Does the Court Calculate the Value of My Personal Injury Lawsuit?
When you hear the term “lawsuit,” images of judges and juries may come to mind. But if you file a personal injury lawsuit, chances are that you won’t ever have to go to trial in a courtroom. Around 95% of personal injury cases are settled in pre-trial negotiations that take place outside of the courtroom. But, it’s possible that your case could be one of the roughly 5% of cases that does make it trial. If this happens, it’s your personal injury attorney’s responsibility to build a case that clearly shows why you are entitled to compensation and how much you should receive. After hearing evidence from both sides, the jury will have the final say as to whether you are awarded compensation and how much you are awarded. Here’s how they decide the value of your claim:
Review Documents Submitted to the Court
The jury usually doesn’t have to think too hard when it comes to calculating the compensation that the plaintiff should receive for her medical expenses. The plaintiff’s medical records and bills should be submitted to the court as evidence, which means the jury will be able to review them as they calculate the value of your claim. The jury should be able to follow the same process when calculating how much the plaintiff should receive for her lost wages. Ideally, the plaintiff will have provided proof of the wages that she has lost as a result of her injuries so the jury can review this evidence as well.
It’s important to note that the jury can only do this when calculating the value of current lost wages and medical expenses. Calculating the value of future medical expenses, future lost wages, and emotional pain and suffering is not so straightforward.
Results of Similar Cases
Before the jury begins deliberating, the judge may allow the plaintiff’s attorney to talk about the results of other personal injury cases that are similar to the plaintiff’s case. For example, let’s say the plaintiff suffered several fractured bones and soft tissue injuries in a car accident with a negligent driver. The plaintiff’s attorney would research local car accident cases where the plaintiffs suffered similar injuries. If he finds a similar case that ended in a $500,000 verdict for the plaintiff, he can present these results to the jury. This helps the jury get a better idea of the value of the case that they are hearing and may influence the amount of compensation that they decide to award the plaintiff. If this kind of information is not introduced to the jury, they may have no idea how much personal injury plaintiffs are typically awarded in compensation.
Taking the Attorney’s Advice
In addition to being influenced by the results of similar cases, the jury can also be swayed by the attorney’s professional opinion. In fact, the anchoring and adjustment heuristic theory states that juries’ decisions may be influenced by the amount of compensation that the plaintiff is seeking. For example, if the plaintiff’s attorney makes it clear that he is seeking $500,000 in compensation for his client, the jury may think of $500,000 as a starting point in negotiations when they start to deliberate. If this number hadn’t been presented to them, it’s very possible that they would have started much lower than $500,000. Therefore, plaintiffs that seek more compensation may end up getting more than plaintiffs that are more conservative in their demands. Of course, this is still just a theory, so it may not be effective in every case, but it’s still something to keep in mind.
Adjusting Compensation Based on Fault
California is a pure comparative negligence state, which may affect the amount of compensation that the jury awards you. Comparative negligence laws allow a plaintiff to recover compensation in a personal injury case even if she was partly to blame for the accident. However, she will not receive the full amount of compensation that she is entitled to if she is at fault.
Let’s say a plaintiff is injured in a car accident caused by a reckless driver, but the jury finds that the plaintiff was partly to blame because she was distracted at the time of the accident. If the plaintiff hadn’t been texting, she may have been able to avoid the reckless driver that was speeding in her direction. The jury assigns 20% of the fault to the plaintiff and the remaining 80% of fault to the defendant. The plaintiff was initially going to be awarded $100,000 for her injuries, but now this number has to be adjusted to account for the role that the plaintiff played in the accident. Thus, the plaintiff will only receive 80% of the $100,000, which is $80,000.
Before the jury presents its decision to the judge, they must decide if the plaintiff was partly to blame for her injuries. If she was, then specific fault percentages must be assigned to both the plaintiff and the defendant so the jury can determine how much compensation should be awarded to the plaintiff.
Some juries will come up with unexpected verdicts that take the plaintiff’s attorney completely by surprise. If you plan on taking your case to trial, it’s important to remember that a jury can be unpredictable. There’s no such thing as a “sure thing,” which is something to consider when deciding whether you should settle or risk going to trial.
Have you been injured by the negligent acts of another person? If so, contact Carpenter & Zuckerman today to schedule a free consultation with our team of experienced personal injury lawyers. We will work tirelessly to ensure that we recover every dollar of compensation that you deserve.
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