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How Do Courts Determine How Much My Personal Injury Case Is Worth?

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It’s unlikely that your personal injury case will end up in court. In fact, it is estimated that about 95% of all personal injury cases are settled before they get to court. But, there is still a small chance that you will have to go to trial. If you do end up going to trial, your attorney will present your case in front of a jury of your peers. This jury will be responsible for determining if you should receive compensation from the defendant, and if so, how much. It’s up to your attorney to prove that you deserve compensation by using the evidence to create a compelling case that shows the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries. But, the jury gets the final say as to how much compensation you will receive, which leads many plaintiffs to wonder how they make this important decision.

Reviewing Evidence

To calculate some damages, the jury will simply need to review the evidence that was presented in court. For example, the plaintiff’s attorney should have presented the plaintiff’s medical records and expenses to the jury. He should have also provided evidence that shows how much time the plaintiff has missed at work, and how much income he has lost as a result. The jury can ask to review this evidence in detail during their deliberations so they can carefully go through the expenses and add everything up. Of course, this is only done when calculating damages for medical expenses and lost wages since these are the damages that can be proven with receipts and pay stubs. Other damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life, cannot be calculated using this method.

Listening to Attorneys’ Suggestions

The anchoring and adjustment heuristic theory suggests that jurors may be influenced by how much compensation the plaintiff is seeking. Studies have shown that the more money the plaintiff is seeking, the more he is typically awarded by the jury. Why? According to this theory, the jurors use the amount of compensation that the plaintiff is seeking as a starting point during deliberations. For example, if a plaintiff is seeking $500,000 in damages, the jury may begin deliberations by discussing whether they should award the full $500,000. This is still just a theory, but most attorneys will keep this in mind when presenting their clients’ case to the jury.

Relevant Results

In many cases, the judge will allow the plaintiff’s attorney to introduce the results of other relevant cases to the jury to give them an idea of how much the plaintiff’s case is worth. For instance, let’s say you have sustained a serious back injury in a slip and fall case. Your attorney will research other cases where the plaintiff sustained similar injuries so he can introduce them to the jury. If your attorney shows the jury that other juries have awarded plaintiffs with similar injuries hundreds of thousands of dollars, the jury may be more inclined to do the same. Remember, the jury is made up of people who don’t have a legal background. Therefore, they often rely on information like this so they know they are making the right decision.

Assigning Percentages of Fault

Iowa is a modified comparative negligence state, which means a plaintiff can still recover compensation even when he is partly to blame for his injuries. But, the plaintiff will not be able to recover the full amount that is awarded to him if he is partly to blame. For instance, let’s say the jury finds that the plaintiff is 20% to blame and the defendant is 80% to blame in a car accident case. The jury also determines that the plaintiff should be awarded $100,000 for his medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In this case, the plaintiff would only receive 80% of his award, which is $80,000, because he was 20% to blame for the incident.

Once the jury has decided how much the plaintiff is entitled to receive, they must determine if the plaintiff played a role in the accident. If the plaintiff did contribute to the cause of the accident, the jury has to assign fault percentages to both the plaintiff and defendant like in the example above. This will determine whether the plaintiff’s award will be reduced due to the role he played in the cause of the accident.

It’s important to note that in the state of Iowa, plaintiffs cannot recover any compensation if the jury determines they are more than 50% to blame. This would mean that they contributed to the cause of the accident more than the defendant did, so they will not be awarded compensation.

Unpredictable Outcomes

It’s very hard to predict how a jury will react to a case, which is why the at-fault party’s insurance company is usually willing to settle out of court. The insurance company does not want to take a chance that the jury will side in your favor and award you much more than you would receive in a pre-trial settlement. It’s strongly recommended that you consult with your attorney to determine whether you should take your case to trial or accept an offer from the insurance company. Your attorney will weigh the risks involved with going to court and the review the options with you so you can make an informed decision.

If you have been injured because of another person’s negligence, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation regarding your case. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will help carefully review your case to determine what it is worth. We will work tirelessly to help you recover the compensation that you deserve, even if it means taking your case to court.

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Trial by Human

Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".