Is There A Minimum Personal Injury Settlement Amount?
There is no magic number. If you had 10 different juries, you will have 10 different verdicts. I read the jury verdicts to get an idea of what different injuries are going for in terms of a monetary recovery. It is very unpredictable what a verdict might be, but you do get a feeling when you are practicing well over 40 years of a ballpark figure, you know a range, what is reasonable and not reasonable. Your attorney has to weigh against that 3-legged stool, how much at fault was your client, if your client was 80% at fault, you are going to collect 20%, how bad were the injuries, were their broken legs, were their amputations, was their brain damage or was it just soft tissue? The most important leg and that is usually the weakest leg that will hurt you, is how much insurance is available?
I always advise people make sure you have good uninsured and underinsured coverage because many people are driving around without insurance or with only the minimum of $15,000 in Arizona. When you have $200,000 to $300,000 worth of bills that is nothing. For maybe $400 a year, get your uninsured, underinsured and liability raised to $1,000,000. You can get more than that, and hopefully, you spend a little extra on insurance and never use it. I have found in 40 years plus, that there is no set number for a certain kind of injury. There is a range usually, but not a set number. People do not realize that juries are very stingy.
I have read the newspapers where this person got so much money. Those are usually made-up stories or they are exaggerated or they are appealed. They do not tell you about the appeal where the verdict gets reduced significantly. Juries are not giving away anything. They are usually average people, and small amounts of money is a lot of money to the average juror. They do not think in terms of millions or hundreds of thousands. I am not saying when the time comes, they won’t give it, but you got to really convince them and really poke them in the eyes. The case has got to cry for a high number.
It can be reversed and sent back for another trial, or it can be thrown out. Until the money or the settlement is deposited in the bank, you really have nothing. Remember also, times change and verdict amounts change. So, these are the things your lawyer knows, a good lawyer is living and breathing this every day. They are the specialists in all kinds of injury work, dog bites, airplane crashes, etc. If it can happen, it will happen. If you get a good settlement and your lawyer advises settlement, it is usually the best way to go.
Does The Severity Of An Injury Ensure The Likelihood Of Getting A Larger Settlement?
Not necessarily, but it definitely helps. We are back to the 3-legged stool. You could have an amputated leg, which is a very, very serious injury. But the insurance may not be there, or your client may have been at fault, or if they are 80% at fault, they are going to get 20%. Yes, it does help to have significant injuries, but there are counterforces that can destroy a case even with injuries that is very sad. When you get a person that is hurt severely and cannot work again, they may have to depend on social security, which is not a lot, basically not have a case or have a very limited case. They are looking at a $15,000 insurance policy and they have got $470,000 in medical bills and other expenses. So, a lawyer has to be very careful in choosing cases and explain it to the client why there are problems with this case, why it is just going to be a waste of time.
On the other hand, when a good case comes along, that you should have an attorney that is going to give his all or her all. Significant injuries that cause disability or permanent injury or you cannot raise your arm above your head, or it affects work that is a factor that would up the amount of recovery. You’ve got to constantly read the jury verdicts because times change, people change. When the economy is going through a depression, for example, people are apt to give less money. I could write a book on this. The jury goes into a room, they talk, they fight and they see it differently. Some did not like the plaintiff, and some did like the plaintiff. I hate to say it, but if they do not like you for some reason or they do not trust you, that can put a bad dent in the verdict. If they like you, it can help a lot.
They are looking at the severity of the injury, are there permanent injuries, are there future surgeries going to be required, what is the amount of the medical bills, what was the pain and suffering. In other words, how long did the misery last, was it three months and it was gone, or are you going to have it for the rest of your life, can you go back to work, can you find another type of work if you cannot do your old work, did you have pre-existing injuries. Insurance companies and juries do not want to pay for old injuries that had nothing to do with the accident. An old injury can be worsened by an accident, plus there can be new injuries, and now you might have two cases in one. You have the new injuries, and you have the worsening of the old injury. In other words, you might have had a quiet herniated disc, now it becomes unbearable to live with and you have to have surgery. This is an example of a pre-existing injury that has been worsened by the accident.
A very important factor is how does the injury affect the person’s future? If the person had reasonably good expectations of a decent life and all of a sudden, the carpet is pulled out and they cannot work, there was permanent scarring, anything miserable that you can think of, they may have a combination of several things, and it can definitely affect the jury. It depends on who the person is. There are some people that are very strong and get stronger with their injuries, but in my many years of practice, I have found very few people, if any, do well with constant pain because it will wear down the strongest people, and it will often destroy a marriage, because the spouse can only hear so much complaining. So, it really can affect a life.
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