HOW TO EVALUATE A PERSONAL INJURY CASE

How do you evaluate a  damage case? That is a problem we all have as
witnessed by the unwelcome adverse verdict. There is no perfect answer, but
there are some guidelines. We know that the best method is through properly conducted focus studies. We can also discuss with as many non lawyer friends who are willing to listen as we can find. Asking advice of lawyers is a hit and miss
approach as lawyers don’t think like jurors and it depends who you ask.  You can check other verdicts, but that is the least accurate method unless you have a sufficient number in the same venue to have some degree of  assistance.

We do know there are some basics. Every injury cases rests
on three legs, like a stool: (1) liability (2) damages and (3)
collectability.  If you were to make that a checklist it might look something like this using a rating scale of one to five.

1.  LIABILITY

  • How bad is the negligient action
  • How clearly can it be proven
  • What impression does plaintiff make
  • What impression does defendant make
  • What impression do key liability witness make
  • How strong  is the evidence of contributory negligence
  • How do the case facts appeal to juror basic values
  • Do the case facts have application to community protection issues

2.  DAMAGES

  • How serious are the injuries
  • How large is the eonomic loss
  • How clearly can the injuries be proven
  • What impression does plaintiff make regarding injuries claimed
  • What impresion do treating medical providers make
  • What impression do lay witnesses make

3.  COLLECTIBILITY

  • How much insurance coverage is there
  • Is there a bad faith potential claim
  • Are there any other policies
  • Are there assets that are available
  • Are there other potential defendants with coverage

To complete the evaluation you would next consider the probable range of economic loss the jury would award. Remember, the test is: How much money is a jury in the venue where I will try this case likely to award? You trying the case in that place. Not some other lawyer in some other state or venue,  Then look at life espectancy and your overeall evaluation made above as to non-economic loss. What is the probale range. Keep in mind you need to discount the probable range by the risk of loss and problems you have identified above. You have to apply subjective evaluation to end up with a range of verdict.  Settlement evaluation involves a bell curve like consideration.  There is a low  and a high probaility with a mid range.  In negotiation you keep this in mind.

This is a very simple way of evaluation and not extremely accurate bexause so much of it is subjective with no real formula. Do not overlook internet focus services as one helpful assistance to you and focus studies in general are the better method of evaluation.

About Paul Luvera

Plaintiff trial lawyer for 50 years. Past President of the Inner Circle of Advocates & Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. Member American Board of Trial Advocates, American College of Trial Lawyers, International Academy, International Society of Barristers, member of the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame & speaker at Spence Trial College
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