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Articles Posted in Personal Injury Awards

Paralysis is one of the worst injures our Maryland car accident attorneys handle.  A recent Jury Verdict Research report confirms what you would to find about personal injury verdicts for paralysis: younger plaintiffs receive higher verdicts and settlements. Plaintiffs 17-years-old and under receive a median verdict in personal injury cases of $15,500,000.

Plaintiffs 50 years-old and older receive $3,358,428. The average paralysis verdict is $13,854,992; the median paralysis verdict is $6,935,774. Approximately 65% of paralysis patients come from motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, or product liability cases. Paralysis-Verdicts

Are these big numbers?  They are.  But, really, it is never “fair” compensation in these cases.  No paralyzed client ever puts money in their pocket from a settlement or verdict and feels like justice has been done.  Because there is no amount of money that can make things right.  You just hope to get enough compensation to make your life and the lives of the people you love a bit easier.  

ankle injury car accidentsIn car accident cases, there are typically relatively “good” settlements on ankle injury cases. For our purposes here, “good” is defined as the probability of getting a reasonable settlement offer before suing.

Why are ankle injury cases easier to settle than other accident claims? But the most obvious explanation is the nature of ankle injuries. With neck and back injuries, which are common car accident injuries, people with the exact same radiological findings can have very different manifestations of pain. Given this, insurance companies tend to assume the lowest level of pain in these types of cases.

In contrast, ankle injuries are far less often the result of degenerative changes and are usually caused by trauma, rarely leading to concerns about preexisting injuries or arthritic changes. Just as importantly, they are typically objective injuries we can see in a radiology report. It also helps in reaching a value of an ankle injury for settlement purposes that the treatment of ankle injuries is generally not as involved as other car accident injuries which decreases the extent of the “you should not have gotten so much treatment” arguments from the insurance company.

Jury Verdict Research reports on a study it conducted that found that in the last ten years, the overall median compensatory award for soft tissue knee injuries, strains, and cartilage and ligament damage is $40,972. The average trial value of knee injury cases involving knee lacerations, contusions, and inflammation is $57,884 ($8,952 median). The average verdict for a knee strain case is $70,055 ($10,412 median). The average verdict for a chondromalacia knee injury (abnormal softening of the knee cartilage on the underside of the patella) is $215,434 (median is $45,000). I think these numbers are a bit low, but they are of interest to lawyers trying to determine how much is the settlement value of their knee injury case.

knee injury settlements

 Knee Injury Settlements and Verdicts

The Western District Missouri Court of Appeals last week affirmed a $ 950,000 jury verdict in a motorcycle accident case, concluding that the condition of the road during construction was the primary cause of the man’s injuries.

The jury award surprises me. Plaintiff was driving his motorcycle through an “inactive” construction zone. While passing a truck at 70 miles per hour, he lost control of his motorcycle as the result of uneven payment, a nearly two-inch difference in the grades. (Arguably that 70 mph did not help, either.)

Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged the motorcycle accident would not have occurred if there had been proper warning of the uneven surfaces. The jury largely agreed, finding the defendants 95% at fault for the accident and the motorcyclist only 5% at fault (which would lead to a defense verdict under Maryland law). http://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=51217

A California jury has awarded a $1.1 million verdict to a man who sued his landlord after a slip and fall. Plaintiff fell down the stairs at his apartment on January 1, 2010, and later developed disk injury and symptoms of lumbar strain. A houseman for a wealthy San Francisco family, Plaintiff was forced to quit his job because of the pain. Torres sued the property owner alleging that he failed to keep the stairs clear of slippery algae, and did not install a handrail, as required by local code. The owner or his insurance company let the case to trial. Bad choice. A jury awarded Torres $1,070,801 for economic losses, including $850,000 for future lost earnings. Plaintiff’s slip and fall attorney said, “If the defendant had provided the minimum protection of a building code-required handrail, at a cost of less than $100 and an hour of time, this lawsuit would have never been necessary….” This really makes you step back and think. As a retired general contractor, Fleming could have installed the handrail himself. What made him think it was worth the risk NOT to install the handrail? Plaintiff and his family had moved to the apartment in 2008 after losing his Novato home to foreclosure. Hopefully, with a million-dollar verdict, he’ll be able to find another home. Maryland slip and fall cases are now getting a bit easier to get to a jury after a recent Maryland Court of Appeals opinion that softens Maryland’s still somewhat Draconian assumption of the risk law.

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An Illinois jury awarded $1.275 million to the family of a 25-year-old woman who had almost completed her nursing degree and was killed while driving to her job at a hospital. Tired driving appeared to be the cause of the car accident: the Defendant just fell asleep and hit the Plaintiffs’ decedent.

The damages only trial lasted four days. The jury heard four grueling days of testimony from the family. Not that a tragedy like this can get worse, but this young girl had already been through a lot: surviving two kidney transplants only to be senselessly killed by someone driving down the road.

You hate to say only $1.275 million. That is a lot of money. That said, it seems like an extremely low verdict for the death of a 25-year-old girl. In Maryland, jury awards are cut in cases like this – it is unlikely there were significant economic damages for the family of this young woman. Still, juries in Maryland and in most states are not told about a cap and I think, just symbolically if nothing else, the award should be higher for a 25-year-old girl who overcomes much adversity to survive and thrive.

A critical component of damages in wrongful death car accident cases is loss of services of the survivors from the victim. Loss of services is a dumb legal expression we would do best to get rid of. Solatium damages is an awful phrase, too. But at least it does not imply in the definition that the loss is pretty much someone doing less for you. (Noneconomic pain and suffering damages is a little better, I guess. We will use that.)

In Maryland, we describe these wrongful death damages to a jury as “mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education where applicable.” Most states use similar strange language, but the gist of it is: what has really been lost – calculating everything – from the death of this person?

Here are the statistics nationally on noneconomic pain and suffering jury awards:

YEAR / STATE

Jury Verdict Research did a study that found that the average money damages verdict in a car/truck accident case brought by the passenger is $486,098. It sounds like a lot, but high (and maybe uncollectable) verdicts distort the average. The median passenger verdict is $30,000. passenger accident lawsuits Here is where it gets interesting. I think it is difficult to lose a passenger accident case. Certainly, the passenger is not responsible for the accident (ignoring for a second the “I knew he was drunk out of his mind and I got in the car with him anyway” passenger). Yet plaintiffs only receive money damages in 62 percent of passenger cases that go to verdict. I just can’t make sense of the numbers. Here is how it breaks out: Host Driver’s Negligence: 58% Both Drivers’ Negligence: 64% Driver & Business Negligence: 73% Driver & Government Negligence: 74% Passenger Suits Generally: 62% passenger accident verdicts I would love to grab a random handful of the defense verdicts and look at the fact pattern. Because it makes no sense to me. These should be very easy cases for accident lawyers to always win.  

Passenger Accident Verdicts and Settlements

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Head injuries are the most common cause of fatalities in car accidents. Jury Verdict research provides some interesting data on the median value of head injury cases, breaking down some of the different types of head injury claims:

Head Lacerations and Contusions: $10,016

Concussions: $22,638

Another interesting graph from Metro Verdicts Monthly, this time on the median verdicts in leg amputation cases for Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The District of Columbia and Maryland have comparable verdicts, $2.1 million and $1.97 million, respectively. Virginia? $500,000. I expect some verdicts in Virginia to be lower because the rural areas of Virginia have conservative juries. But one-fourth of the amount?

leg amputation verdicts

Obviously, this data is not to be taken too seriously by accident lawyers in Maryland or in Virginia, as I discussed earlier this month. But in that post, I noted that Virginia’s verdicts in femur fracture cases are twice the Maryland average. So I cannot figure out the rhyme or reason to these comparative numbers.

I think it is fair to say that with respect to pain and suffering,  you have to value a leg amputation case in Maryland on (1) the statutory cap on damages plus, (2) Plaintiff’s economic expenses. In terms of making the noneconomic damages case, it is important to consider the future costs of a prosthetic leg. Last time we tried a leg amputation accident case, we brought in a prosthetic’s expert from the client’s prosthetic manufacturer from Hanger Orthopedic in Minnesota who I thought was a very effective witness at trial.