Guest Speaker: Richard L. Tousignant
Mediators, judges, adjusters, and defense attorneys have repeatedly told us that jurors are cheap, cold hearted and unwilling to award fair compensation in even the best fact situations.
To determine whether the sentiment is in fact true I have looked to the data provided by the Twin Cities Jury Verdict Reporter. The years used in the analysis are 1998 through 2001.
A base line needed to be established, so the cases were broken down into categories based on settlement offers. I felt that would give us the best indication of what juries were actually doing with specific types of cases. When looking at the numbers we need to keep in mind that lower settlement offers are made for numerous reasons such as, questionable liability, minimal property damage, preexisting conditions, or a claim that the injuries were not related to the auto accident.
The figures speak for themselves. Clearly, based on the data obtained from Twin Cities Jury Verdict Reporter, jury verdicts are going up.
For example, compare the $0 offer category for the years 1999 and 2000. In both years there were 62 cases tried. The average plaintiffs’ verdict in 1998 was $14,843.81, while the average verdict in 2000 was $22,661.59. This trend can also be seen in other categories and for different years.
In reviewing this information two things become glaringly apparent. First of all, we need to be a little more selective in the type of case we take to jury trial and, second, we need to try more cases to a jury. Most insurance companies do not base their evaluation on jury verdicts. Instead, they base their evaluation on prior settlements. Therefore, if we as an organization continue to accept low settlement offers then the settlement offers will continue to decrease over time.
The next time you hear that jurors are cheap, cold hearted, and unwilling to award fair compensation, use these numbers to your client’s benefit. If fair compensation is not offered, then go to the jury and let them decide what is fair.