Personal Injury Law Trials – FAQ

shutterstock_144519839Understanding all of the elements of a personal injury case can be confusing and intimidating. Just walking into the courtroom and sitting in the jury box can be nerve-racking. There may be terms and procedures you are unfamiliar with.

Steinger, Greene & Feiner has compiled some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help jurors and other interested parties gain a clearer understanding of personal injury cases, the people involved, how awards are distributed, etc.

Who are the parties involved in a personal injury trial?

  • Plaintiff – the injured party who is suing to get due compensation for injuries sustained in an accident
  • Defendant – typically thought to be the person who was found to be at fault in the accident; instead, this is usually the Automobile Insurance Company for the at-fault party
  • Plaintiff’s Attorney – works on behalf of the Plaintiff to secure compensation for injuries, hospital bills, ongoing care, lost wages – all possible aftereffects of the accident
  • Defendant’s Attorney – represents the Defendant/Automobile Insurance Company
  • Expert Witnesses – usually medical staff i.e., doctors and specialists who will testify as to the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries

shutterstock_66618919Plaintiff Experts – unpaid medical staff that actually provided care and services for the plaintiff in the case. These experts can attest to the injuries sustained by the plaintiff and how those injuries have affected the plaintiff and how they may continue to affect the plaintiff in the future. These experts may also testify to surgeries or procedures already performed to remedy injuries and possible future procedures that may be needed based upon the progression of the plaintiff’s physical recovery or lack thereof

  • The experts are not professional witnesses; they treat clients for a living

Defense Experts – These are medical doctors and specialists who are hired and paid for by the insurance company. Their role is to examine the plaintiff to assess and validate injuries. Referred to as ‘Defense Doctors’, they collaborate and socialize with the attorneys for the defense while commanding lucrative compensation for their medical expertise. Because of the premium they are paid for their testimony, they often working under the influence of the insurance company and not in the best interest of the injured party.  This is something to keep in mind as a member of the jury.

  • Look for a defense doctor to disclaim that the injuries claimed by the plaintiff were caused by the accident. They may even suggest the injuries were pre-existing. Understand that these experts are, by design, extremely persuasive; their livelihood depends upon it.
  • Judge – oversees the court proceedings and ensures all parties adhere to the law during testimony and presentation of evidence
  • Jurors – impartial third parties, who have been questioned and chosen by the Attorneys for the Plaintiff and Defendant to listen to the facts of the case, critically review and analyze the evidence, and consider the motivation behind each witness’ testimony.

It is important that each juror take seriously his or her responsibility to seek the truth in an effort to ensure a fair and just verdict.

Why has the case come to trial?
shutterstock_124193854Before a case goes to trial, there is usually an attempt by the Plaintiff’s Attorney and the Defense Attorney to settle the matter without going to trial. If the case proceeds to trial, it is usually because the Defendant (Automobile Insurance Company) refuses to appropriately compensate the Plaintiff for injuries suffered.

The law makes provisions for the Plaintiff to have his case presented in court by a jury with the hope that after hearing all of the facts and reviewing all of the evidence, an appropriate assignment of compensation will be reached.

How are the attorneys paid?

  • Defense Attorney – the Insurance Carrier pays for the Defense Attorney
  • Plaintiff Attorney – in Florida, Plaintiff Attorneys are paid on what is referred to as a ‘contingency basis’; their collection of payment is based solely on whether the Plaintiff has been awarded compensation. This means that if the Plaintiff loses the case and no monies are awarded, the attorney for the Plaintiff does not get paid.

Note that the Plaintiff Attorney is responsible for all costs incurred by the trial. All pre-trial preparation is done prior to ever collecting a dime; for a simple case, these fees could reach $15,000. Fees can be exponentially higher based upon the complexity of the case

  • At the trial phase, legal fees are often 40% of the amount awarded

Does the Plaintiff get the full award less the 40% attorney’s fee?

Remember, the 40% covers legal fees, not all of the other expenses the Plaintiff Attorney’s firm may have covered leading up to the trial. These trial expenses/fees could include:

  • Police reports
  • Medical records
  • Trial exhibits
  • Investigators
  • Depositions
  • Postage
  • Filing fees

shutterstock_121068853All of these costs are recovered from the award and are not included in the 40% legal fee. For instance, if a Plaintiff is awarded a $100,000 verdict based upon the facts of the case, the lawyer fees (based upon 40% contingency) would come to $40,000 – leaving a $60,000 balance.  Let’s say the pre-trial expenses (paid by the attorney) came to $10,000. That amount will be deducted from the $60,000 leaving the Plaintiff with a payout of $50,000.

Who pays the award if the Plaintiff wins the case?

The Defendant / Auto Insurance Company is responsible for payment of the award.


Is there any information that will not be shared with the jury?

In Florida, attorneys cannot share:

  • The name of the insurance company
  • Intentions to settle
  • The specified amount being sought
  • The dollar limitations of the insurance policy

If I am chosen for the jury in a personal injury case, what should I do?

  • Listen to the judge’s instructions during the trial
  • Listen critically to all of the testimony
  • Use common sense during your analysis of elements of the case
  • Look for the defense to attempt to discredit the plaintiff witnesses
  • Expect the defense’s expert witnesses to be savvy, persuasive and polished; look beyond that to the heart of the case
  • Listen to victim’s testimony – specifically for how their injuries have affected and will continue to affect their lives and the lives of their loved ones
  • Expect the plaintiff to be nervous and possibly unable to recall certain events
  • Expect the defense to seize the plaintiff’s inability to recall and attempt to discredit or disclaim their entire case based on minute elements
  • Expect the defense to attribute current injuries to prior events, if any exist
  • Take your assignment extremely seriously as your decision is going to impact someone’s quality of life

Contact a Florida Car Accident Lawyer Today

At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, our experienced car accident lawyers have the strong legal backgrounds and extensive legal knowledge that you need to have the best chance of a successful auto accident claim. Whether you are negotiating a settlement outside of court or proving your claim to a jury, you can trust us to use our legal skills to help you get the best outcome possible.
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