Understanding 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, Iscoe & Greene 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 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
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.
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?
Before 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?
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
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:
All 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:
If I am chosen for the jury in a personal injury case, what should I do?