Watching the television, you may have stumbled across the news of a large personal injury award. These items make the news every so often in the wake of a truck accident, building fire or other catastrophe. You might even have noticed that these awards appear more common now than before, so why is that case? How can these injuries be worth multiple millions of dollars?
The answer is that the awards owe to several factors. They result from the severity of the injury, of course, as well as the hard work the victims’ lawyers put into building their cases. But a recent article on Law.com suggests there’s more behind the biggest recent awards. They may also reflect the insurance companies’ increased reluctance to settle.
The value of pain and suffering
Most personal injury cases involve some numbers that are easy to understand. These include:
- Medical bills
- Ongoing rehabilitation
- Lost wages
- Auto repairs and other expenses
These numbers can all be taken from receipts and presented at court. But while there’s very little room to interpret a hospital bill, many injury cases also include damages that are harder to measure.
The most serious injuries have lasting effects upon victims and their families. As a result, they often lead to awards for pain and suffering. These awards depend on factors such as:
- Severity of the injury
- Ongoing pain
- Forced lifestyle changes
- Lasting economic consequences
- Damage to family members
The victim’s age also factors into the equation. For example, amputations and other serious injuries can affect victims for the rest of their lives. Their awards may assign dollar values to their pain and suffering and multiply those values by the number of years they’re expected to live.
Because damages such as pain and suffering are harder to measure, personal injury attorneys try to show juries how these serious injuries can disrupt victims’ lives. They work to put juries in the victims’ shoes, to help them understand the victims and their situations. And this helps the juries arrive at an understanding of the victim’s pain and suffering that is both fair and warranted.
Are larger awards part of a new, high-stakes gamble?
As Law.com noted, the number and size of these large personal injury awards seems to have spiked upward. They include multimillion-dollar awards for the victims of shootings and truck accidents, as well as for the family of a man who died in a hotel that didn’t maintain its air conditioning. The recent award of $280 million for a fatal truck crash may be the largest ever awarded against a truck company.
The insurance companies and their defense attorneys complained that the awards were unfair. They worried the high dollar amounts could upset the whole system. But the lawyers representing the victims said the insurance companies had been unwilling to settle. Instead, the companies chose to gamble at trial, and they lost.
What does this mean for accident victims?
If the insurance companies are choosing to take more of their cases to trial rather than settle, victims need to find injury lawyers ready and able to take their cases to court.
More than ever, victims might expect insurance companies to lowball them with their initial offers. And the increased odds of going to trial mean that victims will want to look for lawyers with proven records at the highest stakes.