Judges and defense lawyers in personal injury cases like to warn injured plaintiffs and their attorneys that juries are often stingy or conservative in their verdicts and to not expect large compensatory awards, even in serious injury cases. However, a jury in Woburn, Massachusetts recently awarded $26.6 million to a union steward who sustained permanent, life-altering injuries while on a construction site. With accumulated interest, the award was actually $45 million.
The steward was injured on a scaffolding he was working on concerning repairs to the historic Longfellow Bridge that spans the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge. The injured man fell 5 feet through a hole in the scaffolding onto a pile of concrete debris. He was forced to endure seven spinal operations in addition to two others that resulted in his spine being fully fused together.
According to an investigation and trial testimony, the scaffolding was not fully planked at the time in violation of state and federal safety regulations. Although the injured plaintiff was entitled to workers compensation benefits in lieu of a direct lawsuit against his employer, he was permitted to sue other contractors or parties who were responsible for violating safety regulations that led to his injury.
The trial lasted eight days but the jury was out for only 3-hours before returning with its verdict. We can only surmise that the main issues in the trial concerned damages. The jury did not take much time in determining that the plaintiff had suffered traumatic injuries, a diminished quality of life, and could only look forward to a life-time of chronic pain.
Are Juries Too Conservative in Most Cases?
Judges who preside over trials and settlements do see hundreds of cases per year and are under pressure to settle cases, so that only a handful make it through a trial. Cases are expensive to prosecute. A personal injury attorney works on a contingency basis and is paid only when the matter is settled or obtains a money verdict, which can be years from the time the attorney was retained. Personal injury firms hire investigators and experts in medicine, human factors, engineering, construction, and economics that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. By taking a case to trial, the plaintiff is literally rolling the dice on the outcome even if some award is expected.
In contested liability cases, or where injured plaintiffs are less than fully truthful in their version of events or in how they handle their medical care, a jury will often be fair to the defendant by refusing to award the plaintiff anything or in returning a verdict that is far less than what was sought.
However, juries are usually more than willing to award substantial compensation to injured persons who through no fault of their own sustained serious, traumatic, and permanently disabling injuries. In many cases where our clients have suffered debilitating injuries and fault on another party was apparent, we were able to obtain significant compensation for them. We will also not hesitate to take a case to trial where insurance companies and defense lawyers believe that a jury will not compensate our clients for the amount we feel is justified under the facts of the case. In other words, injured parties can trust juries in the majority of cases to return a verdict that is just, reasonable, and that sufficiently compensates them for their medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
Of course, it also helps if you retain a personal injury lawyer who has had years of experience and has a record of obtaining substantial settlements and jury awards.
Damages in Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury damages vary greatly from case to case and depend on many factors including the nature and extent of injuries. In any injury case, you are entitled to compensation provided you prove the other party owed you a duty of care, and breached that duty of care that caused you injury. You do have the burden of proving your damages, which a skilled personal injury attorney can present in a thorough and professional manner to an insurance adjuster or jury so as to have the greatest impact.
Typical damages in an injury cases are:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Diminished quality of life
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Retain a Personal Injury Attorney from Burns and Jain
At Burns and Jain, you will have a veteran personal injury attorney who has handled countless injury claims, negotiated substantial settlements, and successfully argued before a jury for reasonable and adequate compensation for our clients. Call our office at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.