If you have a Virginia car accident case, this is likely one of the top questions on your mind. If you’ve done some “Googling,” you’ve probably seen equations and algorithms that make this answer “easy.” In our view, there’s really one overarching question that you must consider:
What would a jury do?
Stated another way, we believe the value of your case is what a jury made up of seven of your peers in the community would say it’s worth. The jurors will also have to evaluate your claim in the weird world of trials.
Remember, the jury likely won’t know who either you or the defendant are, and should have no personal connection to the case whatsoever. They will be forced to evaluate your case over a few days without your lived experience. Assuming they follow the law, they will consider the value of the case based upon the evidence before them.
While this article won’t cover every aspect of what juries consider, here’s a few big points to think about:
The jury only gets to consider admissible evidence.
The jury only gets to hear abou damages permitted by Virginia law. Indeed, Virginia employs Model Jury Instruction 9.000, which provides what you can claim:
- any bodily injuries sustained and their effect on your health according to their degree and probable duration;
- any physical pain and mental anguish suffered in the past and any that may be reasonably expected to suffer in the future;
- any inconvenience caused in the past and any that probably will be caused in the future;
- any medical expenses incurred in the past and any that may be reasonably expected to occur in the future;
- any earnings lost because you were unable to work at your calling;
- any loss of earnings and lessening of earning capacity, or either, that you may reasonably be expected to sustain in the future.
Learn more about Virginia damages here. This means that there will likely be evidence that you’ll want to present, which is inadmissible.
Even if it seems fair, alot of evidence will be excluded from trial.
For example, evidence regarding “what could have happened,” is generally not admissible in a Virginia car accident case. Indeed, I have many clients tell me that they “could have been killed,” or are worried about “what injuries could have happened” due to the accident.
To admit medical evidence regarding your injuries, generally speaking, you’ll need an expert witness willing to testify that you suffered injuries caused by the crash “to a reasonable degree of medical probability.”
This also means that your concerns about future consequences of your injuries aren’t automatically admissible. Perhaps you suffered a fracture that has since healed, but you’re worried about future arthritis. That too will require a doctor to testify to a reasonable degree of medical probability that they believe you’ll have future arthritis.
Another example of evidence not automatically admissible is the defendant’s drunk driving. Indeed, there’s a very high threshold of intoxication the defendant must have been under for you to present evidence of drunk driving.
Jurors are cynical.
When considering what those seven jurors may do, you also have to remember that you won’t know much about them. And it’s fair to assume that at least a few of them will be cynical.
Many will think all lawyers are, “ambulance chasers,” and you’re just trying to cash in on the accident. There’s a reason that jurors often have these feelings. That’s because the insurance lobby has always pushed to discredit claims and push for “tort reform.”
Indeed, I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Hot Coffee McDonald’s” case. Many of you reading this will probably recall that a lady was drinking coffee while driving, spilled some coffee in her lap, and was able to get millions of dollars for a minor inconvenience.
In reality, McDonald’s sold a 81-year-old woman a scolding cup of coffee. Despite McDonald’s having been warned time and time again that their coffee was causing severe burns, they took no efforts to protect this woman. When it spilled on the woman, it caused horrific burns on her groin and genitals areas, and almost died. Don’t trust me? Watch the documentary about it here.
Unfortunately, many jurors will be uneducated about Virginia injury claims. And may hold this preconceived notion that could have a tangible impact on the value of your case.
The location of your case matters.
I often get clients who tell me they’ve found million-dollar judgements in cases like theirs. I then ask them where the case took place. Upon looking further, they notice the case was in California, for example.
Your case jurisdiction matters. Virginia is generally a conservative state when it comes to personal injury cases. That’s not to say your case isn’t valuable, but it’s likely that no matter it’s value, it’s likely worth less than in places like Washington DC or California.
If you want to settle before trial, there’s value in that too.
So far, we’ve talked about what the value of your case is in terms of what a jury would do. If you’re reading this article, it won’t surprise me if you’re nowhere near a trial date in your case. Indeed, you may have not filed suit, or you may not have even talked to an attorney yet. Perhaps the insurance company has made you an offer shortly after your accident, and even before you’ve recovered.
At Abrenio Law, we want to be clear that to obtain full value for your case, you should not settle too soon. Indeed, you’ve generally got two years to file your lawsuit. We believe that you should wait until you have a solid understanding of your injuries and recovery to properly determine the value of your claim. (Learn why we believe you shouldn’t settle your case right after your accident here.)
However, if you’re looking to settle your claim short of going to trial, you must also factor that into the value of your claim. Indeed, there’s a premium on getting money sooner, without the cost and risk of trial. To get to trial, litigation costs will take a portion of what you’d ultimately get. And, to be clear, there’s never a guarantee you will win at trial, so there’s value in getting money with certainty.
It’s not so simple, is it?
Look, our goal at Abrenio Law isn’t to overwhelm you. It’s to provide you valuable information. Even if that information makes the answer complicated.
Believe me, I wish there was a simple algorithm that we could plug your case into and a fair value would automatically appear. However, it’s not that easy. Every case is different, every person is different, and every jury is different.
We believe that you should speak with a law firm that actually tries cases to get a solid sense of what your case is worth. And for catastrophic injuries, you need a law firm that is willing to go to trial to maximize the chance of you obtaining a fair amount for your case.
Still have questions?
Make sure to check out our Personal Injury & Criminal Defense Practice Pages where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have. James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews. Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.