Oftentimes clients like to refer to news articles about some substantial jury verdict or settlement in favor of a plaintiff in a particular case. Our advice when these comments are made is that it is very dangerous to compare apples to oranges. Literally speaking, no two cases are alike and it is difficult to compare one person’s case to another. On the other hand, the paramount goal of our attorneys is to make sure that our clients receive the best possible result given the facts of their particular case. Here, we like to compare apples to apples insofar as possible.
In order to achieve justice for our clients, we have to conduct an investigation of the facts, analyze all available and pertinent materials, compare them with the database of hundreds, if not thousands, of jury verdict research services concerning verdicts and settlements of similar cases in the past and then try to advise our clients what fair compensation would mean for their particular case. Each case has its own settlement value. If a case has clear liability such as a drunk driver running a stop sign and clear damages such as broken bones, which can be demonstrated with x-rays and other diagnostic tests, such a case is fairly easy to evaluate, however, if the case involves disputed issues of liability such as who ran the stop sign or who failed to yield and disputed issues of damages, such as did the plaintiff have a pre-existing back injury, was the back injury aggravated or is the back injury either new or non-existing injury, the case is more difficult to evaluate. As can be seen, the facts largely dictate what would constitute reasonable compensation for a particular case.
Our advice to our clients is that if they can get a settlement offer during settlement negotiations which is equivalent to or better than what a jury is likely to return in a verdict, then they should strongly consider accepting such an offer. If the offer made is less, in our judgment, than what a jury would likely award, then we usually advise our clients that they could consider rejecting such an offer. Oftentimes clients wish to settle cases even though we may not advise that they accept the offer and in some instances, clients want more than we recommend is reasonable.
In our modern age there are many different factors that determine the outcome of any particular case. Some defendants who cause great damage have little or no insurance coverage. Some clients have little or no uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Some cases involve disputed issues of liability and/or damages. Some cases involve unattractive clients and/or unattractive facts, such as a client with a drug addiction problem or criminal record. Again, all cases are unique, but the bottom line is that the facts of any given case will largely dictate what the outcome should be with the paramount goal, again, being to achieve the best possible result for any given client. What often dictates whether a just result is achieved is whether a client is represented by experienced counsel who is willing to put in the time and effort to gather all available evidence in order to properly evaluate the case, based on the facts and the applicable law, and give the best possible advice to the client. It may be that the case needs to be presented to the jury because the settlement offer being made is too low. If the client is represented by an experienced Trial attorney, who has the experience, ability and competency to marshal the evidence and present it to a jury in a compelling and persuasive manner, that is the case that is most likely to settle and, if not, presented to a jury in a manner calculated to achieve the best possible result for the client.