Few people envision their car accident case ending in a trial, but it often does. Your case is filed and taken to court when the insurance company and your attorney cannot agree on a settlement. This happens more often than you think, particularly in cases where the medical bills are very high. This is one reason it is so important to hire an auto accident attorney with trial experience.
The Jury is the Unknown Factor in Your Car Accident Case
In trial, your personal injury case is heard by a jury. The jury is the reason it is difficult to predict how much your case will be awarded. Each jury is different, so the award amount for trial cases vary. When the jury is deliberating, they may decide to award you less, or more, than the amount pursued by you and your attorney.
If you are awarded more than your attorney requested in trial, consider it a success. The jury determined your case merits extra compensation. They likely reached this decision because your injuries were severe or you lost a lot of pay because of the accident. The extra money may be a welcome surprise, but don’t start counting your dollars yet.
The State of Virginia Says You Cannot Recover More Than You Sued For
The Supreme Court of Virginia says personal injury claimants cannot recover more than they sued for. Because of this decision, if the jury awards you more than you expected, get ready for that verdict to be changed. This may not be true in your state. If you have been awarded more than you sued for, ask your attorney about state laws that may affect the outcome of your case.
The Judge Could Change the Verdict
After they jury reads their verdict, the judge could adjust the awarded amount. This may occur in situations where the jury misunderstood part of the trial, and/or their decision is not reasonable. This will happen before you leave the courtroom. After the judge accepts the jury verdict and dismisses the case, changes will not be made. However, there is a chance for appeal.
There Might Be “Damage Caps” In Your State
The jury may decide to award you $10 million dollars, but the state limits the damage award to $40,000. You may think the jury is aware of this but they are not. In Virginia, there are no damage caps for personal injury cases unless the jury awards you more than you sue for. This means any amount awarded to you is not limited by state law. There are types of cases that have damage caps in Virginia, those are medical malpractice and punitive damages. Punitive damages are very uncommon, because your attorney has to prove the person who caused the accident acted recklessly and maliciously.
Who Pays for the Additional Award Money?
Often, the person responsible for the accident will be paying for the extra awarded to you. It is likely the amount awarded exceeds their policy limits, so the insurance company will not pay beyond what they have to. However, the defendant may have an opportunity to hire their own attorney and sue the insurance company for “bad faith”.
Suing an insurance company for bad faith claims the insurance company had an opportunity to settle the case for an amount that is within the defendant’s policy limits. Instead of settling, they took the case to trial and put the defendant at risk. If the defendant sues their own insurance company, they could appeal the results of your car accident case. If their appeal is successful, your damage award will likely change.
If you are the victim of a car accident, you can download a FREE copy of my book Five Deadly Sins that can Wreck your Injury Claim. If you have more questions about car accident cases in Virginia, call BenGlassLaw at (703)584-7277.