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How Your Actions Affect Personal Injury Settlement Value

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How Your Actions Affect Personal Injury Settlement Value

Orlando personal injury case settlement value involves lots of fuzzy factors.  Most potential clients do not understand them. So I wanted to share something that most personal injury attorneys never tell their clients. But all Orlando personal injury attorneys evaluate their client when suggesting the settlement value for any personal injury case.

Regarding settlement value, after the severity of injuries, and the amount of any available insurance coverage, Orlando personal injury attorneys most strongly consider whether they have an appealing and honest client.  In other words, we want to represent nice, hard-working, honest & GOOD people.  The reason is that your personality, honesty, and behavior, absolutely can influence your personal injury case settlement value, in good or bad ways.

While doing some jury verdict research, I stumbled upon a case that illustrates this point very well.  The moral of the story is that you can’t recover a good or even fair settlement value for injuries if the jury doesn’t like, believe, and feel sympathy for you.

Personal Injury Trial Summary

In the case I found, a man was arrested by the North Miami Beach Police Department, when trying to flee the scene of a burglary.  He pled guilty to several felonies, including battery on two police officers.  He also rammed a stolen car into the police vehicle, while trying to avoid arrest.  (Are you feeling sorry for this man yet?)

Facial Laceration & Fractured Arm

Problem is, the man fractured his arm, and had facial lacerations.  So he sued the officers for his personal injuries.  He claimed that they had beaten and kicked them, and stepped on his arm.  He also testified that he didn’t resist arrest.

Defense Of Personal Injury Claim

The defense argued that the plaintiff fractured his arm when he smashed his vehicle through the window of a video store, then crashed his car into the police vehicle (yep).  The plaintiff testified that he didn’t resist arrest, yet the defendant officers beat and kicked him, and stepped on his arm.

No Juror Sympathy For This Injury Victim

At trial, the defense argued that he could have fractured his arm during the collision, or when he was taken to the ground while trying to flee arrest.

Personal Injury Jury Verdict Of Zero

Not surprisingly, the jury returned a zero verdict.

Was A Zero Personal Injury Verdict Fair?

The police may have used too much force when arresting this man.  In other words, he could have been telling the truth, so technically / legally deserved money for his injuries.  After all, the police are not supposed to use more force than needed to arrest someone.  Or, maybe the jury didn’t believe his version of the facts.  Either of those two possibilities could be true.

Jurors Are Humans And They Don’t Have To Be Fair

But there are other explanations for the zero verdict that make more sense.  The jury probably had no sympathy for this man.  They have no obligation to award a single penny.  Some might have even thought he deserved to be injured.  Even though that would not have been fair, nor the law, that might have been their impression.  Or, since he had such bad character that he would steal from others, crash into windows, and flee arrest, maybe the jury felt that he had no credibility.  In other words, they didn’t believe his side of the story, because he had proven that he wasn’t a trustworthy person.

Orlando Personal Injury Attorneys Must Decide Whether A Jury Would Like Their Clients

This case is an extreme example.  But it highlights this important point: when recommending any settlement value, Orlando personal injury attorneys evaluate whether a jury would like and believe their clients.  So, if someone says that every part of his body hurts on a pain scale of 10/10 after a minor fender bender, most attorneys would be skeptical.  Alternatively, if someone shares that they hate everyone, or seems like a disagreeable or annoying person, then most injury attorneys would be concerned that a jury might not actually LIKE the person.  None of us wants a client that the jury isn’t going to like, or believe.  So personal injury attorneys carefully evaluate people who sound excessively demanding, angry, bitter, dishonest, or who have any other very negative personality traits.

Serious Injuries May Cause Serious Anger

On the flipside, sometimes being angry, bitter, or complaining about everything, comes with the territory of having been terribly injured, due to someone else’s negligence.  Those are natural feelings and responses to being seriously injured.  So I absolutely am NOT referring to legitimate, justifiable, understandable anger, pain complaints, or even frustration and bitterness.  (Still, I have truly been amazed at the kindness and relative lack of bitterness of nearly all of my clients.)
honesty personal injury settlement value

Your Personal Injury Deposition And Trial Presentation Affects Your Case Settlement Value

Instead, I’m talking about generally being an entirely unlikable or untrustworthy person.  Most injured victims give a favorable impression.  Still, assuming there is enough available money from insurance coverage, and you really were injured, you can improve your settlement value by being a good, nice, honest, and respectful person.  This is particularly important during any deposition, when defense attorneys WILL be carefully analyzing whether they think a jury will like and feel sorry for you.  They also carefully evaluate and even test your honesty.  They do this by asking you questions based on your prior written answers to questions, your medical records, doctor testimony, and sometimes what other witnesses have said.  In other words, during your personal injury deposition, they seek inconsistencies between what you say, and what other evidence shows.  For that reason, you should never exaggerate or minimize your pain complaints (because usually test results will either verify real pain, or not, anyway).  Also, you should always be respectful and civil when speaking to any of the lawyers in the case.  All other things being equal, your attorney must factor her impression about what a jury would think of YOU, good or bad, into personal injury settlement value recommendations.
 

Your Medical Treatment & Doctor Interaction Also Impacts Personal Injury Case Settlement Value

On a related note, your medical treatment also has a BIG impact on your case value.  Plus, the things that you say to your doctor or other medical providers can boost or destroy case.  The reason is that what doctors write in your medical records becomes gospel in your case.  So, if you tell your MD that you are back to playing your favorite sport of soccer, for example, you will have a difficult time convincing anyone that you have serious, permanent injuries.  And temporary injuries (such as those immediately after the accident) have very little value.  Only permanent injuries with significant treatment result in higher case settlement values.

Not For Me

As far as the trial described above, there is no way that I would have accepted that personal injury case.  Some of the practice of law is based on gut level feeling about what a jury would believe.  I wouldn’t have predicted jury sympathy.  So I would have declined from the first phone call.

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About the Author:

Tina Willis is a Florida & Georgia personal injury & wrongful death attorney. This includes auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, products & premises liability cases, as well as medical malpractice cases.

Ms. Willis operates a boutique law firm from Orlando, Florida, focused on maintaining a reasonable case load so that she can provide personalized service to each and every one of her clients. She spends a tremendous amount of time helping her clients understand how they can help increase the value of their cases, sometimes significantly.

After graduating second in her class from Florida State University College of Law in 1995, Ms. Willis worked as an attorney for two large Atlanta defense firms, where she practiced employment and excess insurer defense. Ms. Willis also worked as a professor of Civil Procedure & Advanced Legal Writing at Barry University in Orlando, Florida. Ms. Willis has a “superb” AVVO rating, and was selected by the National Trial Lawyers, as a “Top 100 Trial Lawyer.”

She now devotes her passion and compassion to her unwavering goal of helping her clients fully achieve the justice they deserve, in the form of maximum compensation for their injuries and losses. Before you hire another law firm, you owe it to yourself to hear what Ms. Willis has to say. Consultations and representation never cost you a penny until she wins your case.

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