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How Does a Jury Calculate How Much to Award in a Personal Injury Case?

If you have been injured and are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit in Indiana, you may wonder how a jury decides how much money to award to accident victims who go to trial.

To determine damages in Indiana accident cases, a jury must first determine the facts of the case and decide how much fault each side should be assigned. Indiana law follows the legal doctrine of Comparative Fault when determining liability in most personal injury claims.

An Indiana jury will assign a percentage of fault to each party in a personal injury lawsuit based on the evidence presented by each side in court. The total of everyone’s fault should add up to 100 percent.

When the person who filed the lawsuit is partially at fault for an accident, any monetary award the injured party received will be reduced accordingly.

Here is an example of how comparative fault works in practice:

Imagine you are suing a truck driver who ran a red light in Indianapolis and crashed into your car, injuring you. Let’s assume that the evidence indicates you were speeding when the accident occurred. The jury determines that you were 30 percent at fault (because you were speeding) and the truck driver was 70 percent at fault. Let’s assume the jury then determines the total damages are $100,000 in the case. The jury would then take the fault of the truck driver (70 percent) and multiply the total damages by that percentage. You would be entitled to $70,000 in damages.

As long as you are found to be 50 percent or less at fault in the accident, then you are eligible to recover damages from others at fault in the accident.

This type of comparative fault analysis can be an important part of settlement negotiations between your attorney and the opposing side seeking to reach an agreement without a trial.

Jury Awards in Personal Injury Cases

If a personal injury case goes to the jury, the jury will receive detailed instructions from the judge to guide its deliberations. The jurors will be instructed to use their common sense and reason to interpret the evidence and determine what happened. If the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff, the jury may use the cost of your medical and hospital bills, your loss of income and other economic losses presented at trial to determine an appropriate amount to award you in compensatory damages. These types of losses such as the cost of your hospital bills are relatively easy to quantify and calculate.

While no jury award is ever guaranteed, the severity of a victim’s injuries is a reasonably reliable predictor of compensatory damages. Damage awards tend to correlate with the severity of the injury. The jury will rely on the testimony of doctors and medical experts in assessing the severity of the injury. If the injured individual will need more medical care in the future, that cost also can be taken into account in an award. People with more severe injuries tend to have greater losses and to receive more compensation from juries than people with minor injuries.

Age is another factor that juries often take into account. Young adults and children who suffer severely disabling injuries may receive larger jury awards because the young person has lost more years of productive life as a result of the disabling injury than an older person would lose.

In personal injury cases involving medical malpractice, Indiana has established a cap on damage awards of $1.65 million. That is the most a victim of medical malpractice can receive in compensation if a health care provider is found to be negligent. The cap will increase to $1.8 million by July 2019.

Jury Awards for Pain and Suffering

Indiana law permits victims of car accidents and other types of personal injury to seek compensation for pain and suffering, discomfort, anxiety and emotional distress stemming from the injury.

Damages for pain and suffering and so-called non-economic losses are harder to value and more subjective. There is no standard prescribed by law by which to determine damages for pain and suffering. The jury will be instructed to do what is fair and reasonable under the circumstances based on the evidence of the case. If you are experiencing pain, you need to explain to the jury how the pain has affected your life. We recommend that clients keep a daily “pain” diary during recovery. This kind of daily record can document the many ways pain affects you and help a jury understand the effect a severe injury has had on your enjoyment of life.

The amount of the settlement or jury award you may receive will depend on numerous factors. Juries are difficult to predict which is why many cases are settled before court.

The injury attorneys at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC understand how confusing the claims process can be to an accident victim who is struggling to recover from serious injuries.

Our attorneys can discuss the factors affecting your case after reviewing the specific details.

If you have been seriously injured in Indiana due to the carelessness or negligence of another, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney who will fight for you to receive full compensation. Without a strong attorney representing you, you will have little leverage to make an insurance company treat you fairly.