FWITWORTH

Every client I have ever represented, understandably wants to know… ”How much is my case worth?” Just as a house is worth what a reasonable buyer and seller says it is, the value of a personal injury is the amount a decision maker (judge, jury or arbitrator) says it. Here are 5 key factors impacting personal injury value include:

1. Who is the plaintiff?
-Decision makers are more likely to help:
a. “Helpers” – nurses, teachers, firemen, clergy
b. “The Vulnerable”- children, elderly, disabled
c. “The Responsible”- Persons who have led responsible lives
d. “Someone like them”– Because, “it could happen to me.”
e. “The Deserving” – The money will pay for a good cause to redress a significant harm

2. The harm caused by defendant’s choices
Decision makers consciously or unconsciously, evaluate the defendant. But there is a catch. Oregon law generally prohibits evidence or discussion of insurance at trial. Because insurance is not mentioned at trial some jurors mistakenly assume the defendant will pay any award out of his or he pocket. In reality, insurers, never seen or heard from at trial, will most probably pay the damage award, no the defendant.
Insurance lawyers may attempt to capitalize on this charade. Plaintiff lawyers, by contrast, focus attention toward:

• Each bad decision defendant chose to make;
• The harms defendant’ bad decisions caused;
• The decision makers moral obligation to right the wrong and prevent future harm; and,
• The worthwhile purpose of a large award

3. When are we?
The value of money changes over time. In the 1990s when the economy was zooming and 401k skyrocketed. During this period, a dollar was worth less than after the great recession of 2008 when unemployment was high and homeowners were underwater. Juries typically award less in hard times.
Also, during the last 20 years America has been at war. Generally speaking, decision makers are less sympathetic of personal injury claims when some family members of jurors have been shot at or even killed during combat.

4. Who is on the jury?
Jurors are people with biases, prejudices, wants and needs. Even though lawyers are able to strike some jurors from serving, ultimately who is selected on the jury is subject to a great degree of chance. Potential jurors who are leaders should be watched closely during jury selection since such jurors may influence others.

5. Who are the lawyers?
Of the 5 key factors, who is the lawyer is the least important. Lawyers are viewed with great skepticism by decision makers, particularly, jurors. Thus, an effective lawyer will be absolutely credible, totally beyond approach and 100% honest. Decision makers appreciate and reward candor. Retaining a lawyer willing and able to go the distance is required. Juries never hear cases lawyers are not willing to try. And, insurers don’t offer fair value if they see no possibility of a significant award.

Attorney Richard Rizk can be reached at (503) 245-5667 or rich@rizklaw.com