District of Columbia Auto Crash Verdicts: Only the Injured Get Hurt

From time to time, Clark and Steinhorn examine emerging trends in area jury verdicts. See http://www.maryland-law.com/library/dc-medical-malpractice-verdicts-a-cautionary-tale.cfm

Today we look at jury verdicts in auto and truck crashes between January 1, 2007 and June 30, 2009. These cases are the bread and butter of our practice and it is important for anyone looking for a lawyer to represent them in an auto accident case to have some knowledge of what is actually happening in trials of such cases.

187 auto or truck collision cases went to trial in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia  during this time period and slightly less than half ended with verdicts for the defendants. This is to say that half the time the injured party got nothing. In 82 cases the defendant (read insurance company) offered nothing.

When the insurance company offers nothing the injured party has little choice but to try the case but how many of those zero offers result in verdict for the injured party? The answer is 29. Okay, so approximately one third of the time  the insurance company offers zero and the plaintiff wins, that's good news right?

Well, not exactly. The problem is that the average of those verdicts is $7171.00. While there were a half dozen or so verdicts around $25,000.00, it is clear that there were many more of $2500.00 or less. On average each of these cases cost about as much to try as the verdict amount.

Which is to say, that after the lawyer takes their one third to forty percent legal fee and the doctor is paid for their testimony and the case expenses are paid (deposition transcript costs, medical records fees, court filing fees, etc.) the victim gets nothing. Just like in the cases where almost half the time the jury returns a defense verdict.

There are high points; a $300,000.00 verdict in 2007, an $822,190.00 verdict split between two injured parties in 2008 and a $684,577.97 verdict in 2009, but even those are somewhat misleading. The 2009 verdict was reduced more than $600,000.00 to $75,000.00 and for the entire three year period there were only 8 verdicts of $100,000.00 or more.

This means that less than 5% of all the cases tried yielded $100,000.00 plus verdicts. This stands in contrast to the fact that 51 of the 187 cases tried produced verdicts of $10,000.00 or less.

To put it all in perspective; of the 187  auto crash cases tried in the Superior Court between January 1, 2007 and June 30, 2009, 143, or more than three quarters, resulted in either a defense verdict or a verdict of $10,000.00 or less.

So, next time you are in court in your personal injury case and the judge and your lawyer tell you the insurance company has made a fair offer, listen to them, you will put more money in your pocket as a result.