Most personal injury cases do not go to trial; they are resolved out of court. Cases that do go to trial, however, will end with a verdict. A verdict is the official, final decision reached by the jury. This includes who is right in the case, whether you are entitled to damages, and how much money those damages are worth. The judge enforces the jury’s verdict with an order known as a decision.
Often, a verdict is contrasted with a settlement, which is also a final decision in a personal injury claim. The difference is that settlements are agreed upon privately by the two parties, outside of trial. A settlement is a voluntary agreement whereas a verdict is one imposed by the court. However, a settlement is also legally binding once it is signed and filed with the court.
In your case you will most likely receive one or more settlement offers. Your lawyer will likely advise you to take one, but they may advise you to go to trial. Choosing to pass up the settlements and wait for a trial verdict has both advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is that, if the jurors find in your favor, they will often award you more than the settlement offer. But a trial is not a sure thing, and the jury might not find in your favor, or could assign some of the responsibility for the injury to you. Additionally, a trial takes longer and often costs more than agreeing to a settlement. In some cases it’s worth it to hold out—but it’s hard to know when. This is why we recommend having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side.
How do juries decide the verdict?
Juries are given directions by the judge on how to reach a verdict. These directions are very detailed, and include instructions to decide the case by the facts, not by their feelings. In most cases jurors pay close attention at trial, take notes, and deliberate in detail once it’s time to make a decision. The deliberation process can take an hour or two, or it can take days.
Some of the factors jurors consider include:
- The evidence they were shown during trial. Jurors have access to evidence exhibits during deliberation.
- The legal definition of negligence. The judge explains the legal terms in the case and what counts as negligence under the law. The jury will use their own common sense to see if the party who wronged you was negligent.
- Sympathy for your position. Despite the instructions to be rational, jurors do have feelings and they will award more to a plaintiff if they feel sympathy based on your personality, your life and your injury or losses.
How is the final amount chosen?
The jury also chooses the amount to award you. They have to choose amounts for each type of damage you are claiming. Some of these are straightforward—for example, if you have medical bills to support your claim, they will likely give you the exact amount you need. Other damages are more ephemeral. Juries vary widely in how much they award for pain and suffering, for example. It depends on their sympathy for you and also their own personal backgrounds. Juries in rural areas tend to award less than juries in cities.
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.