Articles Posted in Personal Injury Verdicts

Our law firm has successfully handled scores of foot and ankle serious injury accident cases. If you want someone to fight for you, lawyers that knows these cases, call 800-553-8082 or get a free Internet consultation.

I think I have a pretty good handle on the settlement value of ankle fracture cases.  We have handled a lot of foot and ankle injury cases over the years.  My first foot and ankle case was 17 years ago when  I sued the New England Patriots and their team doctors that ultimately settled. Over the course of that lawsuit, I probably met with a half dozen of the best foot and ankle surgeons in the country.

Since then, Miller & Zois has handled scores of foot and ankle injury case and procured millions of dollars for our clients in these cases.  My last ankle injury verdict was in Prince George’s County was the 6th biggest verdict that year, according to Washingtonian Magazine.  We know the science of these cases and how to maximize the settlement and trial value of these claims.

Ankle Settlement Value Statistics

What kind of success are other lawyers having in fracture ankle cases?   Apparently, they are having very little success. The median settlement values for ankle fracture injuries are:

District of Columbia $66,000
Virginia $21,700
Maryland $88,000

It is amazing how low these are.  Sure, some ankle fractures can be treated with conservative care if the fracture displacement is two millimeters or less or if there is no talar shift.  But it is difficult to imagine getting less than six figures in the vast majority of these cases.  I don’t know how much insurance policy limits came into play in these cases.  But, either way, these numbers are just way too low.

One of the problems, I think, is not distinguishing between a good result and a good outcome for the patient.  A good result for an orthopedic surgeon is a good looking x-ray.  The fracture is healed, mobility is good and the ankle joint is where it’s supposed to be. But you can have a good x-ray and still have a permanent injury, particularly when there is hardware is keeping the ankle together.

Two more points of interest in this data. First, don’t get an ankle fracture in Virginia. It is amazing to me how low these Virginia verdicts are. I have to think this data is screwed up in some way. Second, it is interesting that Maryland ankle fracture verdicts are 33% higher than Washington, D.C. verdicts, given that the Maryland median was much less than Washington, D.C. for both fractured shoulder and rotator cuff verdicts.

https://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSXFHSoBC-IKXHH1YlS-S_ZN7nNmrR28zjLMhabnYcuBCOwRWWKThe Federal Tort Claims Act News (who knew there was such a publication?) wrote an article about how Jury Verdict Research Case Evaluation Software was predicting the values of verdicts in a particular slip and fall case with an ankle fracture. In this case, the jury predicted a probable verdict of $117,600 with only a 33% chance of success on liability (maybe a tough slip and fall case on liability).  I just struggle to see how a case with a good fracture could be valued so low.

As a point of comparison, it provided the following JVR nationwide analysis of ankle injuries:

Award Median $91,925
Probability Range $40,000 – $248,223
Award Range $1 – $5,250,804

 

One more point: median settlement values is the midpoint of the data, not the average. So included in the math are a lot of awful cases that probably never should have been filed in the first place. So why not just quote the average? Well, the high range of these ankle verdicts is $5,250,804. That also distorts the statistics. The take home message: settlement and verdict statistics are invariably misleading.

Factors That Impact Settlement Amounts in Ankle Fracture Cases

These are 15 factors that drive the trial and settlement value of your ankle fracture case.

  1. Surgery
  2. Surgery with hardware
  3. Complex fracture
  4. Displace bone
  5. Continued ankle swelling (synovitis)
  6. Synovitis with chondral changes
  7. Signs of arthritic changes
  8. Arthrofibrosis
  9. Chondral injuries
  10. Loose bodies
  11. Nerve Damage
  12. An ankle replacement
  13. Walking with a limp
  14. Non-weight bearing ankle
  15. Amputation

All of these factors lead to the question of how is the ankle injury permanent and, if so, how severe is the permanency.

Sample Verdicts and Settlements in Ankle Cases

This will give you another way to look at value: sample verdicts and settlements.  But please remember that no two cases are alike and you cannot figure out the value of your case just by comparing your case with a similar case.  No two cases are the same and someone’s verdict is just a poor predictor of what the outcome in your case will be.  Certainly, along with other tools, it can shed light on value.  No question.  But you just cannot put too much into it.

  • 2014, Maryland: $96,789 Verdict – The plaintiff was driving on a two lane road when another car hit him head on. He suffered a comminuted ankle fracture as a result of the crash. The plaintiff had to have two screws permanently implanted in his leg, and developed a permanent limp as a result of his injuries. The jury awarded him $96,789.  This is one of those cases I’m taling about, right?  A permanent limp is only worth $96,000?
  • 2013, Maryland: $260,506 Verdict – When the plaintiff was inside of a Taco Bell restaurant, a fight ensued, and the plaintiff was struck in the face by an employee. He fell backward as a result of the fight which caused his ankle to become fractured. He had to receive two surgeries to fix his ankle and developed an infection. Additionally, he claimed that he had limited mobility in his ankle. The defendants contended that he provoked the fight. The jury awarded him $260,506.
  • 2014, Pennsylvania: $847,362 Verdict – As the plaintiff was exiting her apartment when she slipped and fell on icy steps. She sued the property owner, claiming that they negligently maintained the steps by failing to remove snow and freezing rain. Plaintiff alleged that the defendants failed to inspect the property over the previous night, which led to the hazardous condition. She suffered an ankle fracture, which required implementation of screws in her ankle, leading to arthritis. She also alleged that her ability to stand was compromised.
  • 2014, Pennsylvania: $225,000 Settlement – The plaintiff was crossing a street when she stepped in an uneven asphalt patch. This caused her ankle to roll, leading to a fracture. She sued the city, alleging that they failed to maintain a dangerous condition. She had to receive surgery, where two screws were implanted in her ankle. The plaintiff had to undergo physical therapy and claimed that she suffers pain and swelling during prolonged periods of standing. The defense claimed that the alleged injuries were fully healed. Still, the parties reached a pretrial settlement.
  • 2014, Virginia: $2,000,000 Verdict – The plaintiff was a 59-year-old shipyard worker who slipped and fell on a patch of black ice while taking his car in for service. He sued the dealership, alleging that they failed to maintain a lesser-used sidewalk and that they knew that it commonly ices over. He suffered an ankle fracture and claimed that the injury aggravated a pre-existing back injury. He had to receive surgery to repair his ankle and additional surgery to alleviate back pain. The defendants claimed that he had previously inquired about the back surgery prior to the fall. The jury awarded him $2,000,000.
  • 2010, North Carolina:  $10,397,291 Verdict – The plaintiff was interested in purchasing a new boat. While on a demonstration with a boat salesman, the boat hit choppy waters causing the plaintiff to be thrown up and down in the boat. He fractured both ankles, one of which required surgery. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was operating the boat at unsafe speeds given the choppiness of the water. He sued the boat operator and the marina, and received a $10,397,291 judgment. This case underscores impact on the amount of the verdict a good lost wage claim can make.  This man was a urologist and most of the damage award accounted for his past and future earnings.
  • 2010, North Carolina: $80,000 Settlement – The plaintiff was operating her vehicle when she was struck by another motorist trying to enter the street from a cross street. She suffered an ankle fracture as a result of the accident. The parties eventually settled for $80,000.  We have no more information on the severity of the claim.

Getting a Lawyer to Fight for You

If you have an ankle fracture case in Maryland or Washington, D.C., call me at 800-553-8082 or fill out this claim form online. We can help you.  If you are outside of the Baltimore-D.C. area and you have a serious ankle fracture, call me or find my bio and email me.  I can (probably) help you find the right lawyer to maximize the value of your ankle fracture claim.

Sprained Wrist

What Are Wrist Injuries Worth?

Metro Verdicts Monthly provides the median verdict and settlement value of wrist fracture cases over the last 22 years. The average settlement/verdict in Washington D.C. is $105,000. Maryland is less than half that: $50,000. The average settlement/verdict in a wrist fracture case in Virginia is $52,583.

Maryland jury verdicts in series personal injury cases are generally higher in the District of Columbia. Again, I don’t know the methodology of how MVM gets its numbers. If they rely on personal injury lawyers reporting that data – which I do not think they do – then that could possibly skew the data as could a lot of other things that only a statistician could find. Particularly since Metro Verdicts includes settlements in their statistics, it is hard not to suspect that data could be skewed. The only way auto accident settlements (as opposed to malpractice settlements that have to be reported) get on the radar screen is if you call Metro Verdicts and tell them you settled a case. But there are few sources of verdict and settlement statistics in personal injury cases so it is hard not to find data like this interesting. I would love to see a jurisdiction comparison of Baltimore City and all of the counties in Maryland.

Jury Verdict Research found that the median jury verdict in arm nerve damage cases over the last 10 years was $81,095.

Arm nerve damage is defined by the study as injuries to the median nerve, radial nerve, ulnar nerve, musculocutaneous nerve, and axillary nerve which are all branches of the brachial plexus. Carpal tunnel injuries were, however, specifically excluded from this study.  Why?  The vast majority of carpal tunnel injury cases are not the result of medical malpractice or a motor vehicle accident.  Before you get outraged, it is absolutely true that people get CPS all of the time from tensing up and gripping the steering wheel before a crash. It is just that most of these injuries are not caused by car accidents.

armnerve
JVR provides more median verdicts for arm injuries:

Eye

Value of Vision Loss Cases

Metro Verdicts Monthly has a graph that reflects the median verdicts and settlements when the injury victim loses vision in one eye in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The median for the loss of vision in one eye in Maryland is $231,000. You could drive a truck through the gap between Washington, D.C. and Virginia’s median settlements in verdicts with loss of vision in one eye cases: Washington, D.C.’s median is $162,500; Virginia’s is $320,000. If you read graphs regularly, you would expect Washington, D.C. and Virginia to be reversed because Virginia as a whole typically has more conservative verdicts.

These numbers are a bit misleading.   I think because most loss of vision cases are products liability cases. Many products liability cases have questionable liability which decreases the average and median recoveries. If liability is not an issue, the values of these cases are much higher.

Headaches

What is the value of head injury cases?

I’m fortunate in that I don’t get many headaches, a blessing I attribute to good hydration and genetic good fortune. On the rare occasion that I do get them, they are debilitating. It is hard to enjoy much of anything in life with anything north of a mild headache.

Juries struggle in figuring out how to value personal injury cases when the primary injury is a head injury that caused —  and may be continuing to cause — headaches.

Why? Because headaches are mostly subjective. So the credibility of the plaintiff – which is usually 90% of the game at trial – becomes the entire game because you can’t know the pain level inside someone’s head. Instead, you have to decide if you believe that their report of pain is what they say it is.

Settlement Value of Headaches

According to Jury Verdict Research, the average verdict for headache injuries is $33,423. The median verdict is $11,092. Putting this in context, the average award in a personal injury case nationally is approximately $791,756. So verdicts in headache cases are 5% of the national average? Wow.

Juries are more inclined to believe older people… or they think young people should just deal with it. The median award for those under 18 was a $7,463. For plaintiffs between 19 and 39, the median award was $8,858. Once you get over 60, the awards rise to $13,454.

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Back Pain

What are Vertebrae Fracture Cases Worth?

A Jury Verdict Research report this month found that over the last ten years, the national median award at trial in personal injury cases for a vertebra fracture is $112,537. Almost two-thirds of the cases in the study were motor vehicle accidents, which is the leading cause of spinal injuries in this country. Not surprisingly, the median award for multiple vertebrae fractures is almost double the single vertebra amount, $207,000.

When I first read this report I assumed the numbers were low because they excluded cases where there was a spinal cord or head injury. But apparently, 7.5% of the verdicts were in excess of $2,500,000, which means they have to include vertebrae fractures where the spinal cord was implicated or there was an accompanying head injury. Because of the proximity of the vertebrae to the spinal column, and because of the weight bearing implications of a vertebra injury, I assumed this number would be much higher, but there must be more minor fractures to vertebrae without significant injury than I realized.

foot-300x211A recent Jury Verdict Research analysis of jury verdicts found that the overall median award for the amputation of one toe is $119,008. The median award for foot nerve damage or tarsal tunnel syndrome accident cases was $143,265. Underscoring the difficulties of the healing process in the complex structures that are our feet, the median award for foot injuries generally is $98,583.

The median for foot injuries generally makes sense to me. I’m stunned that the average verdict for an amputated toe is as low as it is. You have to remember that unless this is a lawnmower case, it is likely that the plaintiff suffered other injuries as well. In any event, I certainly value my 10 toes more than American juries.

Big Toe Versus Little Toes

I tried to keep abreast of verdicts and settlements in personal injury cases in Maryland by reading the Maryland Daily Record, keeping up on court roomthe Maryland Association for Justice listserv, and getting the reports from Jury Verdict Research, Metro Verdicts, and just what I hear on the street from other lawyers.

The result of one case tells you nothing.  But if you keep following jury verdicts and settlements, you see patterns emerge.  Here are ten things I have learned from this process:

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emotionalOur clients in 2014 have incurred millions of dollars in medical bills.  But the real harm in personal injury cases is the physical and emotional pain and suffering that comes with the victims’ injuries. Today we are going to look at compensation for emotional injuries in accident and medical malpractice cases.

Let’s start out with some hard number on compensation for emotional injuries nationally, provided by Jury Verdict Research.  This category includes cases involving emotional distress or post-traumatic stress syndrome.

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When trying to figure out the settlement value of a personal injury case, trial attorneys pull from usually only one resource: they’re own experience. We pull from our own cases and from cases we have heard about from other lawyers. But how good are we at valuing cases?

First, it is important to underscore how unbelievably important this skill set is for trial lawyers. Most of the time, when a case goes to trial, it is because someone miscalculated the value of the case. The insurance companies rely heavily on data in valuing cases (which sometimes reliably cements their reputation as unfeeling robots). While they deny it, they continue to believe that they can predict how much money a jury is likely to award based on the relationship between the amount of special damages (medical bills and lost wages) and the award for noneconomic damages. Sometimes this logic does hold. The key skill for personal injury lawyers if being able to identify which cases defy the data because of intangibles that data cannot measure.

businesspeoplemad

Most notably, insurance companies invariably devalue the character, or lack thereof, of the plaintiff which is just an unbelievably critical value marker. So the insurance company’s predictions misfire both ways. Knowing when the insurance company has miscalculated the value of a case gives you a tremendous advantage over the insurance company because you know which offers or demands should be accepted – some will be steals – and which cases should be tried.

An article titled “Predicting Civil Jury Verdicts: How Attorneys Use (and Misuse) a Second Opinion” written in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies provides the answer as to how personal injury attorneys do as a class in estimating verdicts: not good.

The average error for lawyers in predicting the value accurate was 0.387. For a verdict of $100,000, this is equivalent to an estimate of $244,000 or $41,000. That’s a big range. With those estimation skills, it is a wonder more cases don’t go to trial.

The study found that when you averaged the estimates of more lawyers – testing the idea of bouncing case value off other attorneys – the average estimation error dropped to 0.228, which on a $100,000 case is equivalent to an estimate of about $169,000 or $59,000. When expanded to 28 lawyers, the average estimation error was 0.130, equivalent to an estimate of $135,000 or $74,000. Continue reading

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