- 2019, Hawaii: $18,760,000 Settlement. A woman suffered an end-stage renal disease after experiencing a sepsis-related infection while giving birth at Tripler Medical Center. She experienced repeated and increased hypotension and tachycardia episodes after being transferred to the postpartum unit. Her lab results showed that she developed sepsis and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. She eventually suffered permanent kidney damage. An infectious disease expert confirmed the group A streptococcus that resulted in toxic shock syndrome, sepsis, and bacteremia. Upon being discharged, she underwent hemodialysis three times a week. Within two years, she was hospitalized for gallstones and increased fluid in her abdomen. She and her husband sued Tripler for failing to timely diagnose or treat her kidney failure. They allege that she now needed a kidney transplant and other organ transplants throughout her life. The magistrate judge initially awarded $24,743,668. However, the federal government appealed the case. It eventually settled for $18,760,000.
- 2013, Hawaii: $4,250,000 Award. A 15-year-old became paralyzed from the neck down after receiving steroid treatment for lupus. She developed a facial rash and slurred speech while visiting Hawaii with her family. She saw a pediatric rheumatologist, who diagnosed her with lupus. An MRI revealed some white matter density in her brain. Upon hospital admission, the rheumatologist prescribed weekly methylprednisone and prednisone doses to be taken for four weeks. The teenager responded well to the medication; her speech resolved, and her blood tests showed no increases in lupus antibodies. The rheumatologist had her continue this regimen. Right before the fourth week, the teen complained of muscle weakness. Her mother had her stop taking the medications. She eventually showed myopathy signs and was subsequently admitted to the hospital. She eventually could not move her body from the neck down. The teen and her mother sued the treating medical center for prescribing a high steroid dose. She now needed lifetime medical care because of her injuries. The first trial, held in 2009, awarded $6,150,000. However, the Hawaiian Supreme Court ordered a new trial based on erroneous evidence. The second trial’s jury awarded $4,250,000, which the court reduced to $1,800,000.
Our clients sometimes incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. They should be compensated for those bills. But the bigger harm in personal injury cases is the physical and emotional pain and suffering that comes with the victims’ injuries.
Today, we will look at average compensation for emotional injuries in an accident and medical malpractice cases to get a better idea of how much money victims can expect to receive as compensation for this type of intangible but often the most important injury.
Metro Verdicts Monthly’s graph in this month’s issue is median settlements and verdicts in cervical (neck) herniated disc cases in Maryland, Washington, D.C, and Virginia. The median cervical herniated disc case in Maryland is $40,000. The Washington D.C. and Virginia medians are $50,000 and $36,000, respectively.
Settlement Values Vary Wildly
Saying you suffered a head injury in an accident is like saying your nephew is an actor. He might be Johnny Depp. But he also might be an understudy in a local dinner theater production.
Head injuries to automobile occupants have been shown to be a major cause of death and permanent brain injury within the U.S. and internationally. Head injuries vary from headaches that resolve quickly to brain damage that destroys a life.
What Do the Statistics About the Value of Head Injuries?
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. JVR provides more median verdicts for arm injuries:
- Arm amputations: $3,500,000 (75% of verdicts over $1,000,000)
- Arm and Elbow Nonfractures, Arm Nerve Damage and Arm Amputations: $61,863 (13% of awards over $1 million).
A 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 is $98,583.
The median for foot injuries makes sense to me. I’m stunned that the average verdict for an amputated toe is as low as it is. Remember that unless this is a lawnmower case, it is likely that the plaintiff suffered other injuries. In any event, I value my 10 toes more than American juries value someone else’s toes.
This blog post is about the settlement value of personal injury cases in Maryland and the chances that a plaintiff will prevail at trial?
How Often Do Victims Win Personal Injury Lawsuits?
After my blog entry about New Hampshire verdicts, I received a few emails from Maryland lawyers asking if I knew the data for Maryland plaintiffs. In Maryland, the accident victim is successful at trial in 83% of auto accident personal injury cases.
I tried to keep abreast of verdicts and settlements in personal injury cases in Maryland by reading the Maryland Daily Record, keeping up on the 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:
It is always interesting for a personal injury attorney to hear about trial verdicts in accident cases. We subscribe to Metro Verdicts Monthly, which summarizes primarily personal injury accident cases in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia. Basically, Metro Verdicts Monthly calls the attorneys involved in the case and tries to get the key details of the case from them. One of the most interesting facts is the pretrial demand and offer. (Sometimes, the lawyers cannot even agree on that which does not make you wonder how the case went to trial!) Metro Verdicts Monthly will also – for a fee, of course – conduct research of similar cases to your facts. Our accident lawyers have used this occasionally in fighting motions from defense lawyers to reduce the jury’s verdict in personal injury cases.
When trying to figure out the settlement value of a personal injury case, trial attorneys pull from usually only one resource: their 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. Mostly 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 holds. The key skill for personal injury lawyers if being able to identify which cases defy the data because of intangibles that data cannot measure.
- Twelve factors that matter in evaluating injury claims
- What I have learned from reading reports of thousands of jury verdict reports
- Writing demand letters
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 how personal injury attorneys do as a class in estimating verdicts: not good.
The average accuracy error for lawyers in predicting the value 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