I got hurt in a car wreck. What is the average jury verdict in car wreck cases in Tennessee?
I can give you that number, but it is meaningless.
Why do I say that? Assume there were just two car wreck verdicts in Tennessee in 2009. One was a case where the person who filed suit had no treatment in the emergency room, $3000 in chiropractic treatment, and a history of prior neck and back pain. Assume that the verdict in that case was $3500.
Assume the other person who filed a lawsuit received a permanent, life-altering brain injury. Assume this person has, $1,000,000 in medical bills, $14,000,000 in future medical bills, $2,000,000 in lost wages, and will live another 60 years in a wheelchair totally dependent others. Assume that the jury verdict in that case is $70,000,000.
Given those two cases, the average verdict is just under $35,000,000. What does that tell you about the value of your case? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Obviously, my example is a very simple one, but the point remains the same: average verdicts provide very little information about the value of any particular case. Experienced personal injury lawyers know that there a many variables to the value of a case and that it is a mistake to look at an average to determine the value of a single case.
That being said, we have some data. The Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter used its best efforts to gather all jury verdicts in Tennessee for the 12-month period ending November 30, 2009. For that one year period there were 130 car accident cases tried in Tennessee. When the plaintiff won the case, the average verdict was $60, 552. When plaintiff wins and losses are considered, the average verdict was $43, 318. The plaintiff “won” 93 cases and lost 37 cases.
The average verdicts have declined in the last five years. The 5-year average for plaintiff wins is $77,916. The 5-year average when one considers wins and losses for the plaintiff was $55, 144. In the last five years plaintiffs have won 586 auto trials and lost 242.
Let me say it again: these numbers are averages, nothing more and nothing less. They say nothing about the value of any particular case. They tell us nothing about the strength of the case or the nature of the injuries. Likewise, they do not take into account the value of cases that were settled without a trial. Finally, they do not take into account the competence and experience of the lawyer handling the case. And any lawyer worth his or her salt will tell you that this last factor makes a real difference in many, many cases.