How are damages awarded in a personal injury case

Posted April 14th, 2014 by .

Categories: Personal Injury.

In actions involving personal injuries the courts in New Jersey do not permit the attorney to ask the jury to award a specified sum.  While we all have heard a story of someone’s injury and the amount of money the lawsuit seeks, this is not how damages are awarded in a N.J. court.

Normally the trial judge in a N.J. Civil Case instructs the jury that a plaintiff is entitled to fair and reasonable compensation for any permanent or temporary injury resulting in disability or impairment to his/her faculties, health or ability to participate in activities.  The measure of damages is what a reasonable person would consider to be adequate to compensate the plaintiff.

Is this standard fair, or if you were sitting on a jury would you rather be told that the plaintiff is asking for a specified sum?  As a trial lawyer, I would rather teach the jury and tell them the amount of money that would fairly compensate my client.  Since I am not allowed to mention a sum, the time unit rule provides an invaluable asset.

The time unit rule is a math formula used to calculate damages.  It asks the jury to do a very simple mathematical equation.  Here is how it works:

  • Ask the jury to determine how much money would fairly and reasonably compensate the plaintiff for pain on a daily basis.
  • Multiply that number by 365 days in a year.  This number is what you believe would fairly compensate plaintiff for one year of pain and suffering.
  • Then, you must multiply that number by the plaintiff’s life expectancy.

Recently, I put this formula to work in a case that went to trial.  The case involved a 50-year-old man that sustained neck and back injuries from an automobile accident.  The judge instructed the jury that the plaintiff had a life expectancy of an additional 39 years.  During deliberations the jury determined that the plaintiff’s pain was worth $7 per day.  They multiplied $7 by 365 days in a year and came up to $2,555.  They then multiplied $255 by 39 years for a total damage award of $100,000.

Explaining damages to a N.J. jury is a difficult process.  The lawyer you choose to represent you for personal injuries should be seasoned such that he/she can adequately explain to a jury how to arrive at a damage award.  I have been talking and teaching juries for over 25 years.  While not all cases go to trial, yours might, so make sure that you have someone in your corner that understands the law of damages. Contact us today and we will walk you through this process.

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