In two previous blog posts, we discussed the compensation available in a personal injury case. The first blog post focused on special damages. As you may recall, special damages are damages that compensate an injured person for quantifiable monetary loss. For example, the cost of medical care is an item of special damages. Special damages can be past or future.
The second blog post focused on general damages. General damages compensate an injured person for non-monetary harm suffered as a result of someone else's fault. For example, pain and suffering is an item of general damages. General damages can also be past or future.
This blog focuses on how juries mechanically decide to compensate someone for a personal injury that is based upon another person's fault. At the close of a jury trial in a personal injury case, the jury is read instructions to guide their deliberations. For example, the jury is instructed on the definition of negligence, the definition of causation, and other related issues. The jury is also instructed on how to decide general and special damages. The previous two blog posts included jury instructions on these issues.
After being instructed on the issues in dispute, a jury is sent to a room to deliberate and return a verdict. The jury is given a document known as a special verdict form. This form is filled out by the jury and represents its decision about whether an injured person is entitled to compensation and how much compensation is appropriate. Special verdict forms will vary from case to case, depending on the issues in dispute. A special verdict form may require the jury to answer to the following questions:
1. Was the defendant negligent with respect to its conduct toward the plaintiff?
2. Was the defendant's negligence a direct cause to the harm suffered by the plaintiff?
3. What sum of money will fairly and adequately compensate the plaintiff for past medical expenses as a result of the harm suffered?
4. What sum of money will fairly and adequately compensate the plaintiff for future medical expenses as a result of the harm suffered?
5. What sum of money will fairly and adequately compensate the plaintiff for past wage loss up to today's date?
6. What sum of money will fairly and adequately compensate the plaintiff for future loss of earning capacity?
7. What sum of money will fairly and adequately compensate the plaintiff for past pain and suffering?
8. What sum of money will fairly and adequately compensate the plaintiff for future pain and suffering?
Once filled out by the jury, the judge will use the form to craft a judgment that may require the at-fault party to compensate the injured person. Again, the questions on the special verdict form will depend on the facts of each particular case.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone else's conduct, it is important to contact a lawyer right away. The attorneys at Bird, Jacobsen & Stevens have extensive experience handling personal injury claims and are always available for a free consultation.