Interviewer: How hard is it to get a settlement that will cover your medical bills and go beyond and bring you money?
Nicholas Lowe: It’s a lot harder today than it was 20 years ago. The value of cases is actually going down on our smaller cases, a couple of things happened. In the early 90s, insurance companies decided to start fighting the smaller cases more and they’re willing to spend a lot of money defending that today. Sometimes they spend more money defending the case than they could have settled it for but they’re willing to do that. They fight harder and therefore the settlements are small.
If an Auto-Accident Case Goes to Trial, the Insurance Companies Generally Prevail
The cases they have taken to trial, not all of the time but many times, the insurance company will prevail. When I say prevail, I mean the jury will return a verdict less than what they offered. So, I do think it’s harder to get money today than it was 20 years ago. Our larger cases are cases with broken bones, surgeries, paralysis and death. In those cases, juries are still pretty generous but the soft tissue cases where somebody’s claiming a strain or sprain of the neck, back or other body part, those have less value today than they did 20 years ago.
Juries Tend to Award Less Compensation Due to the Ongoing Recession
Interviewer: Is there any other reason that it’s more difficult nowadays to get settlement?
Nicholas Lowe:It’s 2014. We went through the recession in 2006 to 2010 and many parts of the country and many people are still going through it. Juries now find money to be more precious than when unemployment is very low. Everyone is making lots of money, they’re getting raises every year, they’re getting benefits, then juries are more generous with their awards. In recessionary times, money is more precious and the jury awardsless.
The Opinion of An Officer and the Police Report Are Not Admissible in an Auto-Accident Trial
Interviewer: What happens if I’m in an accident and I’m the one cited by the police; does that mean my case is doomed?
Nicholas Lowe: No, it’s still workable. Here’s something that general public doesn’t know. The opinion of an officer and the police report itself are not admissible in trial. A policeman cannot get up on the stand and say, “In my opinion, Mr. Jones is at fault for this accident”, he cannot do that. His report, where he puts in who he or she thinks is at fault is not admissibleand so the jury will never see that. The only thing a police officer can do is testify to the things he observed, for example skid marks, the position of the cars, and the damage to the cars. He can relate to the jury what a witness told him if there’s a witness on the corner that saw the other side blow the red light.
A Police Officer is Allowed to Relate the Eyewitness Testimony Regarding the Accident At a Trial
The police officer can testify that the witness told me because there are exceptions to our hearsay rule. The police always interviews the parties involved in the accident and the police officer can relate what that party said. Often times, the story changes. The person involved in the accident would say one thing at the day of the accident and six months later, when they’re getting sued for causing the accident, suddenly their story changes. So, just because the officer says one side or the other is at fault does not doom the case at all.