A recent case out of Los Angeles is making headlines for the $1 million verdict awarded by the jury. The plaintiff in the case was a 65 year old man who suffered from degenerative back problems, and claimed not to be injured at the scene of the accident. The accident was characterized as a low impact crash. While there may be a couple eye-opening facts about this case, the settlement negotiations are the most shocking. Before trial, plaintiff offered to settle for $60,000, and the defense only offered $20,000. While jury verdicts are routinely expected to be larger than settlement offers, this massive of a gap is rare.
Another fact that some might find shocking is that the plaintiff was awarded the large verdict despite having a pre-existing condition before the accident. This is due to the eggshell plaintiff doctrine, which basically says that a defendant is responsible for the damages they cause another person, even if that person is as fragile as an egg. While a defendant may think it is unfair, if the shoe were on the other foot, that thought would likely change. Being extra-susceptible to injury is scary.
No Cure Means More Treatment, More Pain and Suffering
Another factor that drove up the jury award in this case is the fact that the plaintiff was unable to cure the condition that was caused by the accident. While the plaintiff had a condition prior, the accident exacerbated it, and he was unable to return to how he was before the accident. His doctors recommended future palliative care such as physical therapy and pain management.
When a plaintiff suffers a permanent injury, a jury will (theoretically) value the pain and suffering of that injury more highly than an injury that has either fully healed, or can be fully healed in due time. Additionally, after an injury heals, the cost of medical care for the injury stops. If the injury cannot be healed, there may be a lifetime of medical care, such as pain management, in front of the injury victim.
While it is common for the public to be shocked about large jury verdicts, this verdict is not disproportional to the injury. If the plaintiff has 15 more years of medical care related to the injury, the million dollars might not go far enough.