Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the People’s Law School. Today’s class is going to deal with a topic that I’ve had asked of me for the last 40 years. And that is, somebody has a lawsuit and they want to know, “What is my case worth?”
Well, there’s no easy answer. What we try to do is we try to give people some idea of how you figure out what a case is worth. If any of you saw the movie The Verdict with Paul Newman, which I really recommend, he was a great trial lawyer in that movie, and the jury came back and said, “Can we award more money than Paul Newman asked us for?”
Well, unfortunately, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, we’re not allowed to ask for any sum of money. When we go in front of a jury, and most cases are settled out of court, but for the cases that go to trial, and I’ve tried about 250 jury trials, we’re not allowed to tell the jury, “Award $1 million dollars,” or, “Award X.” We’re just not allowed to do that. So then the six jurors go into the jury room and they really are looking for an answer. The only guidelines that we can give them is we can suggest the use of what’s called a time unit rule. We can tell them, “You have 30 years left to live, and that’s so many hours. And if you want, you can attach a unit of money to each hour that you have to live.”
Now, that’s just a form of argument, but at least it will give them some idea as to what you think the case is worth. Of course, many cases the value of the case is dictated by the amount of insurance coverage. Unfortunately, if someone’s paralyzed for life and they were hit by somebody with $15,000 dollars in coverage, that’s all they’re going to get. In one of our other People’s Law School classes, we talked about the importance of having high uninsured and underinsured motorists’ coverage, in case you are hit by somebody with no insurance or low insurance. Get your UM and your UIM limits as high as you can afford to protect you and your family.
So I hope that helps explain a little bit of how we value cases, and also, we kind of know what cases are worth from having done 5,000 of them over the last 40 years. We always kid around and tell people, “The more you get, the more we get,” so we’re going to fight to get you as much as we can. With that said, that concludes this edition of the People’s Law School and we’ll see you next time.