What is the Prime Motivating Factor for Settlements of a Six-Figure Case?

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In my experience, the prime motivating factor is that both sides do not know how a jury will decide the case and therefore neither wants to take the risk of a verdict for or against. Juries are very unpredictable in the mid-six figure cases. On smaller cases, juries may not care too much. On huge cases involving deaths or paralysis, jurors will care and likely find for plaintiffs. But, in between, the jury is unpredictable.

In Pennsylvania, lawyers are not allowed to tell the jury what we think the case is worth or even what they should award. Often, this means that the jury has no guidance as to value. Both sides of a case may be able to settle the case for $300,000 meaning both value the case somewhere in the 200-400k range. But, a jury does not know that. A jury may think that they are doing the plaintiff a huge favor and give them $100,000. In that case, the plaintiff has given up huge sums by going to trial.

So, since we cannot suggest a number to the jury and since the jury is never told what the insurance coverage is in a case, they have no baseline way to assign value. As a result, in most mediations or negotiations, a client will come to understand that they are better taking 80% of a case’s value, provided that that is acceptable, versus rolling the dice and hoping that the jury agrees with the valuation that seasoned professionals assign to a case.

Essentially, there is a going rate for certain injuries. I can tell you what a fractured arm is worth with and without surgery. I can adjust that number up or down if it is from a slip and fall versus a car accident. Regardless, of how frustrating, painful, wasteful of your time and life value the injury was, there is a going rate for the injury. The reason is this whole jury uncertainty issue. The client may feel the value far undervalues what they went through, but that is really not the issue. The issue becomes what can be achieved that is in the client’s best interest. That generates the going rate.