I spent the week before Labor Day in trial on a case in Denver District Court. For me, doing opening statements, examining witnesses and making a closing argument are an adrenaline rush. There is nothing better than getting to practice your craft in front of an enthusiastic jury. And make no mistake, this jury is very intelligent and diligent. For me however, there is nothing more nerve-racking than waiting for the jury to return a verdict.
This article is written after the Labor Day holiday, following the jury returning to deliberate on Tuesday afternoon. Waiting for a jury to finish deliberations is excruciating enough. But, add to that, in our case, the jury deliberated way into the evening, didn't reach a verdict, and will return Thursday to continue deliberating. I expect with all this waiting, this article is as much therapeutic for me as it hopefully will be informative for our readers.
A good jury takes its time and discusses the evidence presented. A great jury doesn't simply come to a verdict that gets them out the door quickly, but instead, understands how important their job is and understands that how they decide this case might very well regulate how these insurance companies behave into the future. My client in this case is lucky to have an intelligent and insightful group of jurors.
WHAT I WISH THEY KNEW:
The rules of evidence do not allow me to talk about the great arrogance of the three insurance companies involved. In fact, we have to pretend that our cases are against the actual drivers. Of course, that is false. All these drivers are insured, and these drivers won't pay a dime for their misconduct. But of course, the defense lawyers sure hope the jurors are fooled into thinking that there might be a financial loss to these defendants personally. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Each defendant, through their insurance company, admitted fault within the 30 days before trial after fighting the issue of fault for years. The corporate defendant in this case, with a corporate officer driving a truck that crashed into my client, had a suspended license at the time of the crash. That license had been revoked for years due to countless DUI's. After he crashed into my client, he ran from the scene, probably to sober up. The police caught him 3 weeks later. It was only a week before trial, after more than a year of arguing about fault, that the corporation admitted that this guy had no business on the road.
Because these defendants all admitted fault, they got the court to keep me from telling the jury about the timing of these admissions of fault. From the defense's perspective, they hope that the jury will judge these defendants in the "light of repentance."
The truth is that the actions of these three defendants (through their insurance companies) and the fake claims of contrition is nothing but a trial strategy designed to present a sanitized version of events to the jury.
WHAT I HOPE THEY REALIZE:
We brought my client's physicians, including primary care doctors who had been my client's doctor for 10 years before the three accidents, to testify at trial. We also brought the rehabilitation treating doctor and the surgeon who did the 2 level neck surgery. My client never had any neck problem before the auto crashes. The insurance companies, not satisfied with that answer, went out and hired the most over-used insurance company doctor in Colorado. Of course, like in the thousands of cases where the insurance industry paid a large sum of money to this company man, the doctor made sweeping conclusions about apportioning injury to pre-existing events that never occurred. He declared that my client suffered a psychiatric pain syndrome that must have existed BEFORE the crashes. He incredibly stated that my client's need for surgery was only slightly caused by the car crashes but much more caused by this "pain syndrome."
What's interesting is that this doctor comes up with the same absurd insurance-oriented "medical" opinion without support all the time, without a shred of medical evidence. But because he is, after all, a physician, the court lets him get away with it. In this case, we showed what a "bought and paid for" fellow this doctor is. But we were prevented from displaying the countless number of prior injury victims where this doctor testified to the same baseless conclusions time and time again.
WHAT I WISH I COULD TELL THEM:
I wish I could express my true sense of unabashed admiration for this hard-working group of jurors. I know they realize that this is my injured client's only time to get all the harms and losses paid. He will need money for the rest of his life. For example, he is looking at a 1 or 2 level future surgery that the neurosurgeon is certain he will need in the next 10 years. That surgery alone is going to cost him nearly $200,000. And I hope that the jury knows that the health insurance that paid the nearly $140,000 in current medical charges MUST be paid back from dollar-one of any amount awarded. So the jury simply awarding $140,000 in medical bills plus the future $200,000 needed for the next surgery, plus the additional $200,000 in other projected medical needs, still means nothing in my client's hands. These are simply sums of money my client is going to get and pay out.
Also, being an accountant, my client really had a difficult time explaining his level of pain and difficulty he has in doing his job. Awarding him the very conservative $400,000 of projected future wage losses, which are certainly going to occur from my talks with my client's boss, won't make up for all of his losses and harms.
My client has about 14% permanent loss of rage of motion in his neck and is looking at a lifetime of pain and disability. We have 2 additional categories of damages where the jury can place sums of money: "non-economic"- your basic pain and suffering damages and "permanent physical impairment." In truth, from what I know that this poor man deals with every day, the jury putting an additional $500,000 in each of those two categories still won't be enough to make up for the true harms and losses this poor man has and will encounter in the future.
I hope the jury recognizes how truly life-altering their impact will have on this poor man's life. The considerable time this fine group has already taken deliberating really evidences the quality of the citizens who are in this most important position. This is my client's one shot at justice, and he is counting on them.
At Anderson, Hemmat, & McQuinn, we care about our clients and what we do for them. We truly believe that fighting for the rights of truly injured people is a high calling, and we take it very seriously. When necessary, we take our client's case before a jury, because we have faith in the jury system as the best way to keep a "check and balance" on an insurance company who chooses not to reasonably compensate our client for his/her injury.