If Your Personal Injury Case Goes to Trial
If a case goes to trial and in any given jurisdiction, there can be different outcomes. Some jurisdictions are less favorable than others, some are more favorable. It depends on:
• Who the client is
• Which jurisdiction the accident happened in
• How this particular person would be able to relate to the juries and
• If the juries will like him or her.
A lot of it cannot be formalized–this is where experience and being able to understand things which are not necessarily on the surface comes in. That’s where the lawyer can make a difference by making a true assessment on what they’re doing as far as the client goes.
If a case isn’t settled, it can go to litigation. In D.C., the case is most likely going to go to jury, because the small claims system is limited to $10,000 in recovery, and that’s really not favorable to the plaintiff.
A good thing about D.C. is that on a small claim an injured person can testify about their own medical bills without needing to bring in an expert, which can help control cost on the smaller cases.
In Maryland, there is a district court which allows claims to be done without a jury trial. These kinds of trials can be decided by a judge. The recovery limit is $30,000, and you can present medical evidence by submitting records. This is found under section 10-1 of the Maryland Code Court and Judicial Proceedings Article, Maryland, in the 10-104 Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article.
In Maryland, you have a circuit court which has unlimited jurisdiction for its claims. If a claim is for $30,000 or less it’s still tried by the jury, but you can present medical evidence in which case you don’t need an expert testimony. This would be a jury trial, and it can be resolved in a much longer period of time than a bench trial, but it can also result in a much higher verdict.
In some of the cases, you can decide whether you want to have a judge look at them or a jury. Some are no-brainers. For instance a car accident with no major injuries, $3,000 in medical bills should be tried in front of a judge. But what if it’s $15,000? Do you really want to limit yourself to a $30,000 recovery, or you think there’s a potential to getting more?
This needs to be decided on an individual, case-by-case basis. This is again where the experience of the lawyer comes in to be able to look at the whole of the case and make such a determination.
Virginia is similar: there is a general district court with a $25,000 jurisdictional limit, and circuit court with unlimited jurisdiction. The Virginia decision-making process is similar to Maryland.
In Virginia, even in circuit court, a person can present the medical bills to any amount without support of an expert. However, there are certain situations where it’s not possible and it’s complicated–that decision has to be made based on what the evidence has revealed, and what the positions have been taken by parties to the litigation. It’s a complicated issue, which has to be addressed at the inception of a case and reevaluated periodically while the case is going through the trial, for the litigation.