The extent of the jury’s role in determining the settlement for a personal injury case varies from one legal jurisdiction to the next. Still, a jury always plays some part in deciding the size of the plaintiff’s award.
Jury’s role more significant in certain jurisdictions
In some jurisdictions, the jury gets assigned the task of apportioning the degree of liability, in cases where both the defendant and the plaintiff have been negligent. That means that it becomes the jury’s job to decide how much a given award ought to be reduced. That reduction needs to agree with the extent to which the plaintiff has been declared partly liable.
In other jurisdictions, the judge studies the evidence and apportions the degree of liability. This would be done after the jury has agreed that both the defendant and the plaintiff were negligent in the moments before the accident.
The part that a jury plays in determining a settlement in all jurisdictions
If the plaintiff is going to receive money for future economic damages, then the jury needs to carry out some calculations. Normally, juries use government tables, in order to calculate what the future damages are, in light of the value of the present-day dollar.
A time when the judge, not the jury makes the decision:
Sometimes a plaintiff receives his or her compensation from sources other than the defendant. A personal injury lawyer in Richmond Hill refers to that added source of money as a collateral source payment. Money from workers’ comp benefits or money from a medical insurance company would be examples of a collateral source payment.
The judge has access to information on any collateral source payment for a given case, but the jury does not. The legal system feels that such information might act to sway the jury’s decision.
If a plaintiff is receiving a collateral source payment, then the size of the granted award must reflect that fact. In other words, there ought to be an appropriate reduction in the plaintiff’s award, one that corresponds with the amount of money supplied by the collateral source payment.
Since the jury never knows anything about such payments, it plays no role in determining the size of the amount deducted from the granted reward. Yet the judge does have access to information on the collateral payments. Consequently, the judge must determine the size of the reduction in the plaintiff’s reward, if the plaintiff will be receiving one or more payments from a collateral source.
This is the system that has evolved over time. That system could undergo changes. For example, many juries might gain access to computer programs, which could be used for calculating the future damages in terms of present-day dollars.