Jury Award of Zero Dollars to Plaintiff Upheld on Appeal

Juries decide cases with respect to the liability of the parties and in regard to the damages owed. In a recent case, a jury found that a defendant was liable—yet it also found that the plaintiff should be awarded nothing.

empty-pocket-1-1536707After a woman was injured in a car accident, she and her husband sued her insurance company to recover damages for her injuries under the underinsured motorist provision of their policy. Prior to trial, the defendant admitted that the driver of the car that hit the plaintiff was negligent. However, the case proceeded to trial on the issue of causation and damages. At trial, the woman admitted that all of her medical bills had been paid. Accordingly, the plaintiffs were only seeking damages for pain and suffering.

The jury was required to determine the amount of damages the plaintiffs should be awarded. When the jury returned a verdict in her favor, but with an award of no damages, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial. The motion was denied, and the plaintiffs appealed the decision. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that a jury verdict for the plaintiff must necessarily include an award of damages.

In some cases, jury verdicts in favor of the plaintiff but without any award of damages have been reversed. However, in this case, the court found the verdict was consistent with the facts presented at trial. Here, the plaintiffs’ lawyer stated that there were no claims for medical bills, or lost wages. In addition, the lawyer told the jury that if it did not find that she was entitled to damages for her pain and suffering, the jury should award her nothing. Therefore, even though the defendant was liable, the jury’s award of $0 made sense because it was told that if it did not believe she experienced pain and suffering as a result of the accident, it should award nothing. For that reason, the state’s supreme court upheld the decision.

Damages in Illinois Negligence Cases

In addition to proving all the elements of liability at trial, a plaintiff must also prove damages. The Illinois Supreme Court has stated that the main goal of an award of damages in a civil case is to compensate the plaintiff, rather than to punish the defendant. The main elements of damages for personal injuries in Illinois are: the nature of the injuries, the expected duration of the injuries, the aggravation of pre-existing conditions, disfigurement, disability, pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical care expenses, the value of time or lost wages, caretaking expenses, and the plaintiff’s age and life expectancy.

While tort damages do not have to be proven by an exact amount, they must be proved with a “reasonable degree of certainty” or a “fair degree of probability.” Pain and suffering damages do not need to be related to the amount of medical expenses incurred, or to lost wages. A plaintiff’s own testimony may be sufficient to prove pain and suffering. An expert may also be needed in some cases, however.

Have You Been Injured?

If you have been injured in an accident, you should speak to attorney as soon as possible about your claim. If your case proceeds to trial, you will likely need an experienced attorney in order to prove both liability and damages. The Illinois personal injury lawyers at Moll Law Group represent individuals who have been involved in devastating accidents and families who have lost loved ones. We have represented clients for decades, and billions of collective dollars have been recovered in cases in which we were involved. Call us at 312-462-1700 or fill out our consultation form to set up a free initial consultation.

See More Posts:

Recent Case Discusses How Settlement Terms Can Bar All Future Claims, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, March 1, 2016.

Safer Technologies in Cars, But Not For Everyone, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2016.

Court Considers Causation Issues in Defective Gun Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2016.