Categories: Legal Technology

Online Jury Verdicts and Settlements Made Easy


Written by a Paralegal

Reprinted with permission from the January 21, 2010 issue of The Legal Intelligencer. © 2010 ALM Media Properties, LLC.  Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

By including this article in TASA's Knowledge Center, TASA is not endorsing the products or services mentioned below.  The article's content is provided in an educational context and appears as part of a forum for legal professionals.

Do you know what your case is worth? Does opposing counsel know? In the beginning stages of a legal suit, your answer is often "No."  Plaintiff's counsel creates the value of a case when preparing the complaint.  Thereafter, defense counsel completes a review of the materials and evaluates the claim based on the information and documentation initially provided.  The true value of a case, however, is usually not determined until later in the case when policy limits are divulged and discovery is initiated, including exchange of records and retaining experts.  Prior to that, the legal team can only guess the actual value of a case. 

Most law offices operate on the "team" system. With one partner, one associate, one paralegal, one law clerk and one legal secretary, you have the recipe for a great team.  In a typical case, research is often delegated to the associate, paralegal or law clerk.  A team researches the issues, compares notes and prepares a report for the client. We all know there is no "I" in team.  However, with the route technology is taking, team projects are quickly becoming a one-person job. When it comes to jury verdict and settlement research, the team system may become obsolete.

No matter what type of law you practice, researching jury verdicts and settlements is an important part of any case.  How would you know if a plaintiff's demand is over the top if you didn't research it?  Don't wait until your case has been active for a year to start researching.  Early case assessment is helpful when going to mediations, arbitrations or when having a meeting with your client. Plaintiffs utilize verdict research to outline and support a demand. On the flip side, defendants use verdict research to state why a plaintiff's demand is unreasonably high. In order to properly evaluate your case, verdict and settlement research is key.

Some firms hire outside companies or purchase software to track cases and obtain verdict information. However, if your firm is working under a strict guideline or has a budget set in place, you may wish to conduct the research yourself.  Services like Jury Verdict Review & Analysis, LexisNexis, VerdictSearch and WestLaw provide online programs to help individuals navigate and obtain research quickly and efficiently.  Your law firm administrator can determine if the firm has an account with any of these services.  If your firm does not have an account, have your paralegal sign up for a free trial demo. Most companies offer free trials to demonstrate exactly what their product can do for your case.  Once you become a member, researching your key phrase and jurisdiction will only take a few minutes.

To begin your search, compile key words and phrases that sum up the issues of your case. Review the complaint or any pleading that gives you a breakdown of the case facts. For example, if your case involves a plaintiff who has a shoulder injury due to a slip and fall, your key phrase would be, "male, shoulder, arm, slip/fall." 

Next, choose your jurisdiction. When evaluating a Pennsylvania injury case, research from California may be helpful, but it is not what you want to show your client. Cases from the same jurisdiction as your suit are best. Now that you have your key phrase and jurisdiction, you are ready to research online. The Internet has a wealth of options to research jury verdicts and settlements.  

Another feature you will want to take advantage of is hyperlinking. Lexis allows you to not only review the verdict but also view the complaint and depositions. This time- saving feature is remarkable because it affords you the opportunity to look at more facts of the case for comparison. When researching, identify a case that is similar to your fact scenario within the same jurisdiction.  This will provide you with a more accurate view of what the verdict range is or if more cases like yours reach settlement.

For example, I recently had a case where I was looking for a plaintiff of a certain age range. When I typed the age range into my key phrase, I pulled more cases than I had time to review. However, with the hyperlinking feature, I could view the complaint to determine the age of the plaintiff.  Thus, I was able to pick the cases that were similar to my issues and narrow my search. A hyperlinked document saves you time and frustration.  Additionally, oftentimes defense verdict information is also listed.

Therefore, companies such as JVRA, Lexis, VerdictSearch and WestLaw can oftentimes be viewed as "your own personal assistant" with respect to verdict and settlement research.  Neil  Armstrong once said, "Research is creating new knowledge."  Technology of this decade is showing us a deeper depth of knowledge and giving us choices we did not know were possible. There is nothing wrong with pulling out a map and charting your course. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with turning on your GPS and letting the course chart itself.

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal, medical, or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of ALM Media Properties, LLC.

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