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Showing Damages in Court: Case Worth Part 3


By user on October 22, 2014


Showing Damages in Court – What’s Your Case Worth?

Start Transcription of Case Worth Part 3: Showing Damages in Court

Hello. My name is Brigham Cluff. I am an attorney with the law firm of Cluff and Cluff. I’d like to talk to you a little bit today about analyzing how much your case is worth. I had an experience once with a client, a kid who had a broken leg. This kid was in high school, really great kid, broke his leg very badly. It wasn’t his fault. It was the defendant’s fault. We had a very solid liability case and the images were also very solid and nobody is going to question that this kid was really hurt. It’s quite evident in the x-ray that he’s got a broken bone.

What do you do? How do you get that evidence in? One of the things that I did in that case is I went and visited the client in his home, there with his family. His parents were there. Some of his other siblings were there. I just spent some time with the family there in the home. By this time, he was no longer in his cast. We were getting close to trial and I just got to know the family and I walked around the house. I learned information that I couldn’t have gotten in any other way than by going to my client’s home and visiting with him and his family.

Here’s an example. I said show me around the house if you would. They said sure, we’d be glad to. I went into the client’s room and I saw that he shared a room with his brother and they had bunk beds in the room. I said interesting. What bed to you sleep in? He said I sleep on the bottom bunk. I used to sleep on the top bunk, but after I broke my leg, it was just really tough to get there, so now I sleep on the bottom bunk. We’ve never switched. I thought that’s interesting.

This is something that had never come up before in my conversations with the client. It probably never would have had I not been there right there in the client’s home. Now, instead of having my client get up on the stand and say I hurt my leg, it really hurt a lot and I had to switch to the bottom bunk and I really didn’t like that, I preferred being on the top bunk, I was able to introduce evidence in a much more powerful way. We got a photograph of the room and of the bunk beds.

Then I had his brother come and testify. I said, little brother what are we looking at here in this picture? That’s the bunk beds. This is my room I share with my brother. Then I had him explain the story of how he had to switch bunks with his brother. That evidence came in and it didn’t sound like whining. It wasn’t the plaintiff talking about woe is me. It’s somebody else talking about a fact, something that happened. That was powerful evidence in that case. Later we were going around other parts of the home.

We went into the hall bathroom that was across the hall from the boys’ bedroom, typical bathroom in a rely small home, combination shower/tub in one end of the bathroom. Then next to that, there was the toilet. There really wasn’t a lot of room to move around in that bathroom. I asked my client how did you take care of yourself in this bathroom while you were in that cast? He had a cast that went all the way up his leg. It was very cumbersome. His father was actually there with me at the time.

He said it was a nightmare. He couldn’t hardly fit onto this toilet here when he had the cast on because his leg couldn’t bend. He really couldn’t take care of himself after he was done using the toilet. He needed help and so I would have to help him do that. Sometimes I wasn’t there and his mom would have to help him do that and it was awful. It was embarrassing for my son. It was embarrassing for me frankly. It was embarrassing for my son’s mother. That’s something that everybody understands.

The jury got it. They don’t like having to see somebody suffer in that way. My client didn’t have to get up onto the stand and sound like he was complaining. I was able to get all of that evidence in in another way. That sort of evidence can be very powerful. It’s tangible. The jury gets it and it doesn’t sound like whining. I’ll give you an example of a contrast in how to get damages evidence in. Years ago, I was right at the beginning of my career and I was working at a law firm.

I was the low man on the totem pole. I was the brand new lawyer and so I got the cases basically that nobody else wanted at the firm. I recall getting this one case and I was going through all of my new cases and looking through the files and looking at the evidence that had been gathered. In this one file, I was going over it with my secretary, there were photos, and this was back in the days where there were actually paper photos that you could hold in your hand. These days, photos only exist on I-phones, but in those days, you could actually take pictures and you would print them out and hold them in your hand.

I had several pictures of the client and I couldn’t really figure out what was the point of these pictures? I’m going to try to demonstrate what I saw in the pictures. They were just pictures of the client. They were fairly close up on the client’s face and he was going like this. In another one, he was going ohhhh. I thought what’s going on in these pictures here? Why do we have these in the file? My secretary said this is the client in pain. Ha ha ha. I said really, this is our evidence of pain, the client grimacing? Well yeah, that’s what it is.

Okay, that’s not going to be persuasive to a jury. It’s not going to be persuasive to an insurance company either. The only thing that persuades an insurance company is the fear of what a jury might do with the evidence. That’s not compelling. It’s not persuasive. Anyone can make a grimacing look on their face. Nobody believes that that’s really evidence of pain, but there are things that you can do to create very compelling evidence. I mentioned the example with my client, my young client with the broken leg, but you can do that in every case. A lot of times some of your most powerful damages evidence does not come in from the plaintiff in the case.

It comes in from people who know the plaintiff. Oftentimes people who don’t even know the plaintiff very well, sometimes it’s more compelling that way. It’s more believable that way. Perhaps it’s a coworker of the plaintiff. Perhaps it’s somebody that goes to church with the plaintiff of a friend, or a friend of a friend, somebody who can some onto the stand and say I know the plaintiff. He’s not really a close friend of mine, but I do know him and I saw him at this event and it was really difficult and it was hard for him. You can go through and talk about the real life damages that have occurred.
End Transcript

As you can see, showing damages in court really helps the worth of your personal injury case. Be sure to watch my other videos in the series below:

5 part series on Determining a Case’s Worth