Some types of cases are harder than others to try. If you've been defending criminal cases and winning 30 percent of the time, those are good results. If you are prosecuting criminal cases or defending medical malpractice cases and winning 80 percent of the time, those are poor results.
These days, if you are representing plaintiffs in minor injury cases and winning more than 30 percent of the time, consider yourself a trial genius.
. . . The most meaningful measurement may be your track record with respect to your opponents' offers. If you regularly beat your opponents' offers, you are probably doing a good job. - from Becoming a Trial Lawyer, Rick Friedman
It's been estimated that less than 1% of lawsuits filed ever make it to a jury trial. This is especially true in Federal Court.
The majority of civil cases are filed in state court, not federal court. And, yet, the state court statistics showing the percentage of cases tried to a jury are not much more than the federal court stats.
As to the type of cases filed - just by common sense, there are more 'minor injury cases' than there are significant injury cases.
Why? Because there are more minor car crashes than there are big crashes.
Rick Friedman, a highly esteemed attorney with an excellent track record, says that you - a plaintiff's lawyer - can lose 70% of your minor injury cases and, still, be considered a trial genius.
Why? Because those cases are hard to win. And, when I say 'win,' I mean to beat the opponent's pre-trial offer.
These cases are challenging for a variety of reasons. Jurors are often skeptical, jurors may not know that a $100 billion insurance company is going to write the $100,000 or $250,000 check because insurance cannot be mentioned during the trial - a way to keep the verdicts low. The insurance companies hide behind their insureds. It's the law.
How do you think that this became the law?
Think about it - I am not going to give you the answer, I want you to come to your conclusion on your own for this one.
There are other laws written for the purpose of keeping damages low.
In a handful of states, four to be exact - the plaintiff can't recover if he or she was the least bit negligent. Defense lawyers sometimes mischaracterize this law in front of juries (I've seen it firsthand) to make it virtually impossible to win - and, unless the Plaintiff's lawyer is awake and watching for this deception - it can go unnoticed. I've caught it and when a defense attorney makes this fallacious argument - I object and call them out on it.
Jurors have a vastly skewed perception of what happens in court.
There could be 99 cases tried where a deserving plaintiff loses. Gets zero. Nada. Nothing. And, then there is 1 verdict in favor of a plaintiff, and - hold your horses - it's on the front page of the internet. It's news. It's sensational. It's on Facebook, TV, radio, and everywhere.
The perception is that this happens all the time.
Smart lawyers - they know better.
It's why Friedman says a plaintiff's lawyer can lose 70% of the time and be a trial genius. Let that sink in. Not good. Not better than average. Not great. But a genius.
In the coming weeks, I will write about some of my 'minor injury' cases and what I've learned over my 31 years of helping injured people - people who were hurt, never thought that they'd ever need to hire an injury lawyer - and were wondering what's next.
By the time they called my office - they had been run over.
My job was to make sure that this didn't happen to them twice.