How Trust, Emotions, and Facts Affect Personal Injury Verdicts

Web Admin - Monday, December 24, 2018
Inverness personal injury lawyer jury verdictSerious injuries, illnesses, and deaths happen every day. In many cases, these are unfortunate events that naturally occur in our imperfect world. However, there are times when a personal injury or wrongful death occurs as the result of another party’s negligence or misconduct. For example, a drunk driver may cause a collision that kills another person, or a business may fail to take reasonable precautions when manufacturing a product. In these situations, the party at fault has a civil responsibility to compensate the injured party for their damages. 

Juries Sometimes Award Huge Sums in Personal Injury Cases

Many, if not most, personal injury cases are resolved through an out-of-court settlement negotiated by lawyers. In some cases, however, the two sides cannot agree on the amount of damages that one party should pay to the other, so the case must go to trial. The verdicts in personal injury trials are often unpredictable, and they are sometimes dramatically large, as in these recent 2018 cases:

- An Indiana jury awarded $35 million to a man who was rendered a quadriplegic in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. 

- A Georgia jury awarded $1 billion to a young woman who was sexually assaulted by an armed security guard employed by her apartment complex.

- A San Francisco jury awarded $289 million, which was later reduced by a judge to $78 million, to a man whose cancer was caused, according to the court’s verdict, by Roundup weedkiller.

How Attorneys Build a Convincing Case for a Large Verdict 

What factors convince a jury to rule in favor of an injured person and to award large amounts of compensatory and punitive damages? This is a hard question to answer definitively, but there are several factors that play a role. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to leverage these factors and use them to construct a compelling combination of factual evidence and emotional arguments for a jury trial.

One factor is that jurors seem to be less offended today by plaintiff requests for multi-million dollar verdicts and more willing to award them. Court-watchers speculate that American citizens have been affected by the barrage of online stories highlighting exorbitant professional athlete contracts, lottery jackpots, and the huge gap that has developed between CEO compensation and worker wages. As a result, jurors tend to believe that a corporate defendant can easily afford a large payout and must be made to feel the pain of their mistakes through punitive damages, and that the injured party deserves the compensation. 

Another factor is more widespread feelings of anger and distrust against “the elite.” Part of this stems from the growing division between the highest-paid and the lowest-paid workers in America. This has caused more anger and distrust toward the leadership of large corporations, who are viewed as getting rich at the expense of their workers. Also, with so much “fake news” going around on social media, people are becoming more distrustful in general. In some cases, jurors even distrust the injured person’s attorney and increase their award to the injured person just to “make sure they are taken care of” after the plaintiff’s attorney takes their share of an award.

Short attention spans are a third variable that personal injury lawyers must increasingly take into account when developing their trial arguments. Younger generations do not have the patience to sit through days of oral testimony by technical experts. Attorneys need to use more graphics, videos, and even virtual reality recreations of an accident scene in order to make testimony more compelling and impactful to jurors. 

Attorneys must also be sensitive to the way the injured person is portrayed and the way their story is told. Juries who are emotionally touched by a well-told story can be swayed toward one side or the other. For example, when jurors see that the injured party is part of a likeable, hard-working family that they can relate to, they are more likely to favor the injured party. The injured person’s attorney may also encourage jurors to look at the injured person and think, “What if it were me?” When such feelings are strong enough, they can cause jurors to override arguments that the defendant acted according to reasonable standards of care.

Consult a Des Plaines Personal Injury Attorney  

If you have been injured through another person’s or corporation’s negligence or wrongdoing, you could have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit and be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries. The first step is to discuss your case with an experienced Barrington personal injury lawyer. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC have decades of experience obtaining due compensation for our clients in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a free consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


Recovering Damages When Injured on Chicago Area Public Transportation

Web Admin - Friday, December 21, 2018
Inverness bus accident injury lawyerIf you regularly utilize the public transportation network in Chicago and its suburbs, there are a number of ways in which you could be injured and have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit. Whether you ride buses or trains operated by Metra, CTA, or Pace, the potential causes of personal injuries are similar, including:

- A slip-and-fall that occurs at least in part due to the negligence of a bus or train operator. A fall attributable only to wet floors on a bus or train when it is raining outside is unlikely to qualify. On the other hand, CTA could be liable for a fall caused by an improperly trained driver who stopped their vehicle too quickly.

- Injuries attributed to faulty design or maintenance of a station platform or piece of equipment.

- Injuries sustained during a train derailment or a bus crash attributed to operator error. For example, Pace could be held liable if a bus driver causes a crash by running a red light, speeding, or being distracted by looking at their phone. However, if a collision is wholly the fault of another vehicle’s driver, Pace would generally not be liable.

- Wounds suffered by a pedestrian who is struck by a bus or train, or by parts flying off a bus or train, where it can be shown that the operator of the bus or train was at fault. If a person trespasses onto train tracks and is struck, they generally cannot hold the train operator responsible.

- Injuries inflicted by a public transit security officer who used excessive force or committed some other type of misconduct.

Time Is Critical in Chicago Public Transportation Injury Cases

If you believe you have a legitimate claim for damages against CTA, Metra, or PACE, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. There are two reasons why Illinois personal injury cases involving public transportation are time sensitive. First, critical evidence must be protected, such as security video recordings that are typically only retained for a limited period of time before being erased or overwritten. An attorney must typically file an emergency protection order to preserve videos and other relevant evidence. Second, Illinois state law (745 ILCS 10/8-101) requires all claims against “local entities,” which includes local public transit authorities, to be filed within one year of the incident, versus a two-year timeframe for most other lawsuits. 

Recovery of Compensation from Transit Authorities is Possible

In 2017, a woman who was injured in a CTA train derailment was awarded more than $6 million in damages by a jury. She suffered injuries to her head, neck, and back when her head struck a metal pole and a door inside the train car. 

To compensate a man who was assaulted in a train station by Metra police officers, Metra agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $250,000 in 2017. The entire incident was captured on video.

Consult an Arlington Heights Public Transportation Accident Attorney 

If you have been injured on public transportation in the Chicago area, and you think you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, talk to a knowledgeable Rolling Meadows personal injury lawyer without delay. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC will review your case at no cost to you. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


Enjoy the Season of Giving Without Tax Implications

Web Admin - Monday, December 17, 2018
Schaumburg gift tax attorneyYou do not have to wait until you die to give a loved one enough money to pursue a big dream, such as starting a business or advancing their education. You can give that gift today without paying any extra federal taxes as long as you follow a few simple rules and have a sound estate plan. During the holiday season, it is important to understand how federal gift tax affects the high-value gifts given.

Why the Gift Tax Exists 

Gift taxes exist because of the federal estate tax. If your estate is large enough that federal estate taxes will be owed upon your death, the IRS wants to make sure it collects those taxes one way or another. The gift tax ensures that people cannot avoid the federal estate tax simply by giving away their assets prior to death.

Who Has to Pay Federal Gift Taxes? 

Gifts are always tax-free to the recipient. Federal gift tax rules only apply to the giver and only come into play if you exceed the annual gift limits. 

What Are the 2018 and 2019 Gift Limits?

The annual gift limit is $15,000 per individual recipient per calendar year for 2018 and 2019. You can give that amount to as many individuals as you wish without being required to pay gift tax. It does not matter if the individual is related to you or not.

In other words, a gift of $15,000 or less that is given to one person will not have any gift tax or estate tax implications. Separately, your spouse may also give $15,000 to anyone they want. 

Non-cash gifts are valued at their current fair market value. For example, if you originally paid $5,000 for a painting or 100 shares of stock, and the item is worth $15,000 at the time you transfer the gift, the IRS considers the value of the gift to be $15,000.

What Happens if I Exceed the Annual Gift Limits?

If the total value of your gifts to any one individual in one calendar year exceeds the annual limit, you must file a federal gift tax return using IRS Form 709. This is separate from your federal income tax return but is due at the same time. 

A separate Form 709 must be filed by each individual who gives an over-the-limit gift; spouses cannot file one joint Form 709 the way they file a joint income tax return.

However, just because you have to file a federal gift tax return does not mean you will actually have to pay any taxes at that time. You can choose to apply over-the-limit gift amounts to your federal estate tax exclusion. In essence, rather than paying the gift tax now, you defer the taxes until your death when the final estate tax return is filed.

If you opt to pay gift taxes at the time you file a gift tax return, the tax rate starts at 18% and goes as high as 40%. These rates are substantially lower than current estate tax rates, but again, the laws can change dramatically from year to year. 

Ultimately, most people will not owe any federal estate taxes upon their death, so it is often preferable to avoid paying gift taxes early.

What Happens at Death When My Estate is Settled?

A federal estate tax return must be filed only if the fair market value of your total assets at the time of your death plus the sum of all pre-death taxable gifts exceeds the IRS “basic exclusion” amount. The IRS basic exclusion amounts are $11.18 million for 2018 and $11.4 million for 2019. 

Of course, it is possible that the estate tax threshold could be reduced in future years. For example, if you had died in 2017, the estate tax exclusion was just $5.49 million. 

These complexities are a good reason to work with a highly skilled tax and estate planning attorney to develop a comprehensive estate plan.

Please note that the information in this article applies only to federal tax law. Consult your financial and legal advisors regarding applicable Illinois estate and gift tax laws.

Consult a Schaumburg Tax and Estate Planning Lawyer

Many people find great pleasure in giving generous gifts to their family members sooner rather than later. However, to avoid creating an unnecessary tax burden, talk to a knowledgeable Arlington Heights gift tax and estate plans attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. Call 847-934-6000 to schedule an appointment; there is no charge for an initial consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


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