After the Judge instructs the jury on the law that applies to the facts that the jury has heard during trial, the jury returns to the jury room; elects a foreperson to moderate discussions; discusses the evidence; and votes deciding the issues in the case.
In Florida, the jury’s verdict must be agreed to by all 6 jurors. If all 6 cannot agree, the Judge declares a mistrial, and the case will be tried before another jury.
If all 6 jurors can agree on a decision, a jury verdict “form” is completed. The typical form in an auto accident case lists the first question as: Was the Defendant negligent? In other words does the jury agree as a group that the Defendant failed to use due care in the operation of his or her motor vehicle.
If the jury agrees the Defendant was wrong and answers: YES; then the second question is: Was the Plaintiff negligent? This question is asked in Florida because Florida’s legislature adopted comparative negligence; that is the idea that sometimes both parties to an accident are somewhat at fault and the jury is needed to divide the fault between the Plaintiff and Defendant.
Although this “comparative fault” is found in a minority of cases, it is important the jury always award the full amount of the Plaintiff’s damages even if they find the plaintiff is partially at fault because the Judge is later required by law to reduce the jury’s verdict for the Plaintiff by the percentage at fault the jury finds the plaintiff may have been. For example, if the jury finds that the Plaintiff suffered $100,000.00 in damages and was 50% at fault in the accident, the Judge is required to enter judgment for the Plaintiff in the amount of $50,000. Thus the Plaintiff is doubly injured by a jury making its own reduction in the amount of the Plaintiff’s damages, if the jury thinks the Plaintiff was at fault in causing the accident.
The next question is typically: Did the Plaintiff suffer a permanent injury? This is an important question under Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault law. If the Plaintiff does not have a permanent injury, no matter how long or how much the Plaintiff hurt after the accident, there can be no recovery for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. The law does not define “permanent injury.” The jury decides if the loss of range of motion, the ability to lift as much, move as well and the like after the accident is a permanent injury or not. Sometimes juries simply ask themselves: “Is the plaintiff going to be as healthy the rest of his/her life after the accident as he or she was prior to the accident?”
The next questions are the damages questions. Whether or not the Plaintiff has a permanent injury, an injured person is entitled to recover for the money he or she has spent in the past for medical bills, prescriptions, and mileage back and forth for treatment. Again it is important for the jury to award the Plaintiff the full amount of the loss as the No Fault Law requires the Judge to deduct from the verdict any bills paid by PIP. Also group health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, some med pay auto policies require that the injured person’s own insurer gets repaid from the verdict. The Plaintiff is simply a bill collector for the insurance company in regard to insurance subrogation claims.
An injured person may also be awarded future medical costs as shown by the evidence that are more probable than not to be spent by the injured person for his or her care in the future.
An injured person, who has lost time from work, lost a job, a promotion, or other lost wages or earning capacity because of the negligence of another driver should be awarded the amount of wages lost in the past and wages that will be lost in the future.
If the Plaintiff has a permanent injury, the jury considers the amount of money that compensates an injured person for his or her pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life in the past and in the future. There is no set amount for such damages as there would be for lost wages and medical bills in the past and in the future. Based on the evidence the jury should agree on an amount of money that is fair and equals the amount of pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life that the injured person has suffered and will suffer in the future.
After answering all the questions on the verdict form, the foreman signs the form and notifies the Judge’s bailiff that the jury has reached a verdict. The judge will ask the jury to return to the courtroom where the verdict will be read in open court. The jury may be “polled”; that is asked individually, if the verdict that has been read is that juror’s verdict.