Can A Judge Change A Jury’s Verdict?
As a general rule, in a personal injury case, the jury has the ultimate, final say, in how much you are awarded. It does that by resolving factual disputes, such as whether the Defendant was at fault, and how injured you are. Although he or she presides over the trial, the judge cannot make those decisions for the jury, nor can the judge “second guess” the jury after the jury has rendered a verdict.
Except that there are certain times in an injury trial when, after a verdict has been rendered, a judge can overturn, second guess, or adjust a verdict that a jury has rendered. Although it is rare, it can be done, and either party can ask the judge to adjust the jury’s verdict.
Adjusting the Verdict Upward
The only time that a judge can adjust a jury’s verdict—that is, raise the amount or lower the amount the jury has entered in its verdict—is if the jury’s verdict is unsupported by the evidence.
Let’s take a typical example. Let’s say you suffer a traumatic brain injury where your short term memory is permanently impaired. Your quality of life is diminished and you suffer from anxiety and depression because of the accident.
The jury can say your damages are $10,000, $100,000, $1 million or any other number. So long as there was evidence that you did, in fact, sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI), it is up to the jury to value your injury.
However, let’s say that your doctor says that because of your injury you will need ongoing medical care at a cost of $10,000 per year. The jury does award you your current medical expenses, but refuses to give you the $10,000 per year going forward.
This is, potentially, an inconsistent verdict—it makes no sense. If the jury did find that you were injured—as it did—it would, based on the doctor’s testimony, have to give you all of your damages. It doesn’t have to give you $10,000 a year for the next X number of years—but it has to give you something, because under any reasonable interpretation of the evidence, your injury will involve future medical care.
Lowering What the Jury Awards
The same way that you can ask a judge to raise a jury’s verdict, the Defendant can ask the judge to lower the jury’s verdict. Let’s assume the doctor said that you would not need any further medical care—that you were completely healed. If the jury gave you future medical expenses, that could be lowered, because there is no evidence presented in the case upon which to base the jury’s award.
Judges do not alter jury verdicts lightly. However, juries do make mistakes, and judges are charged with correcting those mistakes, should the need arise.
Call the Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys at Rosen Injury Law for help understanding your personal injury case. Contact us today with your questions.