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Study Says Trial Lawyers Good At Predicting Verdicts

The Wall Street Journal pushed out an interesting story last week exploring the ability of experienced attorneys to predict jury verdicts ahead of time. The story summarized the results of a new study from the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. The research involved predictions by real attorneys of real medical malpractice cases. Participants in the study were all experienced civil trial attorneys. They were shown short snippets with details of a civil matter. They were then asked to predict the jury award amount in the case.

The predictions were made in several stages with an effort given to understand how different factor might influence the attorney’s opinion. In the first round, each attorney simply gave their personal opinion. Next, participants read the opinion of another attorney and were then given the chance to revise their original opinion. In round three they negotiate with another attorney. Finally, in the last round the participant was asked to make a final predictions based on everything that had occurred in the three prior rounds.

The results indicated, overall, that experienced trial attorneys are quite good at predicting verdicts based on the information presented to them. Overall, when researchers averaged the final guesses of each participant they found attorneys to be within 25% of the actual awarded amount. This is a pretty impressive stat considering that the attorneys were given only a few small paragraphs about the case. Interestingly, the research also found that attorneys usually were further off the mark the less they incorporated the opinions of their fellow attorneys. In general, the closest estimates were those in the third round, where attorneys were forced to negotiate a simple award amount prediction in conjunction with a partner.

So what should we take away from this research?

Experience matters. This simple rule is the same when you are looking for legal services yourself or when medical malpractice lawyers are seeking opinions on the next stage in a legal matter, trusting those who have been there before will make a difference.

Local residents may not realize the significance of this sort of predictive ability. However, having experience in a particular area of the law and being able to accurately explain what a jury verdict might be and what the value of the verdict might be is an essential skill in determining how a case ultimately plays out.

From the client’s perspective, they understand that they were harmed in a certain way. Therefore they often assume that it is clear that a jury will realize the truth and provide adequate compensation. However, attorneys appreciate that while the purpose of the civil justice system is to root out the truth, what matters most is not necessarily what actually happened but what evidence we have of what happened. Of course this can be quite frustrating for the potential client who was involved in a certain situation and knows what happened. Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm appreciates that part of our job is working to explain to clients the available evidence and share how, in our experience, this might translate when it comes to a possible settlement or, if necessary, a trial.

For this reason, we are proud of our experience level. For decades our medical malpractice attorneys have worked specifically on these matters. As a result, we understand what the likely outcomes might be and are better positioned when it comes times to negotiate a settlement or advise the client on the benefits of rejecting a settlement offer and proceeding to trial. At the end of the day there is always unpredictability but trends still matter.

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