MINOR IMPACT SOFT TISSUE (MIST) INJURIES & LOW JURY VERDICTS
What do you do when a client comes into your office and has suffered a minor impact soft tissue (MIST) rear-end auto accident injury? Assume he has the full tort option on his insurance. The person is hurt and often has had extensive treatment for his soft tissue neck or back injuries. He has also received a very low offer from the insurance company for the tortfeasor. What can you do?
These are some of the most frustrating types of cases because your client has really been hurt thru no fault of their own, and yet the prospects of a large jury verdict for everything they went through and are going through now, are dim.
There are exceptions, of course, but in a large number of jury verdicts on minor impact soft tissue (MIST) auto accidents the juries are giving extremely low awards.Insurance companies know this and are feeding on it by making extremely low offers in these kinds of cases. MIST cases are the types of cases insurance companies want to try.
The defense usually comes in at trial and admits they are at fault. Then they show photographs of the cars involved in the rear- end accident. Often times there is no visible damage to either car in the photograph. They then point those photographs out to the jury and ask how seriously hurt can the person be if there is not even any damage to the cars? That argument is very powerful to juries.
Well what can we do to counter those arguments? What does impress jurors in MIST cases? Attorneys Scott Cooper and Laurie Aulenbauch developed a survey by asking respondents questions about their feelings toward rear-end low impact collisions (RELIC) cases. RELIC and MIST deal with the same type of situations. People were asked to identify what factors a jury would likely consider in giving money in these kind of MIST cases. The attorneys used a company called Results Network, a Harrisburg based marketing research firm, to help with its study. The results were very interesting.
First, the major conclusion was that the average juror is more likely to find an injury as a result of a rear-end low impact collision (RELIC or MIST) if it is an aggravation of a pre-existing condition. In other words, if an injured woman had a prior problem to her back or neck and the jury felt that this auto accident aggravated that condition,it would likely give an award in that type of case.
Second, jurors want to see some objective injury or medical finding like an abnormal finding on an x-ray or MRI to grant a person money.
The major finding was that a good (RELIC or MIST) case to take to trial is one involving an accident victim with a preexisting back or neck injury who was doing pretty well before the accident and the impact aggravated the person’s condition.
Finally, it seems to matter whether your client who was rear-ended, was braced for impact or not, Juries seem to give more money to victims who were not braced for impact when the collision occurred than those who knew they were going to be hit. Lastly, positive key words that were repeatedly mentioned in the study were the following: SUDDEN, ABRUPT, UNEXPECTED, IMPACT, POSITION OF BODY WHEN HIT, and VISIBLE INJURIES (x-rays, bruises, or lacerations).
Okay, there you have it. Now let’s go out there and get a million dollar verdict in our next low impact rear-end auto accident case. If only it were that easy!