When settlement negotiations and mediation are unsuccessful in resolving a car accident claim, you will need to take your case to trial to recover the compensation you deserve. Though every matter is different, you can consider it a win when the jury comes back with a verdict in your favor and indicates the award amount. However, a judge still has the final say under Florida’s statute on remittitur and additur, legal jargon for increasing or decreasing damages. If the judge finds that the award is improper, it could be reduced.
It might seem unfair that the court could change the amount that a jury has found to be reasonable. Still, the statute is clear: Lawmakers intended to bring practicality and logic to the civil court system, so it is in the best interests of Florida motorists to allow a judge to make adjustments. A Miami car accident attorney can explain details, but some background on this law is useful.
Factors Judges Weigh in Modifying Jury Awards
When a party believes that the amount awarded by the jury is either too low or too high, they can present a motion to the court to alter it. Judges are required to use discretion when assessing whether to grant the motion, but the statute includes criteria to review. A judge may increase or decrease the amount when it is either clearly excessive or completely inadequate, so the court will consider whether:
- The jury awarded the amount based on passion, bias, or corruption;
- Jurors seem to have ignored evidence or misunderstood the merits of the case in reaching their decision;
- The jury assessed improper facts regarding damages or came up with the amount through speculation;
- The amount awarded by jurors is reasonably related to the damages that were proved at trial and the injuries that the victim suffered; and,
- The evidence supports the jury’s finding, such that any reasonable individual would agree that the amount of damages is logical.
Options for Dissatisfied Parties
Either party can file a motion to change a jury award, and the court will hear arguments from both sides. Two outcomes should be satisfactory to you as a car accident victim:
- The court denies a motion by the defendant to reduce your damages as being excessive; OR,
- The judge agrees with your motion to increase damages because the jury’s award was inadequate.
If dissatisfied, there is yet another step in the litigation process: The court must order a new trial if the adversely affected party disagrees. This proceeding is not an appeal, and the only issue at stake is damages – not fault.
Set Up a Free Consultation with a Miami Car Accidents Lawyer
To learn more about the statute that allows a judge to change the jury’s award, please contact Gerson & Schwartz, PA. Individuals in South Florida can call (305) 371-6000 or go online to schedule a no-cost case review. We are happy to meet with you at our offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach, FL.