Interesting Iowa Supreme Court decision today. The essential holding is that a party to a civil action does not necessarily have to show up for trial if they can prove their case otherwise. Of course, in most cases, I’d strongly recommend that your client show up.
The real takehome lesson for lawyers here is to make sure to subpoena the opposing party for trial if you need/want any of their testimony. In Illinois, one would do something similar with a Rule 237 notice.
(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer practicing in Iowa and Illinois. He represents people who have been injured in car accidents, by medical malpractice, or in many other ways. He can be reached at hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com or 309-794-1660).
I assume the law on vehicle damage is pretty much the same in every state, right? The general rule is that the plaintiff gets the reasonable cost to repair the vehicle or the value of the vehicle, whichever one is lower.
In trial, the proof should go as follows: Plaintiff proves the value of the repair. Defendant either accepts the value, presents evidence that the real value of the repair is lower or that the value of the repair exceeds the value of the vehicle. If the defendant doesn’t do that, and liability is clear, the plaintiff should win.
Emphasis on “should.” In Iowa, this apparently isn’t the case. The case of Phipps v. Boone County requires the plaintiff to prove both:
A. The reasonable value of repairs, and
B. The value of the vehicle immediately prior to the collision.
Even if there is no objection.
I disagree with this… but Iowa lawyers need to be aware of this when handling property damage in car accident cases.
(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury lawyer who handles auto accident cases in Iowa and Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)
What’s my case worth?
Any good lawyer knows that the answer to that question requires a lot of knowledge – knowledge not just about the facts of the case at hand but about which facts may drive the value of the case and why.
One valuable piece of the puzzle is to see what juries have done in the past with similar cases. Even that has its limitations. Obviously not all juries are the same. Different states, different counties, different judges, attorneys, juries, etc would lead to different results in most cases. The key when looking at jury verdicts is to look at trends and patterns.
The Iowa Bar Association now has a free searchable database of Iowa jury verdicts. It’s incomplete (missing some cases), and it doesn’t give you much information about the facts of most cases, but it’s something. Any weapons in your arsenal that can help you value cases (and convince insurance adjusters, attorneys or even your own clients) that the value you put in your demand is correct sure can’t hurt.
(Howard Zimmerle is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer practicing in Iowa and Illinois. You can reach him at (309) 794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com).