Metro Detroit Personal Injury Attorney
Whether you have a Michigan car accident case, slip and fall case, dog bite case, medical malpractice case or other personal injury case, it is likely you will experience case evaluation. In most circuit court cases requesting money damages, the parties will submit to case evaluation or a mediation conference. This occurs after a case is filed and generally near the end of the discovery process (related: What to expect during your deposition).
During case evaluation, your case will be evaluated by a panel of three lawyers at a hearing. Usually, one evaluator advocates the plaintiff, another advocates for the defendant, and the third is considered a neutral evaluator. The hearing is more informal than a hearing before a judge, but requires that each side present a written summary of the facts and evidence supporting their claim. During the hearing, attorneys for each side will have an opportunity to present their side of the case, and respond to questions from the evaluators.
Case evaluation is designed to settle the case before trial, aiming to save both the court and the parties time and money. At the end of the hearing, the panel renders an award. The award represents the case evaluators' opinion as to the value of the case or what they think the case should settle for. After receiving the award, the parties are free to either accept or reject the award, and have 28 days to make the decision. If both parties accept the panel's evaluation, a judgment will be entered in that amount and the case is over. If one or more of the parties reject case evaluation, then the case would proceed to trial.
If one party rejects the award and the other party accepts, the case will proceed to trial, however, the party who rejects could be liable to pay case evaluation sanctions (actual costs and attorney fees of the opposing party) for the accepting party, unless they improve their position by 10% or more at trial.
For example, lets say the panel awards plaintiff $50,000. If the plaintiff rejected the award, he or she would be liable to pay case evaluation sanctions unless they obtained a verdict of $55,000 or more (10% above case evaluation award). Similarly, if the defendant rejected the case evaluation award and plaintiff accepted, defendant would be liable for plaintiff's actual costs if plaintiff obtained a verdict above $45,000.
Case evaluation is an important part of any personal injury case and can have significant consequences on your Michigan personal injury case. After the panel renders their award, the attorney and client should have an in-depth conversation about the case, addressing both the strengths and weaknesses before making a decision on whether to accept or reject.