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Replacing Jurors with Computers

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who wanted legal advice about an injury he suffered in a car crash. He said he talked to his insurance agent and was told that a computer would determine what he is entitled to receive. He wanted to know if this was true.

The Constitution guarantees us a trial by a jury of our peers. But many insurance companies would instead prefer trials be decided by computer.

So, it is unsurprising that the insurance agent would tell the caller that a computer would calculate his damages.

As noted, insurance companies would happily substitute technology to assign a dollar value to an injured person’s complaints of pain and suffering. Most already spend money to program in-house computers to calculate the value of claims and their likely payout exposure in any given case.

They instruct a computer to assign a dollar value to everything that happens to you due to an injury suffered in a car crash.

For a computer to arrive at a calculation, data must be entered. But what data?

Insurance companies focus on medical bills to give something to a computer to calculate. Though medical bills are not a reliable predictor of the severity of an injury, the insurance company doesn’t care about that. It just wants a number that it can use to justify its litigation position.

Other numbers can be fed into a computer. Typically, the computer will assign a dollar value for each day an individual has to live with pain caused by a defendant’s wrongful conduct. An insurer may allow $10 a day for pain and suffering from a sprained ankle and predict that sprained ankles will only cause distress for four weeks. Thus, the computer will calculate 10×7×4, which totals $280. The insurance company then makes an offer that uses this number calculated by computer.

Some computer systems for insurance carriers have become very complex. They try to factor in the seriousness of a particular injury, the permanency of that injury, and the like.

Other factors entered into the computer include the comparative fault of the parties, whether the injuries are objective or subjective, the length of treatment, the likability of the plaintiff, and the reputation of the doctors involved in treating the plaintiff.

If a number must be assigned to disfigurement and scarring, the insurance company will focus on whether the scarring is in a readily visible location and whether the scarring is likely to cause emotional trauma to the individual.

For example, a scar on a person’s face may substantially detract from their appearance. In contrast, a scar above the sleeve line on an arm might be considered of minimal consequence.

Other numbers that get factored into the computer system include the likelihood of winning at trial.

For example, if the case is a slip and fall, the possibility of winning might be calculated at 50%.

If the case involves a rear-end collision of the plaintiff stopped at a traffic signal for a red light, the likelihood of winning might be calculated at 99%.

While insurance companies might like to substitute computers for jurors, the Constitution only authorizes a trial by human jurors.

Nevertheless, pressure will always be present to exclude humanity from making such decisions.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”