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Abstract

The trial of a personal-injury case to a jury is fraught with uncertainty. Uncertainty stems from whether the plaintiff will prevail (and whether the jury will find the defendant at fault) and the amount of damages. Personal injuries, such as a broken ankle or a busted knee, do not translate well into specific dollar awards. Awarding a sum of money for a personal injury is firmly rooted in the law and is the only means available to compensate the plaintiff for a loss. These means are entrusted to the jury beginning at jury selection and continuing throughout the trial. trial lawyers may address the jury on the amount of damages that it should award. These submissions provide the jury with some guidance on what is fair and just compensation for the injuries claimed in the case. The trial judge also should suggest to the jury what is reasonable compensation for the plaintiffs injury, albeit by giving the jury a band or range within which awards would be fair and just compensation. The range method is currently used by English courts in defamation and other civil cases tried to a jury. As applied in England, the process results in juries making like awards for like injuries in like cases and thus smoothes out the variability inherent in different juries' making awards in different cases involving what is essentially the same injury. New York trial judges should apply the English approach to the trial of personal-injury cases and give the jury a bracket within which it may make an award of damages.

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