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Monetizing Risk

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Personal Injury Risk Evaluation is a multi step process. But the ultimate result of that multiple step process is to put a dollar value on the risk – monetizing the risk. The first step is to identify each issue that will be presented to the jury on a jury verdict sheet. So let us look at a frequently occurring verdict sheet – a rear end motor vehicle accident.

Here are the essential facts of our practice case.

REAR END

SOFT TISSUE DAMAGE

UNDER $1,000 PROPERTY DAMAGE

$4,000 MEDICAL TREATMENT

$2,000 MEDICAL DIAGNOSTIC

$8,000 PHYSICAL THERAPY

$1,000 WAGE LOSS

5% PERMANENT DISABILITY

 

Verdict Sheet

1.Was the Defendant negligent? Yes___ No___

2.Was the Plaintiff negligent? Yes___ No___

3.In what amount do you asses damages?

Loss Wages___________

Medical Expenses____________

Pain and Suffering____________

 

In order for the jury to consider damages the plaintiff must get a yes to the first question and a no to the second question.

 

The process of evaluating a case needs to be disciplined and organized. You want to accurately identify all RISK factors that will affect your recovery. There are positive and negative risk factors. Positive factors increase the value of your case, while negative factors decrease the value of your case. Both are important and you do not want to miss any. And then there are factors which would on the surface appear to affect the value but do not — the red herring factor. A word of CAUTION. You cannot — I repeat cannot – properly evaluate  a case until you know all of the facts which are relevant to the issues of liability and/or damages.

 

Liability factors should be evaluated first. The goal here is to determine what your chances are of getting a plaintiff’s verdict. Is it 25%, 50%, 75% or 100%? If it were less than 100%, prudence would dictate that you reduce the amount for which you would settle the case. In our practice case a rear end accident you can say that you have a 95% chance of a verdict on liability. Why not 100% – because you can lose that battle or rare occasions.

Now lets us look at our practice Case.

 

Liability. There is no evidence that the this rear ended was caused by other than the defendant’s negligence. So we can say that the plaintiff has a 95%- 100% chance of a verdict on liability.

 

Damages. The only question on damages is how much the claimant will be awarded for pain and suffering. Tracking jury results would reveal that in 8 out of 10 verdicts the pain and suffering award for this type of case would be about equal to the medical expenses or $14,000. So the range of a verdict would be $26,000 to $20,000. With regard to the permanency rating juries and judges generally are not persuaded that this type of collision causes a permanent injury even when a doctor gives a permanency rating.

 

Does it matter whether the case is tried in a  liberal or conservative jurisdiction? Generally there is very difference with 80% of the verdicts. The exceptions (the 20%) however break against the plaintiff in the conservative jurisdiction but against  the defendant  in the liberal jurisdictions.

 

Personal Injury Jury Trial Risk Evaluation

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Personal Injury claim formPersonal injury jury trial risk evaluation begins as a claim for personal injury is processed through the claim process with the insurance company.During this process a lawyer begins to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the claim. This process is mostly directed at finding accurate information about the claim – eyewitnesses, medical expenses, medical opinions and the like. When a claim matures to the point that all the relevant information is known a process of evaluation begins – what is the claim worth. Generally speaking a claim is worth what a jury will award the claimant.

Trying to figure out what six folks – the jury – will do seems so impossible that it is not worth the effort. After all we do not even know who the six jurors will be. Will they be young or old, conservative or liberal, employed or unemployed – it is just not known until the final six are in the jury box and the case begins.jury

My quest for this type of knowledge began in 1967 , the year I graduated from law school, when I began clerking for Judge Ralph W. Powers and Judge J. Dudley Digges in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Every trial lawyer wants to know what a jury might do in her next case – and a client desires to know to a greater extent.After clerking for Judge Powers and observing many jury trials I began to represent clients and actually try cases – some successfully and some not so successful. I was appointed as a Judge in 1982 and began trying cases in my courtroom. The Circuit Court for Prince George’s County had a very active settlement conference practice which I participated in – 5-7 conferences each day. Fortunately I had three much more experienced colleagues to guide me through this process – Judges McCullough, Blackwell and Levin. Every day at lunch we would discuss the day’s docket and I would ask them a thousand questions. Patiently, they would detail their collective experience.

Then in 1986 I began to record each verdict of our court – 13 judges( now 23) – several hundred verdicts each year. Over the years I have recorded over 5,000 verdicts and reported many of them to the bar.See Maryland Trial Verdicts.Very soon after I began this recording process it became very obvious that certain liability scenarios and personal Injuries were comprising the vast majority of the verdicts.

On the liability side these types were frequent – left hand turns, lane changes, snow and ice , slip and fall. On the injury side these types were frequent – sprains and strains, neck/back, pre existing conditions, knees/shoulders, broken bones, death.

Because these various types were frequently occurring it became pretty obvious that there were patterns of results. The patterns then served as a guide when trying to figure out how to avoid losing a case by entering into a good settlement. In future posts I will go into some of those patterns in detail.

Good lawyering also becomes a material part of the evaluation process. I often tell lawyers asking my advice on lawyering skills that usually  a bad lawyer cannot screw up good facts/law and a good lawyer cannot rescue bad facts/law. All though the great lawyers occasionally break this rule of thumb.

Recently the Grandson of one of those great lawyers appeared in a settlement conference and I told him a story of his Grandfather that occurred while I was clerking for Judge Powers in 1967.His Grandfather was trying a premises liability case where there was no evidence of actual notice to the landlord of a dangerous condition that caused the plaintiff to fall and be injured. During the trial a great deal of time had been spent describing the circumstances surrounding the condition that caused the fall. Circumstances such as how long the liquid had been on the floor, how visible the liquid was, how many people passed the liquid before the fall. At the end of the plaintiffs case the defendant moved for a directed verdict on the grounds that there was no evidence that the landlord knew that the liquid was on the floor – there was no actual notice. Judge Powers was about to grant the defendant’s motion and the plaintiffs lawyer from Baltimore, Marvin Ellin, pleaded with Judge Powers that while the current law favored the defendant the correct law was that of constructive notice. It was late in the day and Mr Ellin pleaded with Judge Powers to give him the overnight recess to provide a legal memorandum supporting his position. Reluctantly, Judge Powers agreed.

When I got into the courthouse before 7 AM the next day Mr Ellin was there in the hallway waiting for the door to be open with his freshly typed 20 page memorandum. Judge Powers arrived shortly and when he returned to the courtroom the defendants motion was denied. Later in the day a $50,000 plus verdict was returned for the plaintiff. Now that is great lawyering. It was several years later that the Court of Appeals of Maryland ruled that the doctrine of constructive notice was applicable in premises liability cases. (Regretfully, Marvin Ellin recently passed away)

How to Value A Personal Injury Case

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Senior Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt

On January 23 , 2020 Charles “Ben” Peoples and I made a Webinar presentation to over 100 lawyers and adjusters regarding how to value personal injury claims. During the presentation, the audience was surveyed regarding different issues. 

The principles, which were set out , are based upon Judge Ahalt’s 52 years of experience as a trial lawyer (15) and judge (37). As a Judge on the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland, he tried over 1,000 jury trials and handled over 10,000 settlement conferences. For many years, he has tracked all verdicts in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County and published those verdicts to the bar. The verdicts now can be found on the links at the top of the page. The reason that Judge Ahalt originally went to the effort of tracking verdicts was to give the bar a frame of reference as they evaluated cases. Additionally, Judge Ahalt regularly talks to his colleagues in Prince George’s County, and around the state and region in an effort to know if the results in Prince George’s County differ. As discussed in more detail below, they are not markedly different. Judge Ahalt also was very fortunate to have very experienced mentors, colleagues and evaluation experts in Judge Albert Blackwell, Judge Jacob Levin and Judge William McCullough. 

You can access and read the entire article here


Matthias Ehehalt (Ahalt) Genealolgy 1731-1775 -The Rest of the Story

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My life is best defined by grace. First, the Grace of my personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and Second by the grace of my family especially my wife Sandy and my ancestors without whom I would not be a citizen of the greatest country in the World – the United States of America.

My Great,Great,Great,Great Grandfather Matthias Ahalt (Ehehalt) immigrated to the United States on September 14, 1753 arriving in Philadelphia on the British ship, Edinburgh.What an act of courage this must of been for a 21 year old one week shy of his 22nd birthday. Matthias left the comfort and safety of his family and traveled from Linsenhofen Germany to Rotterdam; then from Rotterdam through Portsmith England to Philadelphia; then to Middletown Valley in Frederick County Maryland where he purchased a farm.

There are records of the Edinburgh, captained by James Russell, from Rotterdam through Portsmith. However,the ship manifest did not include the country and town of origin for each passenger. Tracing Matthias Ahalt’s genealogy in Germany has been at a dead end for many years.

Matthias settled in Frederick County, Maryland marrying Elizabeth Flook in 1757. Mathias died 18 years later on July 17, 1775 at the very young age of 44. Early church and court records in Frederick County use the spellings Ehalt and Ahalt interchangeably. Family members believe Matthias came from a village in Germany – Urspringen. It is located about 40 miles southeast of Frankfurt in the northwest corner of Bavaria. Family members who have traveled to Urspringen reported that the Ehehalts were the predominate family name in the village and were very friendly. The Ehehalts of Urspringen are all of the Catholic faith. No one had been able to document the birth of Matthias.

In 2015 I came across a reference to a Matthias Ehehalt’s family records on Ancestry.com. The record of his birth was in the town of Linsenhofen not Urspringen.Needing some local help to sort this out through local records I searched for a German genealogy consultant.Using good old Google I found Ralf.Stullich a senior researcher at Beyond History. ralf.stullich@beyond-history.com |www.beyond-history.com.

Linsenhofen is located about 217 km south of Urspringen. To make matters a little more difficult there is a small town Urspring about 20 km east of Linsenhofen.

Ralf first gave me a short education on naming conventions in Germany.

“Well in the time period in question children in Germany normally got three first names. One from the parents and the other ones from the god parents.Regarding the different writings of the first name: He (Matthias) was probably born as Matthias (Matthew in English), but in the church during his baptism the priest normally used the Latin form of the name, which is in this case Matthaes. The last name Ehehalt (in different writings) is a typical one in the area in question. Please remember that in those times most of the people were not able to read and write. They just went to the church and the priest or the clerk wrote down the name as he would write it, so you will probably find different writings in the church book entries in this family. As an example: If you would call me and mention your name is Ahalt, I would probably write it Ahhalt or Ahald or Ahhaldt or… There could be different writings of your last name and in German all sounds the same… By the way: The last name Ehehalt (normally “Ehe” means marriage and “halt” means stop) comes from the “middle high German” word Ehalt and that is nothing else but a domestic/servant.”

Since family reports had Matthias living in Urspringen while another reference had him living in Linsenhofen I asked Ralf to do a search of records in both Urspringen and Linsenhofen for birth and death records. If birth records existed then that would settle where Matthias lived. If death records existed then that would exclude Matthias from immigrating to the US. On the other hand if no death records existed that would probably confirm that Matthias had immigrated to the US.

There were no records of the birth or death of Matthias in Urspringen but there was a record of the birth of Matthias in Linsenhofen but no record of his death. Thus it is reasonable to conclude that Matthias was born in Linsenhofen and immigrated to Maryland in 1753. As we say in the courtroom – the evidence established this fact by “clear and convincing evidence”.

Matthias’ birth/baptism records in Linsenhofen were found in the St George Lutheran Church as were records of 5 more generations of Ehehalt’s dating to 1591.St George’s was built in 1425 and has undergone many renovations but has been pointing the way to Jesus for 7 centuries. That Jesus is a major part of the Ahalt/Ehehalt heritage is without question and well documented in the Baptism records maintained to this day.By grace I am the beneficiary of this heritage almost 600 years later.

I have now been able to trace the families roots in Germany back to the 1500’s and unlock the Urspringen road block. And in the words of Paul Harvey “the rest of the story”

Hans Ehehalt (1591 – )

Jerg / George / Georgius Ehehalt (1626 – 1683)

Michael Ehehalt (1651 – 1692)

Hans Martin Ehehalt (1679 – 1746)

Johannes Ehehalt (1706 – )

Matthias Ahalt / Ehehalt (1731 – 1775)

Jacob John Ahalt (1768 – 1834)

Matthias Ahalt (1803 – 1881)

Joshua Dawson Ahalt (1843 – 1933)

Alonza Ahalt (1878 – 1954)

Arthur Montraville Ahalt (1907 – 1958)

Arthur Montraville Monty Ahalt Jr (1942 –

And now we add two more generations blessed by the same grace that I have been blessed by – My sons Kevin Montgomery Ahalt and Brent Montraville Ahalt and his sons Justin Daniel Ahalt and John Patrick Ahalt.

In the summer of 2015 I was blessed to travel to Linsenhofen with my two sons – Keven and Brent and grandsons – Justin and John. We visited the
the St. George Lutheran church whcih is still functioning as a place of worship
Monty

Answers For Mass Gun Violence

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To many the answers for mass gun violence land squarely on the shoulders of the decreasing moral compass of a secular world pushed by mass media, academia and the entertainment industry. It is as if every man does what is right in his own eyes  and as is prophesied in the Bible it leads to death. See The Holy Bible King James Version. Judges 17:6.


Recently my local newspaper, The Capital Gazette , published a guest article mainly about guns and violence . The author, Rev. Stephen Tillett, was trying to explain and understand the reasons for the terrible tragedy of the Violent and Senseless Killing of Five Capital Gazette Employees – even though it is probably a futile venture to explain an irrational violent event with reason and logic.


The columnist attributes the violence to several factors including the traditional – mental illness, enhanced bump stocks, automatic weapons of war among others. But then expands his theory to ” one groups different values against another’s’ – domestic terrorism is his theory. Apparently, it is his theory that this one group against another group syndrome is attributable to – “that it was outsiders from Europe who came to the “new world” and committed genocide against millions of indigenous persons already living here. And now those outsiders deign to claim “insider” status and want to keep everyone else out … at the point of a gun, if they have to.”

My view is quite different based on my 50+ years as a criminal defense lawyer (15) and Circuit Court Judge (36+) and the changing demographic culture in which I and my family have lived. During this time many different groups and cultures have successfully assimilated with each other. I was born and raised in College Park, MD in 1942 and grew up in segregated schools. My father was a professor at the University of Maryland. I am married and have three children all products of the Prince George’s County Public Schools and now, gratefully, 5 grandchildren.

After attending the University of Maryland (BS-1964) and American University Washington College of Law (JD- 1967), I traveled out to the rural Prince George’s County Circuit Court to clerk for Judge Ralph W. Powers in sleepy Upper Marlboro , Md – the Prince George’s County Seat (1970 Pop. 650,000 – 2017 Pop 910,000)


When I was appointed in 1982 as the 13th Judge, there was 1 African American Judge. There are now 24 judges and 6 are white. In 1999 I completed my 15 year term and I moved to Anne Arundel County and took the status of Senior Judge where I sit every Wednesday in the Anne Arundel Circuit Court and 4 days a month in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County.

As a criminal court lawyer and judge, I have presided over tens of thousand sentencings’- reading a detailed report of the background of each individual to be sentenced. 98% of the individuals have broken homes, drug and alcohol abuse and crime recidivism – even the violent gun related offenders.There is rarely evidence in the reports which points to any religious or spiritual activity. Over my 50+ years there are very few in the criminal court who escape the patterns of a broken family led astray  by a secular worldview.


The one pattern that leads to the successful escape from those deadly worldly patterns is the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that Gospel of Love that transcends the battles of generational bitterness and lack of forgiveness, restores families and leads to a peace “that passes all understanding”. You see the Gospel provides me forgiveness of my sins and offenses, but requires me to forgive the sins and offenses of my neighbors. If these lessons and the Commands of Christ  are shared around the kitchen tables of our homes, progress will be commonplace. A wise bible teacher once said – “Please be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet !”

Over the last 50 years as biblical values have been systematically removed (even ridiculed) from the public dialogue, schools, government – legislators, governors, judges and the workplace – the violence has exponentially accelerated. It is time for our leaders to dramatically change course and return to the Gospel of Jesus Christ – to speak of its transforming power in every conversation. As the plaque that President George H.W. Bush gave his Pastor says – “at all times Preach Christ , if necessary use words”
In this Holiday Season that is why the CENTER of Merry Christmas is CHRIST.