Very seldom in personal injury, or most civil cases.
The judges on the appeals court often know the law better than the trial court judges. But when a trial judge makes a mistake, it can only be fixed if (1) the mistake was throwing out the case before trial (this is called a summary judgment), when the judge should have let it go to the trial, or (2) the case goes all the way to trial.
You can’t appeal a settlement. And almost all cases – about 95% settle.
Why do so many settle?
• It takes a year to get to trial from when the lawsuit is filed.
• Trials are expensive. Even if you are the injured person, and your lawyer is being paid on a percentage basis.
• Trials take a lot of time. To sit in the courtroom so the jury won’t think you don’t care, to reread your testimony so the other side won’t beat you up too bad, to meet with your own lawyer a bunch of times to go through your testimony, and to go through your medical records.
• No one likes to be judged. Especially by people they don’t know. That’s who is on the jury.
• There’s another problem with trials. You can lose. When you do, you usually can’t get the other side to pay what they were willing to pay before the trial.
• And trials can be expensive for insurance companies, depending how they pay their lawyer.
Another problem is that appeals always take a year from the time they are filed. Not from the trial – but from when the trial judge’s paperwork is complete, usually one to two months after the trial.
That’s a long time to wait.
And finally, most of the mistakes trial judges make – and I’ve seen a lot of mistakes – don’t matter. If the Court of Appeals is going send the case back for a second trial, it can only be because the trial judge made a mistake that affected the outcome of the trial.
When can an appeal help you? When the trial judge makes a mistake in throwing out a good case, because he is wrong about the law.
I have won appeals for clients this happened to. One case that comes to mind was for an older lady who slipped in mud that had run down onto a sidewalk from a power plant.
The trial judge threw the case out – the general rule is when you slip in mud, you can’t get any money. (Because mud happens when it rains, it rains a lot, and you can’t ask everyone to get rid of all the mud on the sidewalk all the time.)
I appealed because the power company had known about the mud for 20 years, the power company engineers had done at least two studies on how to get rid of the mud, nothing had happened, and my poor client had no way to get around the mud without walking into the traffic.
Of course, I had already told the trial judge about this. He was a good man, but the easiest thing for him to wrap his brain around was the “mud” rule.
I love trying appeals – it’s exciting, with three judges asking me questions all at the same time, with my case depending on the answers to all those questions.
It’s like dodgeball for smart people, where you don’t have to run fast to win.
And I’ve won appeals where I thought I really beat the odds.
But if I’m in the court of appeals on a personal injury lawsuit, there’s one reason I’m there. It’s because I couldn’t get the insurance company to pay me enough to make my client happy.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. I have won appeals. If you want to know how the appeals process protects your lawsuit, talk with an experienced Cincinnati injury lawyer>. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.