In a scene from the classic TV show Seinfeld Jerry goes to pick up his reserved rental car only to find out that the company “ran out of cars.” In the ensuing exchange, Jerry sarcastically points out to the rental car company employee that “you know how to take the reservation, but you just don’t know how to hold the reservation, and that’s really the most important part of the reservation.” Similarly, while winning a personal injury verdict at trial is important, keeping the verdict on appeal is equally if not more important. Keeping the verdict means winning again, after the trial, at the appellate court.
Both the winning and losing side of a personal injury trial have an automatic right to appeal the result at least one time. The appeal is heard by an appellate court (in Ohio there are twelve of these). Three judges from the appellate court hear a given appeal. Unlike at trial, on appeal there are no witnesses or juries, only lawyers and judges. The lawyers submit written briefs to the judges explaining their positions. In some, but not all cases, the lawyers then argue their positions in front of the judges. The judges interrupt the lawyers and ask questions. After the arguments are finished, the judges issue a written decision. The entire process can take six months to a year after the jury trial has concluded.
Only about 1% of civil cases in state and federal courts are resolved by jury trial. Of the 1% that go to trial, 39.6% are appealed. In a sobering statistic, civil defendants win on appeal (i.e. get a plaintiff’s verdict at trial overturned) 10% of the time, while civil plaintiffs win on appeal (i.e. get a defendant’s verdict at trial overturned) 4% of the time. This means that choosing a lawyer that is skilled and prepared enough both to take your case to trial and to argue the appeal is critically important.
As the statistics show, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of lawyers, even those classified as “litigators” or “trial lawyers,” are not trying many, if ANY, cases. This is true (perhaps even most true) at the biggest and most prestigious law firms in the world. Of those few champions that are willing to take cases to trial for their clients, even fewer are willing to take on the appeal. This puts injured people at a disadvantage because defense lawyers know that most plaintiff’s lawyers do not have the time, skill, or resources to take a case all the way to conclusion.
At Rittgers & Rittgers, however, we pride ourselves on being one of the very few firms that successfully fight for our clients from beginning to end (see the attached recent example of a post-jury verdict appellate motion seeking to keep a large verdict for our client). Defense lawyers and insurance companies know that we will never give up. Make sure that before hiring a lawyer for your personal injury case that you ask how many cases that lawyer has taken to trial, and whether the lawyer can also handle the appeal. Otherwise, you may not keep your jury verdict.
 In federal court; data is not available in state court