You’ve Won Your RI Jury Trial – Now What?
It seems like a simple concept but requires a careful look at the laws. After spending weeks – perhaps months – preparing for a Rhode Island jury trial, you’ve won a verdict. Now how much will you get paid, and how do you get an enforceable judgment?
How Much Will My RI Judgment Total?
When a plaintiff wins a personal injury trial, the jury will award a dollar amount that the defendant must pay. Now the plaintiff can collect not just the verdict amount, but also interest and costs, which can significantly increase the final judgment total.
The court automatically adds prejudgment interest to the jury’s verdict. Rhode Island’s prejudgment interest rate is 12% per annum. Interest starts on the date the cause of action accrued, which for most personal injury cases means the date of the accident that led to injury. R.I.G.L. § 9-21-10. This is no small amount of money. Often cases that go to trial take several years to get through the court system. For example, if the accident was four (4) years before the judgment enters, the court will add 48% of the verdict amount to the judgment. So a $50,000 verdict suddenly becomes $74,000!
As the prevailing party, the plaintiff can also collect its costs from suing the defendant. R.I.G.L. § 9-22-5; R.I. Super. R. Civ. P. 54(d). These costs include filing fees, service of process fees, copies, and postage for service and filing. Deposition costs may be awarded if they were reasonably necessary to the case. Upon a defendant’s objection to a request for deposition costs, the court will use its discretion to determine whether to award these costs, which may include services of process fees for the witness, fees and mileage allowances for witnesses, the stenographer’s reasonable fee, and the cost of the transcript. R.I. Super. R. Civ. P. 54(e).
Finally, if the defendant does not pay the judgment in a timely manner, the plaintiff can collect postjudgment interest on the judgment, which already includes prejudgment interest. The postjudgment interest rate is also 12%. Interest adds up quickly and provides a strong incentive for defendants to settle and pay judgments on time.
How Do I Get An Enforceable Judgment and Payment of Costs?
Following a jury verdict, the clerk will automatically enter a judgment that includes an award of prejudgment interest, unless the court asks the attorneys to submit forms of judgment. R.I. Super. R. Civ. P. 58(a). The judgment is the legal document that gives a winning plaintiff the right to collect its award and go after a non-paying defendant.
The court will charge costs to the defendant separately, within 10 days of the plaintiff submitting its Bill of Costs with supporting affidavits. R.I. Super. R. Civ. P. 58(a).