Search Site

What does a Jury Verdict Slip Look Like in a Case Involving Negligence?

People are surprised to learn that in personal injury cases the jury is given a special verdict form. The first two questions in that document must be answered “yes” if the person suing is to recover. Those questions are:               

  • Was the defendant negligent?
  • Was the defendant’s negligence a substantial contributing cause in producing the plaintiff’s injury? [There might be slight variations of this questions.]

If the answer to either question is “no”, then the jury is deemed to have reached its verdict. All that remains is for the foreperson to sign the bottom of the verdict slip and to notify the court officer that the jury has finished with its job.

The first question pertains to negligence, often described by me to clients as fault or a failure to meet the legal responsibility of the defendant. The second question pertains to proximate cause, often referred to as causation. Causation is tricky. The language of “substantial contributing cause” is far preferable from our clients’ point of view than language seen years ago requiring the negligence to be “the cause”. Regardless of the way proximate cause is phrased by the judge, the answer must be “yes” or the case is lost. In other words, if the jury does not find causation, they are finding that the harm was not brought about by the negligence. (They do not get to causation unless they have answered question 1 on negligence in the affirmative.) This is the element that most surprises clients and I certainly can understand that.

What else in the verdict slip is of interest to, or should be known, by clients? At the bottom of the jury slip the foreperson certifies that the answers constitute the answers of at least five/six of the deliberating jury. Thus, unanimity is not required as it is in a criminal case. Instead, the plaintiff must prove each element to the satisfaction of ten of twelve jurors, not an easy proposition, but far better than having to prove it to twelve out of twelve.

After questions one and two are answered favorably, there are questions pertaining to comparative negligence. Judges will instruct jurors that a finding of 51% or more of negligence on the plaintiff’s part will leave the plaintiff with no recovery. If the questions are answered in a favorable way to the plaintiff– negligence, proximate cause, and comparative negligence, if any, 50% or under– then the jury determines damages “in an amount that would fairly and reasonably compensate” the plaintiff. As you can see, a lot goes into the findings of a jury verdict. Fortunately, jurors take their responsibility very seriously.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Feinberg & Alban, P.C. fervently protects your rights
  • The Boston firm of Feinberg & Alban, P.C. specializes its practice in the area of personal injury.

    The attorneys serve the entire state of Massachusetts in addition to affiliating with lawyers in other states to handle cases outside of Massachusetts.

  • $7.7 Million Award for Feinberg & Alban Client in Personal Injury Trial

    Boston Attorneys Win Highest Injury Verdict in Massachusetts in 2011 & 2012.

Client Reviews
  • lawyers

    Alexis Cahill represented me on a personal injury case. I was hurt in A car accident and I could not be happier with the outcome Alexis was able to achieve for me. She was conscientious, answered all my questions In a timely manner, and was very eas...

    Read more


  • google

    I reached out to Feinberg & Alban thru their website. Robert Feinberg called me back the same day. He made me feel important and very comfortable. Colleen Santora was the attorney on my case and she was fantastic! She kept me well informed through ou...

    Read more

    Vern Quashie

  • google

    Attorney Colleen Santora, was a pleasure to work with throughout my personal injury case. She makes the process seamless for her clients and is there to answer any questions you have. She negotiated every aspect of my case and got me the settlement I...

    Read more


  • google

    We were very pleased with all aspects of this law firm! My husband was struck by a truck while crossing the street. We hired attorney Colleen Santora of Feinberg & Alban PC. Colleen immediately showed empathy towards my husbands condition, aside fro...

    Read more

    Cleopatra Anderson

  • google

    Attorney Colleen Santora assisted me after a terrifying highway incident. She came to my home because I was not able to travel, and she remained compassionate, professional, and highly competent throughout my case. I would highly recommend retaining...

    Read more

    Susan Hawes

See all reviews
Awards & Affiliations
Contact us

Quick Contact Form