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EP 44: Using AI to Determine Case Value of Catastrophic Cases

AI is disrupting industries around the world but roll does the technology play in catastrophic cases? It can be a great tool for attorneys to use, especially as it relates to pulling information. In this episode, we’ll explain how it’s used to help determine case value for catastrophic events and talk about the roles focus groups play during the process.

We’ll tackle all of this with Jeff Watson, Senior Managing Attorney at Speaks Law Firm. By knowing what to expect, it can ease some of the uncertainty and anxiety that comes along with these situations. Everyone wants to know what the value of their case might be and these two things factor into that determination quite a bit. So we’ll explain how AI benefits our team but also where it falls short.

Here’s some of what we discuss in this episode:
0:00 – Intro
0:46 – How AI is useful
2:41 – AI can fall short
6:21 – Example of how we use it
8:02 – Role of focus groups
13:47 – Character matters

Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

Welcome back to catastrophic comeback. I'm continuing my conversation with Jeff Watson managing attorney at Speex law firm. Jeff, we were talking about case value, and it brought up the we got to a point in the conversation about artificial intelligence and, and the tools that we might be able to use. You mentioned that insurance, defense firms and insurance companies use artificial intelligence and algorithms to predict case values. I know a lot of you know, they've been using Colossus for a long time with an algorithm, the next generation of technology is AI, artificial intelligence. What how does that play into this, and what is your assessment of AI and how it can be useful or, or in this kind of situation?

I mean, it can be useful, like we have services as well, that we use that, that you know, that have artificial intelligence, they can go out and pull jury verdict, research from different counties, you know, in North Carolina, or South Carolina, they can take the facts of the case that we've got apply them to other cases, that they've seen, that this intelligence is seen, and can come up with a an estimated value range of, you know, here's what this case is probably worth, here's probably what you should ask for. And they'll even write demands for you, where it's phenomenal, some of the results that we see from some of those things, that the danger is of it is that you, you've got to be able to you've got to have the human element, like they're, they're programmed to do tasks, you know, you say, give me this, they'll give you that, but they can't necessarily see the big picture, or know this particular client, personally, and what the personal effects have been. And so, you know, there's this, it's not like, you can just go out use this AI and litigate your in law suit that wouldn't work. You know, we it's just information that we take and utilize in our evaluation, an example

comes to mind where we used AI in a case recently to give forecast for us the case value, and this was a case in North Carolina, in just a few other states, contributory negligence is an issue and contributory negligence as you know, if if if, if a plaintiff, if an injured person is even 1%, responsible for the causing his or her own injuries, then they recover nothing, zero, nothing. And so, a contributory negligence is a huge deal in these cases, a lot of times, and it's almost always always alleged, and, and then there's, it's, it's sometimes they have evidence to back it up. So, so the AI has a very difficult time dealing with those kinds of issues. And so, for example, we haven't dealt with these issues, hundreds, if not 1000s, of probably 1000s of times, maybe 10s of 1000s of times, I don't know, the issue of contrib, we can analyze complex competing concepts in such a way where we can go, Okay, we're gonna win this case, five days out of 10, seven days out of 10, three days out of 10. So that helps us quantify and I can remember specifically a case very recently, where we asked this AI model, the most sophisticated AI model that I know of in the world, about case value, and it did not give us an accurate number based on that contrib. Do you remember the situation I'm talking to and

so I saw the number that it came back with. And just based on my experience, I knew that they had not factored in contributory negligence, which is a big deal. You know, if you've got, if your client has done something that possibly contributed to the accident, where, you know, a jury might give them a lot of money or during like, give them zero, that zero is a big deal like that. We can't have that happen to our client, right? We don't want that to happen or a client. It's not, you know, and so you have to factor that into the risks, right? Of what that, you know, it might be, if there was no contributory negligence, it might be a $10 million case. But because there's a strong case, for contributory negligence, it could be a zero, the case might actually be worth three or 4 million. Because of that risk of the zero is so big, you know, it's, it's, it's kind of like, you know, with my kids, you know, if they, if they have a risk of of, you know, falling off of a high deck and breaking their arm, you know, that, you know, let's say there's a 95% chance that they're when they're walking on the this, this being him on the deck and they fall off, they're gonna break their arm 95% chance. On the other hand, if we're at the Grand Canyon, and there's a 1% chance, because there's, you know, safety measures in place, but there's a 1% chance that they could fall and die. That's a pretty low chance. But the risk is so huge, that that's more important than 95% of breaking your arm. Right? So the zero is huge in these cases. And so when that report came back, I immediately went back to the folks that were running this program and said, I don't think this is right. Like I think you didn't factor this incorrectly. Can you go back and assert contributory negligence and these sorts of things, jury verdicts in this count in this particular county, they did that. And the case came back significantly less in value, still a big case, millions of dollars worth. But now we had a more accurate forecast. If I'm a lawyer that just does car wreck cases, or I'm a lawyer that does a little smattering of everything, and I'm not in catastrophic case all the time, I might have seen that first report go, Wow, we got a great you know, and then I wouldn't give my client bad information. And it ended up blowing up on Yeah,

I can understand, I can understand what you're what you mean. So AI is a tool, but I'll tell you another example. So we use AI all the time for different things we use it in I was you and I have a case that we're that we're working on. That involves a a fall, and I was a lot of times I'll use will use a services to put together like a diagram or an exhibit that might show how fall took place, right? And animate animation, an animated creation or whatever, maybe it's a still shot animation, or maybe it's a three, it's a moving animation. And so AI can now do those things, right. And so, but, but I must have done it 20 times to fed the fed the prompt to the AI 20 times in order to try to get this thing. And you could see, there was always something that was wrong. Like for example, you know, if it's on a basketball court where something happened, you know, the, instead of just being one basketball, there'd be 20 basketballs. If it's in a, if it's in a warehouse, you know, there's a forklift that's driving on the, on the, on the ground, and then there's another one up in the sky, like they just it does doesn't, it just makes these mistakes. I've heard also about people using AI to draft briefs and those kinds of things. And then the AI comes back. And I mean, people getting into trouble because it makes up stuff that's just not true, or synthesizes, you know, five different cases. In one case, it doesn't exist. And that's problematic, you know, what I mean, in front of in front of a court or a judge or whatever, so people get in trouble. So, so it's important to understand that AI is a tool and not anything, not anything more. Jeff, I want to talk to you about the role of focus groups in in this process, we've been talking about case value. My opinion is that focus groups are not, not for the purposes of assessing value, and they can help with with some stuff, but but the purpose of focus focus groups in my, in my opinion, is, is to see how juries are going to react to crucial issues in the case of you know, the idea of liability, the idea of contributory negligence, the idea of gross negligence, those kinds of things. If there's a specific fact about a defendant, if there's a specific fact about a plaintiff, that, you know, make that person, you know, for example, for plaintiff was, if a defendant if a person who caused the accident was drunk at the time, how are they going to? How is the jury going to react to that type of information? What's your impression of focus groups? Are they helpful? Are they not helpful? How are they best used?

Well, you know, you don't want to use them on every case, because there's an expense to them, obviously, you know, if it's a case that's doesn't have a huge value, you because the client a lot of money for something that you should be able to figure out on your own. But when it's one of these catastrophic cases, and you're trying to, you know, all the details, right, the devils in the details, we've all heard that phrase before, you know, some of these details can sway the case. This odd and other other detail may sway it way back over here. So we're trying to figure out what you know, what's, what's the jury gonna react to what what matters to them. And so, you know, we'll have one of our lawyers, you know, we won't, like we'll get a a group of people that are in the county where we're going to try the case. That's important, because if you just get a group of people from all over the place, you might have somebody from California that thinks the case is worth 20 million because it is worth 20 million out there. But in South Carolina, it's worth 1 million, you know, because they're just more conservative, you know, folks there. So, you know, we try to get jurors are these sort of mock, you know, focus group of folks, just everyday people, and a different collection of them, you know, different folks, men, women, you know, different races and backgrounds. And you know, we try to get a smattering. So we can kind of see how everybody reacts from their different perspectives, will have one lawyer played, you know, the defense lawyer, one player, a plaintiff's lawyer for the injured person, and we won't tell them, we're from the same firm, and, you know, they'll actually sort of many try the case in front of this focus group, and see how they react.

And so, so when we're in those, so usually you and I, just to educate our audience, you and I are not actually playing a role of either plaintiff's lawyer or defendants lawyer, we're sort of sitting back taking notes watching how these mock jurors, this, this focus group is reacting to this, these different pieces of information, and then we're able to ask questions at the end to elicit their opinions about these these issues. And so, I mean, my impression of, of those focus groups is that they, and I'm thinking of a couple of examples here recently, where, you know, the, the defense was making his banging on the table about, you know, this contributory negligence, and, you know, this is, you know, and we even had some division in our own office about opinions about, hey, how big of a problem was contributory negligence for us, but this focus group helped us really understand that issue and how a jury how the jury might ultimately resolve that issue. Do you agree with that?

Yeah. I mean, the, the jury, some of the jury found contributory negligence, but what they, what they ultimately, and most of them did not, what they ultimately found was, or we ultimately saw was, it wasn't really a big issue for these people, even the ones that found contributory negligence weren't going to deny our client, the money that they were after, and the verdicts that they came back with, were significantly higher than than we thought. And it also, you know, they also found gross negligence, which was an issue in our own office where there have been some division, well, we shouldn't add gross negligence, maybe we should add grit, you know, we decided to add it, you know, that was primarily you. And I that wanted to add that in there. And it made a difference, like the jury found gross negligence on behalf of this. So I was able to call the the lawyer up and say, the head, you know, there were multiple defense attorneys on this case, four or five, six attorneys, there was one that was kind of leading the charge, and I was able to call them and say, We just did the focus group on this. And here's what they found. They found gross negligence, punitive damages, contrib, they just blew right over that. Like, you know, if we try this case, this is what's going to happen, you guys are going to hit with big verdict. And it Matt, you know, he, he knew, I've known him for a long time, you know, several decades. And he knew if I was telling him this, it was accurate information. And, and it and it mattered, you know, in some of the things that we did in that case, he actually came back to me and said, these things that you did this focus group, this adding punitive damages, this expert, you know, these things that you did, probably added a million dollars with the value on this case, he told me that the defense lawyer told me that, so

we're coming back to character, which I think is important, and all this and, and that is, you know, there's a couple of places where character matters in this case, do you when you ultimately make a decision to add an ad to do a focus group, you have to have the character to be responsible with your clients resources? Is that a good use of money? Or is that not because ultimately, that's going to be expense to the case? The other thing is when you say to another lawyer, hey, this is what we our focus group told us, and then and then, and then that lawyer accepts that, you know, that's an indication of a reputation that's built over many, many decades of if I say something is the truth, right, you know, and and I will say also, with respect to the lawyers, I'm trying to think if there's an exception to this, but I don't think that there is that do these, these high end cases, these very complex, very difficult injury cases, these cases that are catastrophic injuries, life changing injuries, multimillion dollar cases, you know, if the character is strong on the other side, too, I mean, we don't do the same work, but but I have the people that do those kinds of things, and I can think of probably 2020 25 lawyers in North Carolina that defend these kinds of cases. and really is the same five that we see over and over again. But but but but but still the I feel the same, I feel the same way about those guys, if they tell me something is the truth,

they're high character as well. And they're good at what they do. And, you know, there's so many nuances, these focus groups, like, you know, I was thinking back to a recent case that we did. And there were some phrases that our lawyers used when they were doing their opening statement or their closing statement. And I remember the jurors talking about and like those phrases kept coming up. And so sometimes it was bad. Like that phrase, like, we were like, taking notes, like don't use. Other times, it was good, like, they really latched on to that, like, yeah, that needs to be front and center, what we're saying. And

I think we see a lot of that same thing play out in these focus groups when we use them. And that helps us be able to assess how these things are gonna play out in front of a diverse jury when we get to when we get to court, which in turn helps us give good quality, comprehensive information to plaintiffs who then might make the best decision for themselves and for their family. So I find these focus groups to be unbelievably valuable. And if the financial, you know, criteria is there to that so it makes sense for the client, then I think they're absolutely critical to the whole process. Thank you, Jeff. I appreciate you talking to me about that. And we'll continue with another topic next. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

Transcript

Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

Welcome back to catastrophic comeback. I'm continuing my conversation with Jeff Watson managing attorney at Speex law firm. Jeff, we were talking about case value, and it brought up the we got to a point in the conversation about artificial intelligence and, and the tools that we might be able to use. You mentioned that insurance, defense firms and insurance companies use artificial intelligence and algorithms to predict case values. I know a lot of you know, they've been using Colossus for a long time with an algorithm, the next generation of technology is AI, artificial intelligence. What how does that play into this, and what is your assessment of AI and how it can be useful or, or in this kind of situation?

I mean, it can be useful, like we have services as well, that we use that, that you know, that have artificial intelligence, they can go out and pull jury verdict, research from different counties, you know, in North Carolina, or South Carolina, they can take the facts of the case that we've got apply them to other cases, that they've seen, that this intelligence is seen, and can come up with a an estimated value range of, you know, here's what this case is probably worth, here's probably what you should ask for. And they'll even write demands for you, where it's phenomenal, some of the results that we see from some of those things, that the danger is of it is that you, you've got to be able to you've got to have the human element, like they're, they're programmed to do tasks, you know, you say, give me this, they'll give you that, but they can't necessarily see the big picture, or know this particular client, personally, and what the personal effects have been. And so, you know, there's this, it's not like, you can just go out use this AI and litigate your in law suit that wouldn't work. You know, we it's just information that we take and utilize in our evaluation, an example

comes to mind where we used AI in a case recently to give forecast for us the case value, and this was a case in North Carolina, in just a few other states, contributory negligence is an issue and contributory negligence as you know, if if if, if a plaintiff, if an injured person is even 1%, responsible for the causing his or her own injuries, then they recover nothing, zero, nothing. And so, a contributory negligence is a huge deal in these cases, a lot of times, and it's almost always always alleged, and, and then there's, it's, it's sometimes they have evidence to back it up. So, so the AI has a very difficult time dealing with those kinds of issues. And so, for example, we haven't dealt with these issues, hundreds, if not 1000s, of probably 1000s of times, maybe 10s of 1000s of times, I don't know, the issue of contrib, we can analyze complex competing concepts in such a way where we can go, Okay, we're gonna win this case, five days out of 10, seven days out of 10, three days out of 10. So that helps us quantify and I can remember specifically a case very recently, where we asked this AI model, the most sophisticated AI model that I know of in the world, about case value, and it did not give us an accurate number based on that contrib. Do you remember the situation I'm talking to and

so I saw the number that it came back with. And just based on my experience, I knew that they had not factored in contributory negligence, which is a big deal. You know, if you've got, if your client has done something that possibly contributed to the accident, where, you know, a jury might give them a lot of money or during like, give them zero, that zero is a big deal like that. We can't have that happen to our client, right? We don't want that to happen or a client. It's not, you know, and so you have to factor that into the risks, right? Of what that, you know, it might be, if there was no contributory negligence, it might be a $10 million case. But because there's a strong case, for contributory negligence, it could be a zero, the case might actually be worth three or 4 million. Because of that risk of the zero is so big, you know, it's, it's, it's kind of like, you know, with my kids, you know, if they, if they have a risk of of, you know, falling off of a high deck and breaking their arm, you know, that, you know, let's say there's a 95% chance that they're when they're walking on the this, this being him on the deck and they fall off, they're gonna break their arm 95% chance. On the other hand, if we're at the Grand Canyon, and there's a 1% chance, because there's, you know, safety measures in place, but there's a 1% chance that they could fall and die. That's a pretty low chance. But the risk is so huge, that that's more important than 95% of breaking your arm. Right? So the zero is huge in these cases. And so when that report came back, I immediately went back to the folks that were running this program and said, I don't think this is right. Like I think you didn't factor this incorrectly. Can you go back and assert contributory negligence and these sorts of things, jury verdicts in this count in this particular county, they did that. And the case came back significantly less in value, still a big case, millions of dollars worth. But now we had a more accurate forecast. If I'm a lawyer that just does car wreck cases, or I'm a lawyer that does a little smattering of everything, and I'm not in catastrophic case all the time, I might have seen that first report go, Wow, we got a great you know, and then I wouldn't give my client bad information. And it ended up blowing up on Yeah,

I can understand, I can understand what you're what you mean. So AI is a tool, but I'll tell you another example. So we use AI all the time for different things we use it in I was you and I have a case that we're that we're working on. That involves a a fall, and I was a lot of times I'll use will use a services to put together like a diagram or an exhibit that might show how fall took place, right? And animate animation, an animated creation or whatever, maybe it's a still shot animation, or maybe it's a three, it's a moving animation. And so AI can now do those things, right. And so, but, but I must have done it 20 times to fed the fed the prompt to the AI 20 times in order to try to get this thing. And you could see, there was always something that was wrong. Like for example, you know, if it's on a basketball court where something happened, you know, the, instead of just being one basketball, there'd be 20 basketballs. If it's in a, if it's in a warehouse, you know, there's a forklift that's driving on the, on the, on the ground, and then there's another one up in the sky, like they just it does doesn't, it just makes these mistakes. I've heard also about people using AI to draft briefs and those kinds of things. And then the AI comes back. And I mean, people getting into trouble because it makes up stuff that's just not true, or synthesizes, you know, five different cases. In one case, it doesn't exist. And that's problematic, you know, what I mean, in front of in front of a court or a judge or whatever, so people get in trouble. So, so it's important to understand that AI is a tool and not anything, not anything more. Jeff, I want to talk to you about the role of focus groups in in this process, we've been talking about case value. My opinion is that focus groups are not, not for the purposes of assessing value, and they can help with with some stuff, but but the purpose of focus focus groups in my, in my opinion, is, is to see how juries are going to react to crucial issues in the case of you know, the idea of liability, the idea of contributory negligence, the idea of gross negligence, those kinds of things. If there's a specific fact about a defendant, if there's a specific fact about a plaintiff, that, you know, make that person, you know, for example, for plaintiff was, if a defendant if a person who caused the accident was drunk at the time, how are they going to? How is the jury going to react to that type of information? What's your impression of focus groups? Are they helpful? Are they not helpful? How are they best used?

Well, you know, you don't want to use them on every case, because there's an expense to them, obviously, you know, if it's a case that's doesn't have a huge value, you because the client a lot of money for something that you should be able to figure out on your own. But when it's one of these catastrophic cases, and you're trying to, you know, all the details, right, the devils in the details, we've all heard that phrase before, you know, some of these details can sway the case. This odd and other other detail may sway it way back over here. So we're trying to figure out what you know, what's, what's the jury gonna react to what what matters to them. And so, you know, we'll have one of our lawyers, you know, we won't, like we'll get a a group of people that are in the county where we're going to try the case. That's important, because if you just get a group of people from all over the place, you might have somebody from California that thinks the case is worth 20 million because it is worth 20 million out there. But in South Carolina, it's worth 1 million, you know, because they're just more conservative, you know, folks there. So, you know, we try to get jurors are these sort of mock, you know, focus group of folks, just everyday people, and a different collection of them, you know, different folks, men, women, you know, different races and backgrounds. And you know, we try to get a smattering. So we can kind of see how everybody reacts from their different perspectives, will have one lawyer played, you know, the defense lawyer, one player, a plaintiff's lawyer for the injured person, and we won't tell them, we're from the same firm, and, you know, they'll actually sort of many try the case in front of this focus group, and see how they react.

And so, so when we're in those, so usually you and I, just to educate our audience, you and I are not actually playing a role of either plaintiff's lawyer or defendants lawyer, we're sort of sitting back taking notes watching how these mock jurors, this, this focus group is reacting to this, these different pieces of information, and then we're able to ask questions at the end to elicit their opinions about these these issues. And so, I mean, my impression of, of those focus groups is that they, and I'm thinking of a couple of examples here recently, where, you know, the, the defense was making his banging on the table about, you know, this contributory negligence, and, you know, this is, you know, and we even had some division in our own office about opinions about, hey, how big of a problem was contributory negligence for us, but this focus group helped us really understand that issue and how a jury how the jury might ultimately resolve that issue. Do you agree with that?

Yeah. I mean, the, the jury, some of the jury found contributory negligence, but what they, what they ultimately, and most of them did not, what they ultimately found was, or we ultimately saw was, it wasn't really a big issue for these people, even the ones that found contributory negligence weren't going to deny our client, the money that they were after, and the verdicts that they came back with, were significantly higher than than we thought. And it also, you know, they also found gross negligence, which was an issue in our own office where there have been some division, well, we shouldn't add gross negligence, maybe we should add grit, you know, we decided to add it, you know, that was primarily you. And I that wanted to add that in there. And it made a difference, like the jury found gross negligence on behalf of this. So I was able to call the the lawyer up and say, the head, you know, there were multiple defense attorneys on this case, four or five, six attorneys, there was one that was kind of leading the charge, and I was able to call them and say, We just did the focus group on this. And here's what they found. They found gross negligence, punitive damages, contrib, they just blew right over that. Like, you know, if we try this case, this is what's going to happen, you guys are going to hit with big verdict. And it Matt, you know, he, he knew, I've known him for a long time, you know, several decades. And he knew if I was telling him this, it was accurate information. And, and it and it mattered, you know, in some of the things that we did in that case, he actually came back to me and said, these things that you did this focus group, this adding punitive damages, this expert, you know, these things that you did, probably added a million dollars with the value on this case, he told me that the defense lawyer told me that, so

we're coming back to character, which I think is important, and all this and, and that is, you know, there's a couple of places where character matters in this case, do you when you ultimately make a decision to add an ad to do a focus group, you have to have the character to be responsible with your clients resources? Is that a good use of money? Or is that not because ultimately, that's going to be expense to the case? The other thing is when you say to another lawyer, hey, this is what we our focus group told us, and then and then, and then that lawyer accepts that, you know, that's an indication of a reputation that's built over many, many decades of if I say something is the truth, right, you know, and and I will say also, with respect to the lawyers, I'm trying to think if there's an exception to this, but I don't think that there is that do these, these high end cases, these very complex, very difficult injury cases, these cases that are catastrophic injuries, life changing injuries, multimillion dollar cases, you know, if the character is strong on the other side, too, I mean, we don't do the same work, but but I have the people that do those kinds of things, and I can think of probably 2020 25 lawyers in North Carolina that defend these kinds of cases. and really is the same five that we see over and over again. But but but but but still the I feel the same, I feel the same way about those guys, if they tell me something is the truth,

they're high character as well. And they're good at what they do. And, you know, there's so many nuances, these focus groups, like, you know, I was thinking back to a recent case that we did. And there were some phrases that our lawyers used when they were doing their opening statement or their closing statement. And I remember the jurors talking about and like those phrases kept coming up. And so sometimes it was bad. Like that phrase, like, we were like, taking notes, like don't use. Other times, it was good, like, they really latched on to that, like, yeah, that needs to be front and center, what we're saying. And

I think we see a lot of that same thing play out in these focus groups when we use them. And that helps us be able to assess how these things are gonna play out in front of a diverse jury when we get to when we get to court, which in turn helps us give good quality, comprehensive information to plaintiffs who then might make the best decision for themselves and for their family. So I find these focus groups to be unbelievably valuable. And if the financial, you know, criteria is there to that so it makes sense for the client, then I think they're absolutely critical to the whole process. Thank you, Jeff. I appreciate you talking to me about that. And we'll continue with another topic next. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

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