While many states do not require that the injured car crash victim place a specific amount in their lawsuit papers, because they recognize that injuries, treatment, lost time from work and eventual permanency may be months and years away, Virginia requires a sum certain. The "amount sued for" is also known as the "ad damnum," and in Virginia, the filing fee paid to the court to start a personal injury case is based upon the amount sought. In the Federal Court system and many states, the lawsuit papers (usually called the "Complaint"), simply state that the case is being brought "in an amount sufficient to satisfy the jurisdictional requirements of this court…" No specific number is necessary, and that way changes in the recovering plaintiff’s condition do not prejudice the case or the victim.
However, in Virginia, a plaintiff cannot recover damages exceeding the ad damnum demand in the Complaint. In the personal injury case of Powell v. Sears Roebuck, the jury returned with a verdict of $180,000. However, since the plaintiff sued for $100,000, the judgment was entered for that lower amount.
This "ceiling on damages" based upon the amount sued for in the Complaint rule should be changed, since it requires the plaintiff to have a "crystal ball" and predict their damages when they first file the lawsuit, and before any pre-trial discovery is undertaken. This causes many lawyers to sue for large amounts so as not to be caught short later on, and these numbers are then seized upon by the press which usually does not report the actual, much lower jury verdicts. At the Landau Law Shop, we will amend or change the amount sued for during the litigation, when circumstances change.
In a recent back and spine injury trial, ABRAMS LANDAU lawyer Doug Landau reduced the amount sought, and told the jury that they could not return with a verdict in excess of that figure ! How many lawyers have the courage and confidence to do that in open court ?!!?