When a personal injury lawsuit goes to trial, it is a panel of jurors who will ultimately decide who is liable to pay damages in the suit. Jurors bear a responsibility to be fair and impartial, but jurors are people who undoubtedly bring to the jury box their opinions and attitudes shaped by their life experiences.
The focus of a personal injury lawsuit is on the conduct of the defendant in the case. Put simply, it is up to the jury to decide if the defendant’s actions (or lack of action) caused the plaintiff’s injuries. While jurors are supposed to consider only the facts presented to them during the course of the trail, jurors may view the case more broadly.
For example, a juror’s attitude about personal responsibility will affect how they view the plaintiff’s conduct and if the plaintiff was partially responsible for the situation that caused their injuries. A juror’s attitudes about tort reform will influence their decision about the amount of damages that should be awarded.
Jurors may not even be aware of how their personal attitudes are affecting how they are evaluating the case. Experienced trial attorneys are adept at identifying jurors who are going to be fair to their client. The jury selection process, also known as voir dire, is critical to obtaining a favorable outcome at trial.
Juror Identification with One of the Parties
If a juror identifies with either the plaintiff or defendant, it can have a powerful influence over how the juror perceives the information presented at trial. When the identification is positive, it can lead to empathy and the juror viewing that party more favorably. Facts that are in dispute at trial are more likely to be viewed against the party with whom the juror does not positively identify. On the other hand, if the identification is negative, it can lead to rejection of that parties claims.
A juror can identify with one of the parties based on anything, some of which are fairly predictable while others are not. For example, a juror may identify with the plaintiff based on a perceived commonality. A perceived commonality based on race or sex is more readily identifiable than a perceived commonality based on a similar life experience that the attorneys could not have known anything about.
Juror Attitudes Affect Personal Injury Lawsuits
Jury research shows that Jurors’ attitudes affect their verdicts in civil cases. A 2003 study that examined data from over 2,600 jurors in mock trials conducted in preparation of actual personal injury trials found that in personal injury auto accident cases:
- Political liberals were 13% more likely to find for the plaintiff than conservatives.
- Jurors who believed that damage awards are not excessive were 24% more likely to find for the plaintiff than jurors who strongly believed a litigation crisis exists.
Understanding how juror attitudes affect the outcomes of personal injury lawsuits is critical to jury selection. The attorneys of Matthew G. Miller are seasoned jury trial lawyers. What does this mean for your case? It means we are equipped to get you the best possible outcome. Many insurance companies decide how much someone will recover based on whether or not their lawyer actually picks juries and tries cases to a verdict. Insurance companies know us as attorneys who routinely try cases to verdict.
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We help people who have been injured in accidents get the compensation they deserve. Contact us or call (402) 558-4900 to schedule a free consultation.
Matthew G. Miller serves clients throughout Eastern Nebraska and parts of Western Iowa including Douglas County, Sarpy County, Lancaster County, and Pottawattamie County, as well as the cities of Omaha, Lincoln, Bellevue, Papillion, Fremont, Blair, Elkhorn, and Council Bluffs.