Whether it be a personal injury case from a car accident, medical malpractice, products liability or legal malpractice, any trial attorney who represents victims injured by the above has to be concerned about how juries decide cases. Not a day goes by that I do not get solicited by some “authority” that offers insight into how to best present your case so that the jury awards your client the most money. Some recommend that you have your own jury trial before a “test jury” to determine what juries may think of your case. Some suggest fancy charts and expensive video presentation to sway the jury to your side of the case. Most proposals are expensive and many theories are questionable or untested. In my experience, the best approach lies in common sense and techniques that all of us learned well before law school.
A trial lawyer that represents victims injured from the negligence of others has to throw the dictionary away and keep the presentation simple and understandable. This is not because juries are uneducated. The juries of today are very educated. We live in a day of instant access to the World Wide Web giving everybody the ability to research complex issues and investigate the backgrounds of people involved in these cases. The reason to keep things simple is because the more simple an answer to a question or solution to a problem the easier it is to understand and accept.
A good plaintiff’s trial lawyer does not put up smoke screens or try to hide the truth by using fancy words, video presentations or diagrams. A good trial lawyer takes a good long look at the facts of the case and the evidence, whether good or bad, and presents it in a straightforward, truthful and simple manner. A good trial lawyer will take this time. If you avoid the difficult questions, the jury will not. If you do not provide the jury with answers to those hard questions, the answer will come, but it will not be favorable.
Over the years, I have spoken with jury members after trials to find out both the good and bad of my presentation. In the cases that have gone well, the jurors stated that they thought that my client and I were truthful, honest and straightforward. They liked that we addressed the difficult questions and gave reasonable, straightforward answers. We didn’t hide anything and we dealt with both the good and the bad without hiding any evidence.
In those cases in which the result was not so favorable, without question, the response was always that they did not believe a witness because of how he or she answered tough questions. All of us have heard the saying that “honesty is the best policy”. Representing victims of injuries from accidents of all kinds is no different.
We all have preconceived notions and we all see things differently. Jurors are no different. However, regardless of their political or social beliefs, I have found over the years that jurors tend to put those aside, take the oath as jurors seriously and weigh and analyze the evidence and decide in an unbiased manner. It is easy to blame the jurors for a wrong decision when in reality it may be the lawyer’s presentation of the facts and the evidence that is truly the blame for the ultimate verdict.
I hope that this might shed some light on your opinion of jury trials. Please feel free to share your views or comments with us.