What Makes a Good Plaintiff in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
We are often asked about the most important factors when trying to obtain a large verdict in a jury trial. And truth be told, there are a lot of factors – the jury, the injury, the facts giving rise to the injury, the county where the trial takes place, the state of the economy at the time of the trial to name a few. In some trials, one factor can be more important than another and the opposite can be true in certain cases. Damages tied to pain and suffering can be very personal, and juries often view compensation for pain and suffering a bit subjectively.
However, other than picking a good jury, there is seemingly one constant needed for a favorable personal injury verdict – a good Plaintiff. As a reminder, in a civil case, the person or entity who brought the lawsuit is known as the Plaintiff. So, what makes for a good Plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit? We will go through some of the most important few factors here.
Plaintiffs should be consistent concerning their statements about their accident as well as complaints about their pain and suffering. Experienced insurance adjusters and defense attorneys look for inconsistencies in a Plaintiff’s story and official testimony. Juries also place a high value on the consistency of testimony. Inconsistency can be seen as a sign that the Plaintiff is not being honest about their condition. Simple things like telling the doctor that the pain being experienced is down the left leg yet telling another doctor or a physical therapist that the pain is down the right leg. Yes, there’s always the possibility to develop new or varying sources of pain, but insurers and defense attorneys may use this to sow doubt among jurors if the story changes.
The truth is … it can be difficult at times to determine if a Plaintiff is experiencing pain from an accident. Insurance adjusters, doctors, and juries will often rely on the Plaintiff’s word, or not. There are very few things that a jury likes less than a Plaintiff who stretches the truth while under oath. If the jury does not view the Plaintiff as credible, they will likely be skeptical and not reward damages. And if a Plaintiff is caught lying about one part of their testimony, the jury will often assume the Plaintiff is lying about everything. There is simply no way that a jury is going to reward a Plaintiff who was not honest while on the stand. We constantly stress to our clients that telling the truth is the only way to go. We will not accept anything else.
This category is a little less defined in that some juries relate to a specific Plaintiff more than others. For instance, if a mother was injured and had to miss an important life moment for her child, it is more likely that a fellow parent will have a better understanding of the pain associated with that loss than someone without children. Or if a Plaintiff who was particularly athletic and lost the ability to play a sport, they loved might be more relatable to a juror who also loved playing a specific sport. Like in life, jurors react favorably to people who remind them of themselves.
How a Plaintiff presents themselves to a jury can be influential. A trial in some ways is a high-stakes job interview. And in any job interview, it matters how the applicant comes across. Likability is hard to define, and it is subjective, but you know whether you do or not when you meet someone. If a Plaintiff is likable, jurors are more likely to help them. If they do not like a Plaintiff who is seeking compensation for damaged property and/or injuries, they are less likely to give that person much money. When a plaintiff is likable and a good witness, he or she will typically fare a lot better during a trial. At JB Law, we spend time preparing our clients for trial which includes working on their personal disposition while on the stand. Facial expressions, body language, voice and tone all play a part. We tell our clients if they need to work on certain aspects of their personality to have a successful interaction with the defense attorney and the jury.
The Big Four
We’ve been litigating personal injury accident cases long enough to see verdicts and rewards affected by factors that go beyond just the strength of the case itself. Consistency, authenticity, relatability, and likability are four big factors that can influence a jury in a big case. This is not an exhaustive list and there are others. If you were injured in an accident and unsure if your attorney has the necessary litigation experience, contact us for a free case evaluation. We can discuss these factors and others that will determine if you can likely receive a large personal injury verdict.