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At the End of the Day, Would a Jury Like Your Client?

by Ethan McQuinn on July 10, 2012

In this business, it seems that both insurance and plaintiff’s lawyers spend much of their time focusing on which side has the most persuasive expert. For instance, in a contested liability car crash, both sides may end up hiring accident reconstructionists to opine as to the forces that a plaintiff would have experienced in a car crash.

Parenthetically, these experts sometimes try to “backdoor” medical opinions into their reports to encourage the jury to conclude that the forces that were applied to the plaintiff during the crash simply could not have caused injury (more about that in a future blog).

But anyway, sometimes I think that lawyers end up not “seeing the forest for the trees” and become hyper-focused on side issues in the case while forgetting the issues that juries care about most. For instance, will a jury actually like your client and want to award money for his or her injuries?

At the end of the day, whether your client is likeable can make all the difference in whether a jury decides to award a sizable verdict.  After a trial, I have had jurors tell us that they discounted both sides’ experts because they knew that both sides paid an expert for an opinion that was helpful to their case.

Your client’s credibility goes hand in hand with likeability.  It has been my experience that if members of a jury thinks that a plaintiff is lying, its members will never award a sizable verdict.  A jury will forgive a defendant for lying, but they never forgive a plaintiff for doing so. After all, the plaintiff is the party asking for money!  For a detailed discussion on the importance of being an honest and credible plaintiff, read this blog post by Chad Hemmat.

The moral of the story is that when you are evaluating the value of your case, don’t get lost in the legal details.  Take a step back and ask yourself, “Will the jury like my client and does he or she seem credible?”  Of course, the extent of injury your client suffered is always important.  But the credibility or likeability of your client will go a long way in driving the value of your case.

Ethan A. McQuinn is an associate attorney at Anderson, Hemmat & Levine, LLC. He works both in the areas of personal injury as well as workers’ compensation, with a special focus on personal injury litigation.

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