As attorneys, one of the greater challenges that we face is trying to predict what a jury will award in the way of damages to an injured party or to the relatives of a deceased loved one, especially in cases that aren't of the sort routinely tried in our local courts.
The Washington and Oregon State constitutions protect the right to a jury trial in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Evaluating a case can be tricky, because jury verdicts can be quite unpredictable. The lawyer for the plaintiff (the party that has been injured, or the personal representative of the deceased in a case involving wrongful death), is essentially trying to guess at what a jury would award in deciding how much to accept or decline in the way of any settlement offer. The insurance company is doing the same thing – guessing at what a jury verdict will be on the case.
At the law firm of Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Edwards and Staples PS, we've learned that one approach that can make the job of evaluating certain cases a bit more scientific is to do a “mock jury” session, utilizing random people from the community. In a recent instance, for example, we brought 15 citizens of different ages and gender, with different occupations and backgrounds, into the office on a Saturday, presented them with an abbreviated version of the case, then split them into two groups and had them deliberate. They all signed a form at the beginning indicating their willingness to be video and audio recorded during the process, and to keep our client's identity and the basic facts of the case confidential.
At the conclusion of the session, we reviewed and took into consideration not only their verdicts, but also the insights that they had shared with each other during their deliberations (and with us after). This was a day well-spent – it really helped sharpen our focus on how better to present our client's case, and from the information gained we knew we were better equipped to help our client obtain a fair settlement or jury verdict.
The information obtained was not only invaluable for us, but it was an enlightening process for the “mock juror” participants as well. The feedback that we received from our mock jury participants was quite positive – most indicated that they really enjoyed getting to be a part of the focus group session.
Perhaps you might be interested in participating as a mock juror? If so, please feel free to give us a call at (360) 695-4244, or to complete the form attached to the link below. We don't do these sessions often, but we'd love to add your name to our list as someone we could possibly invite to our next one.
We look forward to perhaps getting the opportunity to meet you at one of these events in the future!