Hello. My name is Brigham Cluff. I am an attorney with the law firm of Cluff and Cluff. I’d like to talk to you a little bit today about analyzing how much your case is worth.
There is a really excellent author that writes in the field of trial advocacy, and this guy is actually not a lawyer himself. He’s a psychologist. He’s a PhD. He’s written a number of books on the subject, and he does seminars, and I think he’s really just an excellent resource for the evaluation of damages. He wrote a book called Damages. His name is David Ball. I’m a big fan of the method that Dr. Ball advocates.
One of the things that I’ve heard him say is that your case is about what you spend time on. If you get in front of a jury, and you spent ninety percent of your time in that trial trying to convince the jury that the other side is at fault, and only ten percent of the time describing to the jury how much damage was done, then the jury is going to naturally assume that this case is really about who is at fault, and not about how much damage was done.
It’s really important that you spend the time on building the damages portion of your case. Not only do you spend the time as the attorney when you’re building the case, but you spend the time presenting that evidence at trial, if you come to trial.
How do you do that? This is actually a really tricky question for attorneys, and it’s something that a lot of attorneys are not comfortable with. How do you put on a damages case? For instance, let’s say you’ve got a broken leg. A broken leg is obviously a very serious injury. It’s objective. Everybody knows it hurts to break your leg. It’s very inconvenient. It’s immobilizing. You’re likely to have future problems with that leg. All of that is self-evident to people.
If it’s self-evident, what are you supposed to do at trial? Tell the jury something that they already know? No, that’s not very productive. In fact, you’re not going to get anywhere with the jury by telling them things that already self-evident to them. That will actually work against you.
Another thing that’s not productive to do at trial is to put your client on the stand and have them go into great detail about their agony, and talking about how terrible it was. It’s important to make the statement by the client that I suffered, and I was limited in the following ways, but there’s better ways to get that evidence in.
Juries, for the most part, are more likely to award money to plaintiffs that they respect. They respect plaintiffs who were tough, and who don’t complain, and who recover as quickly as they possibly can. They want their plaintiffs to be like John Wayne. They don’t want their plaintiffs to be whining. They don’t like that. They tune out to that.
Yet, it’s very important that they understand that there actually was suffering that happened here.
When you focus on damages and spend time in that area of your case, a greater outcome usually follows.