The objective of a personal injury lawsuit for damages is primarily the damages. Yet, in my experience, this often is the most difficult part of summation for attorneys. How do you ask for the money I am often asked? We know that there is not one answer to this question and that it all depends upon the advocate as well as the facts of the case. Here is a simple outline of a general approach, but the important fact is the credibility of the advocate and the case issues plus jury impression control the outcome more than summation words. However, the jury is looking for guidance and direction from a credible advocate and you must always give them that guidance. Research has concluded you should suggest a figure for the verdict in every case. The amount of that figure, however, is subject to careful evaluation. In the damage introduction of the case I like to cover some basics by discussing damages in a general advocacy sense. I usuually cover these items:
- Reminder of voir dire discussion points: try the case on the basis of no sympathy for either party. Render a verdict for full justice.
- Burden of proof: instructions & explanation about the degree of proof required. In that discussion I like them to know we will make a rebuttal argument so it does not come as a suprise when we do so.
- Proximate cause explained with examples.
- The most important issue: what some of money fairly reasonably and justly is required for a full and proper verdict?
- There are two kinds of damages that are very different: ( 1) economic damages and (2) non-– economic damages. There are also two different time periods, past and future. Economic damages relate to the bills and reimbursement to hospitals and doctors and others providing care. Non-economic damages are the most important part of this case because they represent justice and not paying the doctors and hospitals. The scale has to perfectly balance with money on one side and harm suffered plus to be suffered on the other side. It is the equivalent of an eye for an eye in dollars. That’s what this case is all about.
- The non-economic damages involve separate and different factors and involve two time periods past and future:: ( 1) past disability and future disability (2) past mental and physical pain and future mental and physical pain (3) past loss of the enjoyment of life and future loss of the enjoyment of life.
- evaluation in dollars: (1) listing the economic damages with explanation (2) listing the past elements of non-economic damages with dollar figures and total (3) listing the future elements of non-economic damages with dollar figures.
- Comparing dollar evaluations to real-life examples. Explaining reasons why figures are conservative and reasonable.
The rest of the argument deals with general concepts about justice, the reason they are on the jury and the importance of the case both to them as well as the community. Here is a simple outline of this part of summation.
- justice is the reason we are here. We do not have the power to cure nor the right to inflict like harm on the defendant. Our system does not involve an eye for an eye or a tooth for tooth. It calls for money to equal the harm done as the only justice this jury can require.
- We only have one opportunity for justice here. The injured person cannot come back each year and report their situation to a jury for an annual evaluation. One verdict now and forever.
- To be fair it must be full justice. Not half justice. Not three quarters justice but full justice.
- There is a great and important principle involved here: what is the value we place on the right to pursue happiness without having injury inflicted upon us by the wrongdoing of others?
- This is an important case because you will set the value of this principle for yourself, the community, and the injured person.
RARE CHANCE TO DIRECTLY HELP ANOTHER
- This is a rare chance for us to directly help another person in a specific way. We go to the polls to vote but we do so with hundreds and thousands of other people and are one vote is simply one among hundreds. Here, however, your vote directly impacts another person’s life in a very direct way. Ssomeone who is entitled to justice.
- We will never again have this rare opportunity to touch another human being’s life and impact their future. This is a rare opportunity to exercise enormous power to determine another person’s future. It is a sacred trust the power to create or to destroy.
IT REQUIRES GREAT COURAGE
- Like all things of importance this will require an enormous amount of courage to do the right thing. The easier course is to duck the responsibility and work of evaluating the harm done in dollars. I am confident you will have the courage to render a verdict that will allow you in the months and years ahead, when perhaps reflecting back you think of this case, you can say to yourselves:” yes I am proud of doing the right thing and full justice in that case.”
- I know you will have the courage to render a verdict that will allow you to tell your friends and family you participated in establishing a principal about the value of human life.
A CASE OF STOLEN DREAMS
- This is a case of stolen dreams and the robbery of a person of what might have been. all of this could have and should have been avoided. What happened here was totally unnecessary.
- John Greenleaf Whittier wrote in his poem Maud Muller “God pity them both and pity us all, who vainly the dreams of youth recall: for all the sad words of tongue or pen the saddest of these are” it might have been.”
LOSS OF FREEDOM
- What has been taken away? The right of freedom has been stolen. He was free independent American who now has lost independence. He has health limitations. He has mobility limitations. He has a loss in his family and social life. He no longer has freedom of choice in all of the areas of life that he had before this tragedy.
LOSS OF DIGNITY
- There has been a loss of dignity. We all have a self-image and injury changes that picture of who we are. We all have roles in life. and injury changes our role which in turn impacts our pride.
LOSS OF CONTROL OVER LIFE
- We all have goals and dreams for the future. Injury steals these from us. We are no longer the master of our own ship. We are left in fear of the future instead.
- Injury changes are life forever. If a simple heading can rock the day of the sun injuries like these wrong one of control and peace of mind
RENDER A VERDICT FOR THE RIGHT REASON
- No matter how you decide this case it is important that you cast your vote for the right reason. I pray that you will find within yourself the courage to render a verdict which has been sanctified by your conscience, ratified by your reason and born of the sincere desire to see that justice has been done. I want you to be able to be proud of your verdict for having done the right thing.
- Joe, his family and I have placed our trust in your and we will be here waiting to hear your decision. We are in your hands. Thank you for your careful attention throughout this trial. Whatever your decision, we are grateful to you for listening to us.