Recently after a successful car accident trial here in Charlotte I was asked by another lawyer what is the most important factor to get across to a jury. It was a very astute question and the immediate answer I had was confidence. In my humble opinion, after numerous trials in front of juries across North Carolina, I believe the jury is looking to the lawyer to provide a credible version of the events that is believable and trustworthy.
I have been honored to represent thousands of people injured in NC car accidents. I my humble opinion one of the hardest things for people to understand is that there is always two sides to every story. In cases when you are dealing with injuries from a car accident and there is an insurance company on the other side of the aisle you can expect to hear a different version of events. Most of the time the other version of the story isn't about who caused the car accident, its about whether the car accident caused your injury.
The lawyer for the insurance company spends a majority of the trial trying to weaken the case in any way they can. This means if they can weaken the case on fault they will try. If they can weaken the case on damages they will try. Remember, with a jury of 12 people the defense only has to convince one person their argument is the right one, the plaintiff has to convince all 12.
The jury comes to court “unbiased”. However, they are unbiased only in the sense that they don’t know anything about your case. However, they have been spoon-fed misinformation from insurance companies for years regarding frivolous lawsuits, ambulance chasers, and runaway juries. The job of your lawyer is to explain your case in a way that the jury can overcome their biases and agree with your version of events. In North Carolina, juries have to agree unanimously. Getting 12 people who know each other to agree is difficult, getting 12 strangers to agree is even tougher.
That is why I believe the most important factor to get across to the jury is confidence. Too many lawyers don’t give jurors enough credit. Jurors are smart and perceptive. They can see through dishonesty and can sense when someone is being disingenuous. They can tell when a lawyer doesn’t believe what they are saying. If your personal injury lawyer doesn’t believe in your case, the jury won’t either and it will be reflected in the outcome.
I once witnessed a trial where the plaintiff’s lawyer kept mispronouncing his name to the point where the client had to correct him on the stand. It wasn’t a good outcome. That is why I believe in getting to know my clients. That philosophy doesn’t stop with the initial meeting but continues throughout your treatment, dealing with the insurance company and trial. I don’t pass you off to an associate. If I decide to take your case I am the attorney who handles it from start to finish.
This rule applies to defense counsel as well. With insurance companies offering injured parties very little money today more and more lawsuits are being filed. Defense attorneys are swamped with lawsuits. While that may be good business there are only so many facts you can keep in your head at the same time. I have witnesses defense attorneys arguing to a jury the facts of a different case which had nothing to do with the case we were trying. The look on the jurors faces was one of confusion and anger for wasting their time.
Failure to work with your clients and learn about them and what their most important issue is can lead to disaster. There is no substitute for knowledge. This is no different from reading a book versus having a friend telling you about the book. By reading the book you have a much stronger grasp on all the characters, story line, and plot versus someone else version of the book.
In a courtroom the jury is looking to someone they can trust. They are looking for someone who doesnt waste their time since they have other things they would rather be doing. When I try a case I limit my objections and sidebars with the judge. This speeds up the trial. Also, I get the point with my witnesses when they are testifying. I ask pointed questions and do not repeat the same question over and over again. While I think every jury comes in with skepticism it is my job, not to convince them, but to show them my client's story is correct and to disregard the noise coming from the defense.
I do not believe in trying to convince a jury. I think that is a discredit to the jury process. Juries are smart and perceptive. If we are inside a windowless room and I kept telling the jury the sky was blue and the defense kept arguing, without merit, the sky was black I would do anything in my power to show them the truth. This can be done through witness testimony or by bringing the jury outside so they can come to the right conclusion and ignore the noise from the defense.
Finally, the only real chance the lawyer gets to speak with the jury is closing arguments. I don't argue with the jury. I don't try to convince them. I believe the most effective closing arguments is showing the jury the evidence and explaining why the defense is making so much noise (the insurance company doesn't want to pay). In the end juries want to do the right thing. Juries are good honest people who, in my experience, listen and do their best to render a good result. The lawyer who fails to treat the jury with the respect they deserve run the risk of a poor outcome for their client.
I have been fortunate to try cases in courts across North Carolina. As a personal injury attorney, I strive for the best outcome for my client. Please feel free to contact me to discuss your case. The call is free and there is no obligation.