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Published on September 13, 2023

Jury Awards and the Psychological Factors that Influence Compensation

When it comes to personal injury cases, one might assume that the compensation awarded to injured victims is cut and dry and simply based on the facts of the case. But the reality is that it’s a bit more nuanced. Jury awards not only come from the result of objective assessments–they are deeply influenced by psychological principles. 

The Human Element in Jury Awards

Jurors are not machines that churn out compensation based purely on evidence and law. They are made up of individuals with their own beliefs, biases, and emotions. Understanding that each member comes with their own worldview is crucial for both plaintiffs and defendants.

Empathy and Sympathy

Empathy and sympathy are some of the most significant psychological factors. Jurors often will be moved by plaintiffs who have suffered gravely from their injuries or who have compelling stories. A sympathetic plaintiff may receive higher compensation as jurors are inclined to award those who have endured significant hardships.

Pain and suffering are difficult to quantify, but they are integral components of many personal injury claims. Jurors struggle to put a monetary value on emotional distress, making it a subjective factor that can significantly influence awards, and a reason why personal injury lawyers aim to tell a compelling story and make an emotional appeal to the jury.

Perception of Credibility

Jurors tend to award higher compensation when they find the plaintiff and their witnesses to be credible and trustworthy, as well. It is essential for the plaintiff’s lawyers to present a strong, consistent, and credible picture of their case to enhance their chances of receiving fair compensation. The use of expert witnesses adds to their credibility.

Severity of Injuries

The severity of the victim’s injuries strongly correlates with compensation. When injuries are visible, life-altering, or result in significant pain and suffering, they are likely to win more of an award. This is because these injuries evoke a stronger emotional response from the jury.

Economic Damages vs. Non-Economic Damages

In personal injury cases, damages are typically categorized into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, are more cut and dry, making it easier for jurors to calculate. Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress are more subjective. They tend to vary greatly based on juror perception.

The ‘Deep Pockets’ Effect

Jurors may award higher compensation when the defendant is perceived as wealthy or having deep pockets. This can lead to punitive damages designed to punish the defendant for their actions. While punitive damages are less common, they are a reflection of how jurors feel about the defendant.

The Influence of Preconceived Notions

Preconceived notions and stereotypes can significantly impact jury awards. It’s essential for attorneys to address these biases during jury selection, ensuring a fair trial. Jurors should ideally assess the case based on the evidence presented rather than their personal beliefs.

Jurors are not just fact-finding calculators; they are heavily influenced by empathy, perception, and other factors. Personal injury attorneys have to navigate this to secure the best possible compensation for their clients. If you or a loved one are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, seeking an experienced McKinney personal injury lawyer helps ensure your case is presented effectively.


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