Merriam-Webster dictionary defines apathy as “a state of indifference, a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.” Every personal injury attorney will tell you that apathy comes in two forms: jury apathy and client apathy.
In a personal injury trial, an apathetic jury will often result in a disastrous outcome for the plaintiff. Good insurance company defense attorneys work hard at instilling it in a jury. It is our job as personal injury attorneys to keep the jury engaged and focused on the trial. Defense attorneys love to tell juries directly (and even more so, indirectly) that the outcome of a seemingly “minimal” injury case should not concern any of them and that awarding a large verdict to the plaintiff will serve no purpose in the long-run. On the other hand, awarding a defense verdict, they say, will make a plaintiff's lawyer think twice before coming into the courts and interfering with the jurors’ lives by making them sit through a long trial.
To combat jury apathy, we simply make sure that the jury understands that their role is very important: to serve as guardians of safety standards in their communities. But is that really what jurors are? Should it really matter to the community if one of its members is given a six or seven figure verdict from a particular jury? The answer is YES. The whole point of the jury system in a civil trial is to pass judgment on what is and what is not acceptable behavior, as well as what violates the community's safety standards. After all, verdicts such as prison sentences for criminals deter future unsafe and unlawful behavior.
At trial, I often emphasize to jurors that awarding less than full compensation to an injured victim sends the message that the price of community safety is negotiable. And it's certainly true that people and companies that violate the safety rules of a community will often congregate where they know they can get away with it, or at least where they are able to get away with it cheaply. Setting high safety standards for the community and making sure that unlawful behavior is expensive for violators prevents the violation of safety standards in the future and protects the members of a community from injury.
Keeping the jury engaged often sets the stage for the determination of acceptable behaviors and safety standards in their communities. By helping jurors understand that the decisions they make impact the future of their community, we reduce apathy and guide them into issuing verdicts that will make their community safer. Who knows—the life they save by setting high safety standards in the community might be their own family member.
I have found that injured victims who seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney are never disinterested or passionless. Often, when an injured client comes into our office to meet with us, they are usually quite motivated and even infuriated. Ordinarily, they have just been injured in a crash and have figured out that the insurance company is looking out for itself and its own “bottom line” instead of looking out for the injured victim.
However, there is often a malaise that sets into the spirits of our clients several months into the process. Unfortunately, the process lacks immediate gratification. Most cases have to wait out the medical care a client receives so that any settlement talks are fully informed as to the full extent of my client’s injuries and losses. Understandably, months and months of driving to doctors and therapists can take a toll. It certainly makes a good number of clients apathetic. They lose the fire in their bellies that they had when we first saw them.
One of our jobs is to keep a dialogue continuing with our clients to help them through this malaise. We are there to remind them that their continued care has a purpose and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how distant it may seem. I have often wondered if some of what I perceive as insurance adjusters dragging their feet in settlement talks is merely an effort to create a feeling of apathy and lack of motivation within my client.
Obviously, clients should recognize that becoming apathetic, or worse, quitting their case or ending medical treatment prematurely serves no purpose other than to help the insurance companies take advantage of suffering victims. When insurance companies marginalize the cost to these victims through time-induced apathy, justice slips through the client’s hands. We want to ensure that our clients understand the importance of finishing strong and receiving the compensation that they deserve.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we know that it is important to keep both our clients and jurors invigorated and active. We also understand the public safety importance of sending strong messages to insurance companies and violators of community safety standards. Finding the right attorneys can mean the difference between a victory and a loss. Our dedicated team of personal injury attorneys will not only motivate you to pursue what you are due, but will also guide you to the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how distant it may seem at times. If you have been injured in a auto accident, please call and speak with one of our attorneys today.