Juror Bias in Personal Injury Cases
When a jury reaches a verdict in a personal injury case, it is supposed to be based completely on the evidence presented to them. The responsibility of a juror is to carefully review the evidence in a case and base their decision on that evidence and not on any bias they may have for or against the Plaintiff or their witnesses. Unfortunately, some jurors allow their bias to get in the way when reaching a conclusion about the case they are working on. What can be done when this happens?
The Elements of a Personal Injury Case
Personal injury lawsuits can be complicated. However, there are 4 main elements that must be proven in order for such a case to be successful. Those 4 elements are:
- The plaintiff was owed a duty of care from the defendant
- The duty of care was breached by the defendant
- The plaintiff endured injuries and suffered losses
- The injuries were legally caused by the breach of duty
These are the elements a jury must consider when chosen to judge a personal injury case. Although it is complicated, they are supposed to focus only on the facts in relation to these elements and should not allow preconceived opinions and biases about either party to influence their decision-making.
How Are Jurors Chosen?
Jury selection, also known legally as voir dire, is one of the most important aspects of a trial. The judge selects a panel of potential jurors from a group of people called into a courtroom to be questioned by the lawyers on the case. A potential group of jurors will be chosen at random from a pool of eligible citizens who live in the county where the trial will be held. However, not all of these people will end up on the jury.
Voir dire is the process in which both attorneys are allowed to ask the potential jurors about the case as well as personal questions. The answers to these questions are used to determine whether any potential juror has prejudices towards any party in the case or a relationship with either party. Potential jurors will be asked questions such as whether they have ever known someone who filed a personal injury claim, if they work for an insurance company, or if they know any of the people in the case. Attorneys can ask certain jurors to leave if they feel like they will not be able to participate in an unbiased manner.
Lawyers can as that certain juror be excused by the judge if they feel they have shown a bias without giving the judge a reason for doing so. This process of eliminating potential jurors is called a Peremptory Challenge. However, there is another way for a lawyer to get a juror bumped off a jury which is called a Challenge for Cause. Using this method, the lawyer then must explain to the judge why they believe each juror they strike is biased, and the judge as to agree with their stance.
Which Biases Might Jurors Show in Personal Injury Cases?
There are many different types of biases that people can display. Some examples of bias that a juror might show that could impact the verdict of a personal injury case include:
- Confirmation bias: Confirmation bias occurs when someone misses the facts and sees only the information that supports what they already believe. This can be especially problematic in personal injury cases because someone may ignore evidence that doesn’t align with their initial opinion of the case.
- Fundamental attribution error: This type of bias occurs when someone attributes a person’s behavior to stereotypes while attributing their own similar behavior to outside factors. This can be an issue in a personal injury case because a juror might base the actions of the injured on unfounded stereotypes instead of the circumstances of their accident.
- Anchoring bias: The anchoring bias occurs when someone bases their opinion of a situation on the first information they receive, also known as the “anchoring fact.” Evidence often comes out at all stages of a lawsuit, and jurors need to be able to consider all information when making a verdict.
There are also personal biases such as racism, homophobia, and classism that can cause a juror to ignore the evidence and to base their decision on these biases instead of the evidence presented in the case. An attorney with experience in personal injury lawsuits will know the best questions to ask during the jury selection process to ensure all jurors can make decisions based solely on the evidence provided to them.
Discovering Bias After a Trial
In some cases, a lawyer may be able to question a juror after a trial has concluded. This is most common when it is discovered that a juror failed to provide information that would have allowed a lawyer to make informed decisions about striking the juror before that juror was allowed to sit on the jury. If this information would have led to the lawyer removing the juror, the entire verdict may be questioned and the judge may grant a motion for a new trial based on the later discovery of juror bias that was not disclosed by the juror during the Voir Dire process.
If after the jury reached a verdict and it is discovered that a juror used a computer to research certain evidence that was presented at trial, a lawyer can make a motion for a new trial that may be granted by the trial judge.
What Is the Purpose of a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Personal injury lawsuits are permitted by our legal system to determine whether someone’s negligence caused injury and damages to another person. If the injured prove their case, then the injured party can be compensated with money damages. Compensation is often awarded for damages such as:
- Past, present, and future medical bills legally caused by an accident
- Lost wages due to being unable to work and loss of future earning capacity.
- Past, present, and future pain and suffering are legally caused by an accident.
- Lost property that was damaged in an accident
- Legal costs and expenses associated with making the claim
Often the injuries suffered by an accident victim can be life-changing for the injured party. So the law is designed to compensate the victim for their losses and help them adjust to their new life after the trial ends. That is why it is crucial to have an impartial jury. A biased juror could prevent an injured person from receiving the compensation they not only deserve but need.
We Can Help
If you have been injured through the fault of another and need to make a personal injury claim, contact Barry Regar APLC today. Our law firm has been successfully assisting personal injury clients through the complicated injury claim process for over 40 years. We understand the importance of an unbiased jury and which questions to ask during the jury selection process that pertain to your specific case. We are ready to handle your case with the expertise that we have developed over the years and to provide you with peace of mind knowing your case is being handled by experienced and aggressive legal counsel. Contact us at (760) 440-5643 or online to schedule a consultation.