Handicapping a Plaintiff’s Lawsuit

Handicap -noun. A race or other contest in which certain disadvantages or advantages of weight, distance, time, etc., are placed upon competitors to equalize their chances of winning.

Everybody’s familiar with the term “handicap” as it applies to golf or wagering on football, baseball or basketball games. But few people consider the disadvantage an injured party faces by exercising her constitutional right to seek compensation for injuries caused by another. Due to the hundreds of millions of dollars big businesses and insurance companies have spent over the last decades spewing misinformation and mainstream media’s tendency to publish cases involving substantial jury awards, Plaintiffs are automatically looked at suspiciously by juries the moment they walk in the courtroom. The perception that an injured party is automatically looking for a “free ride” or to hit the “lawsuit lottery” is pervasive among potential jury members, which automatically puts a Plaintiff well behind the starting line before the litigation race begins.

Unfortunately, the real story surrounding a lawsuit is rarely presented. How many times have you read a news or magazine article about a defendant prevailing at trial, with a catastrophically injured party obtained no recovery for their injuries? Probably never. But everyone has read a headline regarding a $10 million jury verdict (even though the plaintiff may have suffered a brain injury and quadriplegia and will require 24 hour care for the rest of her life at a cost of more than $10 million).

Hopefully with easier access to information provided by the internet, more complete and accurate information about lawsuits and jury verdicts will help to correct mis-perceptions about the civil justice system so that plaintiffs will no longer face a handicap by simply walking into the courtroom.

Casey R. Johnson, Esq.