How people value their own cases

Anyone who has been in an accident or has been hurt by someone else’s negligence tends to put a high value on their own case. Why wouldn’t they? They had to take time out of their regular schedule to see doctors, had to feel pain, maybe had to miss work, etc.

But do jurors feel the same way? And why does it matter?

My favorite psychology blog, PsyBlog, has a post discussing studies of how a person’s ownership of something affects their perception of its value. The bottom line: if we own something, we think it’s worth more than other people do. Here’s the money quote:

We assume others share our perspective: Surely potential buyers understand how strongly we feel about our dusty old vinyl records? No, they don’t care – in fact they’re far more likely to notice how badly we’ve stored them or what poor taste in music we have.

This is important for injured people to understand. A jury isn’t always going to value your case the same way you do. Just because you feel your case is worth 12 million dollars doesn’t mean a jury will agree. It’s important for attorneys to have a realistic talk with their clients early and often regarding the potential value of a case.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and workers compensation lawyer in Rock Island, Moline, Davenport and Bettendorf).

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