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TRIAL TACTICS: Should a lawyer ask jury for a specific amount of money during opening arguments in an accident case, a medical malpractice case or a wrongful death case here in New York?

There are some attorneys who believe that you should never ask a jury for a specific amount of money during opening arguments. There are others however who believe it is important to plant the seed in the jurors minds about how much you're seeking as compensation.

In my opinion, asking the jury for a specific amount of money at the very beginning of the case, before they've heard any testimony or evidence may not be the best overall strategy.

Here's why.

The jury has not had an opportunity to evaluate the testimony. They have not had an opportunity to determine where the injustice was. The jury has no idea who is credible and who is not. During opening arguments, especially the plaintiff's attorney (he represents the injured victim), goes first and the jury will not yet have been exposed to all the harms and injustices that you, the injured victim has suffered.

In addition, by requesting a specific amount of money at the beginning, the attorney must now live up to his promise to not only prove the case but also prove that your injuries are worth the amount he is asking for.

If for some reason the attorney is unable to fulfill his promise and prove his case successfully to the jury, he has now lost credibility with the jury.

If the expert testimony does not fully support his claim for a significant amount of compensation, once again he has lost credibility with the jury which can significantly hurt your case.

By establishing an amount of money at the very beginning during opening arguments, say $10 million, the attorney must now live up to that number rather than putting in the testimony and evidence and at the end of the case requesting a specific amount of money.

In every injury and accident case there are different elements of damages that are being sought. There is pain and suffering an injured victim endured in the past and what they will endure in the future. There are also economic losses including lost wages and medical bills, among others.

If a lawyer throws out a total amount of money at the very beginning of the case, he will not have had an opportunity to explain to the jury the different elements his client is seeking as compensation. That could be very damaging.

In fact, at the end of the case when we ask a jury to award compensation, we specifically tell them that each award is separate and independent for each of the different elements of damages. They are not to lump together all the damage awards to come to one total amount. A jury that lumps the total award together will often discount that total amount, believing that the total number is simply too large.

If however the jury is directed to focus on each individual element of compensation being sought and that each award is separate and distinct, it gives them a better opportunity to fully and fairly compensate you without totaling everything up and then compromising somehow on the amount that is awarded.

You should know that there are multiple strategies of asking the jury for compensation at the end of a case.

The two most common ones are to (1) Ask the jury for specific amounts of money for each individual element damages and support it with the testimony that has been given in the case.

On the other hand, (2) There are some instances where an attorney will simply ask the jury to do what is right and to award full and fair compensation without giving the jury a specific amount they should consider.

You should also be aware that at the end of the trial, the trial judge will not give the jury an amount of money to consider or what he believes the case is worth. Instead, it is up to the jury to determine the value of your injuries based upon all the evidence and testimony presented.

To learn even more about asking for money during opening arguments, I invite you to watch the video below...


Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer