Trial considerations for accident cases involving severe mental and emotional injuries
In the trial of an accident case involving severe mental and emotional injuries, a skilled mental injury lawyer will target the courtroom presentation to emphasize the most pertinent and compelling issues.
Questions that the psychological injury attorney asks during jury selection
Before trial commences, the attorneys for both sides (or the judge in certain cases) will have the chance to pose questions to prospective jurors. These questions are useful in determining whether or not the potential jurors will be able to follow the law and to fulfill their responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner.
It is especially important in mental and emotional injury accident cases for the plaintiff’s mental injury trial attorney to obtain the jurors’ commitment on the following points:
- They accept that a psychological injury can be as severe as or more severe than a physical injury under certain circumstances.
- A trauma such as an accident is capable of causing a mental disorder.
- The jurors will hold the testimony of a psychiatrist or psychologist in the same esteem as they would a neurologist, orthopedist or other medical doctor.
- They agree to keep an open mind to the possibility that an accident similar to plaintiff’s would be capable of causing a person a mental disorder.
- They would agree to follow the law, which states that a person with a pre-existing condition is entitled to recover monetary damages for an aggravation or worsening of that pre-existing condition by a defendant.
- The jurors will be able to follow the law that allows a plaintiff who is particularly susceptible to developing a mental disorder as a result of a trauma to recover monetary damages for any mental disorder that was caused or aggravated by the trauma, even if plaintiff would not have developed a mental disorder but for his or her vulnerability.
How your mental injury attorney assesses potential jurors
In your mental and emotional injury accident case, your plaintiff’s trial attorney will try to determine if potential jurors are psychologically sophisticated and open-minded, and if they will be receptive or at least not resistant to the testimony of your psychological expert(s). It will be important in your mental and emotional injury accident case for the jurors to keep an open mind to your psychological expert’s description of the psychodynamic mechanism of your injury. Having open-minded jurors can be critical to achieving a just result.
How your mental injury attorney can establish the psychodynamic mechanism of your injury
During the courtroom trial, your psychological injury attorney should provide the jurors with a logical psychodynamic mechanism of your injury. Often, a plaintiff’s pre-existing special vulnerability is a key part of that injury mechanism.
When an accident resulted in a severe mental and emotional injury – but an injury that most people involved in the same accident would not suffer – the plaintiff’s pre-existing vulnerability is a key part of the plaintiff’s case. That is, in the legal sense, the pre-existing vulnerability is not a weakness. In the trial of your accident case, the jurors need to understand why your mental and emotional injury is as severe as it is. It is therefore necessary for your attorney to show the jurors your own peculiar vulnerabilities, and how they made you more susceptible than most people to developing a mental disorder as a result of the accident trauma. By learning about your existing vulnerability, the jurors can begin to understand the psychodynamic mechanism of your severe psychological injury. Once your attorney and psychological expert show the jurors your pre-existing vulnerability, then the jurors will be better able to understand how, because of this vulnerability, the accident was able to break through your psychological coping mechanisms and cause you a mental disorder.
How the plaintiff’s mental injury attorney uses themes during closing argument
At the end of the trial, each party’s lawyer can present a closing argument to the jury. During closing argument, your mental injury attorney can address the key legal and factual issues, such as the cause of your mental and emotional injury and the damages you have sustained.
The plaintiff’s causation argument in an accident case should focus on the concept that, under the law, a defendant takes a victim as he or she finds the victim. That is, if due to a pre-existing condition you have vulnerabilities which make you more susceptible to an injury than the average person, you are still entitled to recover monetary damages for any aggravation of that condition.
During closing argument, your attorney can use analogies to illustrate a point. One very useful analogy is that of a farmer driving a truck full of eggs when he is rear-ended by a big truck. All of the eggs in the farmer’s truck break. The other truck driver is not allowed to come into court and say that he owes no money to the farmer because if the farmer had golf balls in the cartons in the truck instead of eggs, the golf balls would not have broken and there would have been no damage. Similarly, in the severe mental injury accident case, the plaintiff because of pre-existing vulnerabilities and frailties is more like an egg than a golf ball.
Another useful analogy the plaintiff’s attorney can make to show causation in mental and emotional injury cases, especially accident cases, is the “cracked vase” argument. In its simplest form, plaintiff is compared to a vase that has a crack in it as a result of falling off a table, but can still function. That is, it can still hold water. However, because the vase has a crack in it, it is weakened, and when it falls down a second time it shatters. It would not have shattered if it did not have the initial crack, but because of the crack it was vulnerable and more susceptible to shattering. Plaintiff is then compared to the vase and it is argued that plaintiff was more easily injured due to his or her vulnerability and now is like the shattered crockery that cannot be put back together again and is no longer functional.
When dealing with mental and emotional injuries in your accident case, your psychological injury attorney can focus on the nature of your losses rather than your psychological pain.
There are many losses that a plaintiff can suffer as a result of a traumatic injury. This includes loss of family, money, hope, dreams, and friends. However, the one loss that a plaintiff with a severe mental and emotional injury can never escape is the loss of peace of mind. People can deal with enormous injuries, and even enormous losses. However, if they lose their peace of mind, they lose the ability to cope with any injury or any other loss. The loss of peace of mind turns a plaintiff’s world dark and gives plaintiff very little to live for.
Another useful way to emphasize damages is to point out to the jury that “they make artificial limbs but they do not make artificial minds.” The human mind is unique and irreplaceable, thus plaintiff will never completely recover from a mental and emotional injury the way that he or she may have been able to recover from many physical injuries, which makes this injury worse than many physical injuries.
Discussing losses, including the loss of peace of mind, and discussing the irreplaceable value of the human mind, are some of the ways in which your mental injury lawyer’s closing argument can help jurors understand the true nature of the damages that result from a severe psychological injury.