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Are Very Large Jury Verdicts Ethical?


When people are injured, and they go before a jury, sometimes, the jury awards a large dollar figure as compensation for the victim’s injuries. So large that the public is often outraged. The media reports the verdict, and people ask whether the “system is broken,” all because someone received significant compensation from a jury after a personal injury trial.

That begs the question: Are very large jury verdicts moral or ethical? Is it right, or even, does it help, when a jury awards a large amount of money to an injured victim?

A Common Question

The question is a common one. In fact, one thing that possible jurors are often asked about during voir dire (jury selection), is whether or not they would have a moral or ethical problem awarding a significant sum of money to the victim, if in fact that’s what the evidence demonstrated was fair.

What’s Behind a Verdict?

The reason why large verdicts are often seen as unethical, is that the public is only hearing about that final verdict—it doesn’t hear the evidence in the trial of the victims’ damages, that justifies or supports that verdict.

For example, imagine someone who is made a paraplegic at 30 years old because of an injury after an accident. That person might have, on average, about 40-50 years of life left. During that time, he will have lost 40 years of income, may need multiple surgeries, may be forever dependent on medical devices and wheelchairs, which will need replacement, his cars and homes may always need modification, and he will continually be hospitalized with other related problems, like infections that are often related to paralysis.

When you take the numbers for those kinds of damages, for that long, and you add them up, you could easily get to a dollar figure that is in the seven figures. And that number doesn’t even account for the pain and suffering, disability, sadness, and all the other trauma that comes with suddenly being confined to a wheelchair without the use of your legs for the rest of your life.

And those numbers don’t even account for inflation, and what the cost of those goods will be 40-50 years in the future.

You can see how just simple numbers that represent the victims’ damages, added up, and multiplied over a lifetime, can add up to a jury verdict that can look outrageous–but it really is quite rational.

Don’t Look at the Dollars

What is fair and moral isn’t the dollar figure itself—it is the compensation that someone needs to be made whole again. Absent an award of punitive damages, which is rare, jury verdicts are not punishing anybody.

A jury’s verdict should not be concerned with what is moral or ethical for the Defendant to pay—it is and should be concerned with what the victim needs. The morals are whether it is moral or ethical that a victim should be left with lifelong hardship because of an injury that they neither wanted, asked for, nor caused.

We can help you with your catastrophic damage case. Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, for help today.




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