David Davis, a Massachusetts based jury consultant, offers five thoughts in The Jury Expert (link since removed) on the psychology of how jurors process requests for damage awards that I think is of interest to accident and malpractice lawyers.
I found of particular interest his theory that consumers – and by implication jurors – have a propensity to judge precise amounts of money to be lower in magnitude than similar round prices. The reason is that we tend to use precise numbers for small amounts and round numbers for larger amounts. The example Dr. Davis provides is that a precise number like $325,425 is seen as lower than $325,000 even though obviously the former number is a higher amount.
The implication for personal injury lawyers is obvious: make a request for damages that is a specific amount and back up that amount with some logical foundation. David Ball, another jury consultant that I have relied upon a great deal in my damage theories, disagrees with the utility of per diem arguments. But our lawyers often use per diem arguments to come to a specific number and have had a lot of success. Of course, this does not prove the efficacy of per diem arguments but it is hard for trial lawyers to ignore their own experiences of what is successful for them. If I began to notice a correlation between wearing a red tie and successful jury verdicts, I’d faithfully keep wearing red ties.
Back to the original topic: I think the precise number is also applicable in the settlement of personal injury cases. I think an initial demand of $485,000 is higher than an initial demand of $500,000 because you are cueing a great deal more flexibility in round numbers. Of course, at some level, if your initial demand is $482,542.56 and you do not have a logical reason why you arrived at such an exact figure and just made up that number, you are cueing that you are an idiot.