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Mr. Barlow is the Author of "The Ultimate Guide to Accident Injury Cases in Hawaii." Available at:
Worked for the
United States Air Force
Member of the Board of Governors of the Hawaii Association for Justice
Are Hawaii Juries Fair?
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This is the question that our clients ask us when they are trying to decide whether to accept a settlement offer or take their case to a jury trial.
The first thing to keep in mind is that most people on a jury have not been injured in an accident before. Most of them will not understand how much an auto accident injury can disrupt one's life. They will have a hard time understanding how upsetting and stressful an auto accident can be. They will not understand how long the court process is and what you have been through with your physical injury as well as the mental and emotional pain that you may experience due to your injuries and the long claims process.
The next thing to keep in mind is that the general public is not in favor of injury lawsuits. For decades the media has tried convinced the public that people who claim they have been injured in car accidents are probably just faking it. For years, there have been jokes about the lady who sued McDonald's because she was burned by their hot coffee. There are countless movies and television shows which poke fun at people who are faking injuries to get money. There are constant media reports pointing out people who intentionally fall in stores or stop their car quickly in order to cause an accident and fake an injury.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to juries, and people in general, is that most people act out of self-preservation. By this, we mean that most people will make decisions in a way to benefits themselves. In the case of a jury trial, most jury members think that injury lawsuits are the reason why their insurance premiums are high. This false assumption will often lead juries to not award large jury awards to people who are injured in accidents. Of course, juries don't understand that their insurance premiums are high due to the insane amounts of money that insurance companies spend on advertising and the large amounts of money that they spend on insurance adjustors and lawyers to try to avoid paying people what they owe them for their injuries.
Another potential problem with juries in Hawaii is that many people serving on juries are losing money by being there because they aren't able to go to work. Yes, there are some employers that allow their employees to serve on juries and not lose pay. Unfortunately, there are many self- employed people who own their own businesses who are losing a lot of money by serving on a jury. Juries do receive a very small stipend, but it is nothing compared to how much they are losing by not being able to work. Because many jurors are not happy due to losing income, they aren't usually in the mood to award large jury awards.
These are some of the issues that we discuss with clients when they ask if juries are fair. It's not that we want to be negative or encourage them not to take their case to a jury trial, but we just want them to know some of the obstacles that they are going up against. It's important for people to step back and realize that the whole world is not on their side and ready to award them large jury awards. Each member of a jury walks into the room with their own biases and personalities which can either help or hurt you in your injury lawsuit. Of course, we do everything we can to overcome a jury's biases and concerns in order to obtain the best possible jury award for our clients.