SPEEDING ON THE INTERSTATE AND ASKING FOR BIG VERDICTS
John W. Dill, Esquire
Velocitation is a phenomenon caused by driving for long periods at high speeds. A driver
velocitation when coming off of the highway; the change in speed makes him or her think
that the car is going much slower than it actually is.
We have all done it. We drive eighty on the Interstate then pull off on
the exit and feel we are crawling along like a snail. In reality we are
barreling along at seventy in a thirty five mile per hour zone. This is
known as “velocitation”. We can use this phenomenon as Plaintiff’s
lawyers to drive the damages up by gradually accommodating the jury to
I have repeatedly seen Plaintiff’s lawyers fail to talk about money
damages and the time value of money until the end of their closing argument.
Then they drop a huge number on the jury without any sense of context.
A lawyer may say “and because of all her pain and suffering, we
are asking for ten million dollars.” The same lawyer is likely shocked
by the change in body language from the jurors. As an excuse, the lawyer
may argue “I’m asking for a large number so if they come in
for less then I’m good.” However, what if the lesser number
is a big fat zero?
Our research shows us that juries can reach large numbers in pain and suffering,
but they must be given the tools early to get there. We like to start
in Voir Dire talking about the time value of money, and how much things
cost over time. With the economist, we want to talk about the life expectancy
and value of money over time. Then when we reach closing argument we harken
back to these anchors and start pushing our jurors into a higher damages bracket.
How is this achieved? We often use aper diemargument in the form of a sample want ad with an hourly rate. It is important
to show the methodology that accompanies the final numbers. Jurors tend
to employ formulas when coming to damages numbers. For example, we may
use the following in a fall down case:
HELP WANTED: Applicant needed for study on long term effects of violent
fall. Applicant will Be required to break arms and shatter knee. Long
term loss of use of leg also necessary. Applicant must be willing to lose
mobility and forego prior activities. Assistance from others a pre-requisite.
No vacation available.
“No person would volunteer for such a position, and in this case
Ms. Smith certainly didn’t volunteer. But what is a reasonable wage
to make up for what she went through in the past and will for another
say 15 years. Keep in mind this is every waking hour with pain and lack
of mobility, 16 hours a day 365 days a year. Only relief is in sleep.
What is a fair hourly wage for that job described above? $10 dollars per
hour? $15 per hour, not even the minimum wage in Florida. $20 per hour?
That is for you to determine and I suggest these as a way to put it in
perspective. Let’s take a look:”
I’ll have a Keynote slide with the $10, $15, $20. I use the formula
of 10 times 16 times 365 times 25 (assuming that is her life expectancy
and time since the fall). Then we see those numbers visually of:
10 per hour times 16 hours a day times 365 days a year times 25 years =
15 per hour times 16 hours a day times 365 days a year times 25 years =
20 per hour times 16 hours a day times 365 days a year times 25 years =
Studies show most people will chose a middle number of three, and I am
driving the jurors to the 2.19 mil so they think they have discounted
it. Then I add that to the meds and other numbers for the final amount.
Not unlike a speeding car exiting the interstate whose driver believes
he has slowed down when he is still speeding, I have successfully moved
the jury to an overall damages number without shocking them with a huge
number lacking foundation.