Why Avoiding a Jury Trial is the Best Defense

By Denise Johnson | March 28, 2017

Because juries can be unpredictable, awarding large sums even in conservative jurisdictions, jury trials should be considered as a last resort, according to Nicole Whyte, founding partner at Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara.

Whyte sat down with Claims Journal, during the annual Combined Claims Conference held recently in Orange County, California, to explain why resolution prior to a jury trial is the best way to control a case and settlement.

“The real danger is that once you are in the hands of a jury, it’s somewhat of a crapshoot…as to what the jury is going to award,” said Whyte.

It’s better to gain control of the case through negotiation, she said, explaining the tactic allows control over what the settlement will be, the terms of the settlement and the outcome of the case.

Leaving a case to a jury means an insurer and its counsel are at the whim of individual bias, prejudices and emotions that may not be relevant to the case, she said.

“That is often a dangerous place to be because juries can be unpredictable,” said Whyte.

Because of that unpredictability, Whyte recommended jury trials as a last resort.

“As a good defense lawyer…claims adjuster, you always want to try to control the outcome of your case by trying to resolve the case early on, for a good settlement value,” Whyte said.

If a case has to be tried the key is to control as many elements as possible, she added.

“By trying to know and understand your jury beforehand,” Whyte explained, noting that can be done by doing a mock trial or using a focus group ahead of time.

In addition, Whyte said it’s wise to conduct research ahead of trial to be adequately prepared as well as to determine the optimal strategy that will result in the best possible outcome.

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