The courtroom represents an impartial arena where the facts can be laid bare and decided upon in a fair and unbiased manner. During jury trials, judges and jurors are expected to be impartial in their decision making. At the end of the day, however, judges and jurors are just as human as anyone else, with their own biases and beliefs.
In personal injury cases involving motorcycle accidents, juror bias can have a tremendous effect on case outcome. Some people tend to see motorcyclists in a negative light and that negativity can easily present itself in a jury trial. The following highlights some of the more common biases against motorcyclists and how your personal injury attorney will address these biases to produce a successful outcome for your case.
Different Types of Bias
Motorcycling culture has undergone plenty of changes throughout history, but there are certain images that remain imbedded in the public conscious. Despite motorcycling being an activity that people of all ages enjoy, the image of the "outlaw biker" continues to resonate among many. Simply put, some jurors are likely to see motorcyclists as little more than troublemakers who shouldn't be given any breaks.
Another common stigma motorcyclists often struggle to overcome is that they routinely engage in reckless behavior. It doesn't help that most people are likely to remember the one motorcyclist who rides recklessly and takes unnecessary risks rather than the legions of careful and considerate motorcyclists seen on the open road. Seeing a reckless rider weave in and out of traffic, cutting off other drivers in the process, is always something that's bound to upset most people.
Juror biases can also be location-based. For instance, a jury comprised of people living in areas with a high percentage of active motorcyclists is less likely to be biased against them. In contrast, juries from areas with relatively low ridership numbers are more likely to carry biases against bikers.
These biases can manifest themselves in the jury's decision, especially in contentious trials where the stakes are higher than usual.
How Insurers See Jury Bias
You'd think that insurance companies see biases surrounding motorcyclists as being a negative. For insurers looking to avoid paying a large settlement or award, however, jury biases offer a golden opportunity to build a strong defense against a favorable plaintiff outcome.
It's not uncommon for insurance companies and their defense attorneys to take advantage of jury biases, especially when it comes to motorcyclists. Common stereotypes about motorcyclists can easily sway biased jurors and tip the playing field in favor of the defense. Painting the rider as a reckless individual with little regard for established driving rules actually benefits the defense by seeding doubt in the plaintiff's moral character.
Insurers also utilize jury bias to discourage injured riders from going to trial. This scare tactic is often paired with settlements that are much lower than what riders are actually entitled to. The fear of losing due to a potentially biased jury pool is a common motivator for many motorcyclists to forgo a jury trial and accept a comparatively meager settlement.
How Attorneys Deal With Bias
For the average personal injury attorney, dealing with a potentially biased jury pool starts at the jury selection process, also known as "voir dire." It's here that your attorney will ask important questions that reveal a potential juror's thoughts and feelings about motorcyclists and remove jurors who may be prejudiced against bikers.
Your attorney can also utilize pre-trial motions to exclude evidence and references that could prove unfairly prejudicial against your case. Favorable testimony from character witnesses, including friends, coworkers and influential community leaders, can also help reduce juror bias by improving the plaintiff's moral standing in the eyes of the court. Learn more about how to handle your case by contacting services like Spooner & Perkins P.C. Attorneys at Law.