It turns out, quite a bit. According to the authors of Reptile: The 2009 Manual of the Plaintiff’s Revolution1, the way humans have evolved means that as listeners we respond to certain primal signals that shape our decisions. The authors describe how our subconscious controls more of our thought process than we realize. When our “reptile brain” (as the authors describe it) feels threatened, it makes decisions that prioritize protecting itself, and protecting its ability to pass on its genetic code to its progeny.
But you thought you were reading a law blog, right? So why does this matter if you are an injured person seeking to recover for your damages? The answer is that as trial lawyers our primary job is to convince juries to award you the damages that you deserve in light of your injuries and the defendant’s conduct. The techniques of Reptile help us do that by helping us key in on what motivates jurors to action.
For example, the authors suggest that in your case we need to explain to the jury not only how you were affected, but also how stopping conduct like the kind that caused your injuries can protect the community. From the jury’s perspective, this converts your case from “your problem” into “our problem.” If the jury feels that awarding you damages is a way to help protect themselves and their children from the kind of thing that happened to you, the jury’s “reptile brain” will activate and move the jurors to side with you.
On a smaller scale, this means that we as trial lawyers need to be able to show the jury not just the harm that happened to you, but the maximum possible harm that could have occurred from the defendant’s conduct (i.e. you broke your arm, but you could have very easily have been killed). We also need to show the jury analogous situations to what happened to you to help them better put your injury in context. Finally, the jury needs to know the frequency of this type of harm, because the more times a risk occurs, the more the “reptile brain” feels that it is personally threatened.
Several of the lawyers in our firm have read this and other trial practice-books post-law school to expand and sharpen our skills. This is what makes us unique as a firm: we are constantly striving to stay on the cutting edge of techniques that help our clients. The techniques of Reptile are but one set of tools in our toolbox; a carpenter with more tools can solve more problems for his clients, just like a lawyer with more techniques can solve more for his [note how I used a Reptile analogy there].
If you’ve been injured, call the attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers today.