Closing Arguments in Personal Injury Litigation
The closing argument represents the lawyers’ last chance to directly influence the jury. As opposed to an opening statement, the closing address is more than a statement of the evidence-it is an argument. Whereas the opening statement sets the stage for the trial by informing the jury what the evidence will show, the closing statement goes much further. The lawyers during closing not only sum up the evidence that has been presented, they also argue to the jury about what the evidence means to the case. It is objectionable to make argumentative statements to the jury during the opening address. During closing, they are indispensable.
Each lawyer during closing highlights the most favorable evidence presented during the trial and argues from that evidence certain inferences that are favorable to the lawyer’s client. For example, if photographs of the accident vehicles have been presented to the jury and the damage is severe, your lawyer asks the jury to infer from the photos that the collision caused the severe injuries you claim. Further, each lawyer argues that the evidence and inferences mandate that the jury decide the case in favor of their client.
While the comments made during either an opening statement or closing argument can be objected to, most lawyers hesitate before interrupting their adversary’s opening statement or closing argument. The fear is that the judge, jury, or both will be offended by the interruption. Many judges feel that it is extremely discourteous for a lawyer to object during opening or closing, and the judge may scold the objecting lawyer in the presence of the jury. This is the lawyer’s worst nightmare since jurors generally look to the judge as a respected authority figure. Jurors look to the judge for guidance. If they feel that the judge favors one side or the other, the jurors will, consciously or not, be swayed toward that side.
During closing arguments the lawyers usually remind the jury of the promises made during opening statements about what the evidence would show. The lawyers then suggest to the jury that the evidence indeed showed all that was promised and that the jury, therefore, should return a favorable verdict. The lawyers may also refer to the promises the jurors made during jury selection to be fair and to return a just verdict.
The closing argument generally ends with a brief expression of thanks by the lawyer for the jury’s attention and a request for a verdict favorable to that lawyer’s client.