Online News Reports Distort Public’s Perception Of Jury Awards

In the past, most people got their daily news from newspapers, television news, and/or from the radio. While most people still get their news from those news sources, newspaper readership has dropped 26% (now, only 8% of people under 30 get their news from newspapers). Newspaper readership has fallen steadily since 2003. As of 2000, daily newspapers used to be the second largest source of daily news, behind television news. But by 2010, newspapers had fallen to the fourth position, behind radio and online news. Although people are now seeking news more than in the past, online news was the only news source experiencing growth as of 2010.

Online search engines (especially Google) have seen growth in use by people seeking news information. This is significant because the results of searches on the Internet are usually provided in only a brief set of words (similar to headlines in newspapers) that serve as links that do not provide the body of information that is contained in the news story — if the reader does not click on the link to read the story, the reader is left with only the words contained in the headline. Whereas stories in newspapers tend to be written by experienced journalists, news obtained from the innumerable sources on the Internet may not be written by similarly seasoned professionals, leading to more sensationalized and inaccurate headlines and incomplete stories.

Recently (on July 20, 2001), researchers conducted a Google News and blog search for civil jury verdicts and settlements between May 1, 2011 and July 20, 2011, for cases that involved physical injuries. From the search results, the researchers then examined the amount of the verdict or settlement, if any; whether the headline focused on the monetary amount of the award; the outcome of the case; and, whether the article was a wire story or local original news source.

The researchers found that the median reported jury verdict in the stories they found online was 192 times the median typical plaintiff verdict, and that the reported settlement amounts were 75 times the median typical plaintiff verdict. The researchers also found that in 39% of the analyzed articles in which the plaintiffs won, the headline for the article only mentioned the amount won and the type of case but stated nothing about the defendant’s wrongful conduct that resulted in the plaintiff’s win (another 14.5% only mentioned the amount of the plaintiff’s win).

The researchers found that for every story in which the defendant won, there were six stories about cases that the plaintiffs won, leading to the misperception that plaintiffs win so much more often than defendants (in reality, statistics show that plaintiffs win only 51.3% of cases tried before juries).

The researchers also pointed out that caps (limits) that many states have placed on the amount of noneconomic damages that plaintiffs can recover from negligent defendants, which automatically reduce the amount of the jury awards that are actually received by the successful plaintiffs, are rarely mentioned in the stories, thereby leaving the readers with the misperception that the plaintiffs received the amounts that the juries awarded. (For example, if a state imposes a cap on the amount of noneconomoic damages such as pain and suffering and mental anguish that a person can recover from a negligent wrongdoer at $200,000.00, and if a jury awards the plaintiff $1M for the plaintiff’s life-long and debilitating pain, the jury’s award will be automatically reduced to the $200,000.00 cap, but the reduction is rarely, if ever, noted in the news headlines and often not stated in the body of the news stories about the verdict.)


Why are the misperceptions created by sensationalized news headlines and inadequate news stories important? Because the misled public who read the news stories and believe that they are accurately informed of important issues are forming beliefs and ideas based on inaccurate and incomplete information — some people may promote the need for further “tort reform” when the reforms already imposed have seriously harmed those who are the most egregiously injured by the careless actions of others.

If you, a family member, or a loved one have been injured as the result of a medical mistake, a medical error, or the careless or negligent actions or omissions of a medical provider, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses and injuries. Please visit our website to be connected with local medical malpractice lawyers who may be able to assist you with bringing a medical malpractice claim against a negligent medical provider. Our toll free telephone number is 800-295-3959.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011 at 10:26 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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