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The Psychology of being a Plaintiff

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Beware of boredom: This is not a sexy or exciting topic. However, if you were recently injured, it could be the most important thing you will read.

There are many aspects of being a plaintiff that lend themselves to a psychological understanding. It starts with the trauma or semi-traumatic injury/loss or event (e.g., sexual harassment, assault, death of a family member) and continues with the stress related to the lawsuit (e.g., giving depositions, being questioned/challenged) and ultimately can end with a settlement amount (financial compensation that often needs to help a person to live independently). Broadly speaking, the plaintiff’s psychological status is often ignored or given perfunctory attention. Here at NextPhase, we think the emotional and psychological aspects of being a plaintiff need to be addressed for several reasons: it can strengthen your case and it can help you to recover from the traumatic event.

Let’s start with the event. No one asks to be injured as a result of the negligence of others. Usually, this is a catastrophic injury, a death or, in some cases, very upsetting experiences over time. For most plaintiffs, seeking treatment would help to speed the recovery from this experience. Treatment helps the plaintiff to process the painful, intense emotions related to the event. Most people who are catastrophically injured are not in the best frame of mind to both hire an attorney and find a therapist to treat them for the trauma. Sometimes, if you are severely physically injured, you can receive some psychological treatment from the rehabilitation center. While this is certainly helpful, it might not be enough. Often people who experienced a life altering, traumatic injury could benefit from long-term therapy. Problems adjusting to this new life can occur for months or years after the injury.

Imagine trying to do this alone or with some help from a family member. Most people do not have a history of injuries or lawsuits to inform them of what to do. After the event, plaintiffs are then thrusted into the legal world where they confront a variety of challenges. How do I find a trusted, competent lawyer? I hired a lawyer, but I don’t get updates about my case. What should I expect?

Coping with the lawsuit involves several aspects of stress management: coping with uncertainty, coping with being questioned/challenged, coping with the cold, impersonal nature of the court system.

No one prepares a plaintiff for this painful, difficult journey. Here at NP, we offer contact with mentors who have traveled down this road and can offer encouragement and advice.

At the conclusion of the lawsuit, the plaintiff is typically awarded financial compensation. While this sounds promising, most plaintiffs are inexperienced with managing a settlement payment that needs to provide for the injured person and his/her family. Being psychologically unprepared – translation: impulsive or disorganized – can result in the biggest mistake in a plaintiff’s life. Settlements can get squandered and leave the plaintiff and his/her family in a terrible financial position. My colleague, Joe DiGangi, refers to this as “being victimized a second time.” No plaintiff chooses this outcome. However, there are many psychological reasons that account for poorly managed settlements. Lack of financial education, lack of financial guidance, and lack of support. Plaintiffs often do not know what they do not know. In other words, plaintiffs do not know that there are resources available to them to help them with the settlement long after the case gets closed. NextPhase was specifically designed to address the space for plaintiffs. As a member of the community, you have access to the resources that you need to help your case and to manage your settlement.

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