In any trial, says plaintiffs’ attorney Larry R. Rogers Sr., “you have to establish credibility right away. You have to let them know that this is not a frivolous case.” Until that has been done, he believes, the jury may look skeptically at the plaintiff’s claims: “Once juries get past that they become very focused.”

In his representation of an elderly Chicago man who had been severely injured in an accident, Mr. Rogers, a partner at Chicago’s Power Rogers & Smith P.C., wasted no time in getting the jury focused. The plaintiff, Tommy Caudle, then 68, was a passenger in a delivery truck when a semi-tractor truck and trailer smashed into it. Mr. Caudle sued Chicago & Northwestern Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad Co., the owners of the truck, charging that the driver had stopped at a stop sign and then had proceeded before it was safe to go. Mr. Caudle sustained a spinal cord injury, rendering him partially paralyzed in all limbs.