When things have names, we’re more likely to recognize them. And pull them to the front of our minds. They take on a much sharper focus.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned two terms that have really helped crystallized my thinking about personal injury cases and outcomes.

The first one is self-efficacy.

I read about it in an article my mom forwarded from the New York Times. Here’s what the author wrote:


Self-efficacy is one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed; to regulate one’s thoughts, emotions and life; and to cope with challenges in a positive way.

Self-efficacy is also the foundation for so many other positive traits, including resilience, grit, fortitude and perseverance. Self-efficacy is what gives [people] a sense of control, agency and hope, even when the world around them feels out of control.


People with strong senses of self-efficacy recover from their injuries or learn how to adjust to them.

The second one is perceived injustice.

People who suffer from a sense of perceived injustice tend to be pessimistic, inflexible, quick to give up, have low self-esteem, exhibit learned helplessness, get depressed, and feel fatalistic and hopeless.

The term was introduced to me by a neuropsychologist (Martha Glisky). But it’s been around since the 1970s.

Here are some manifestations:


Magnitude of Loss: “Most people don’t understand how severe my condition is.”


Blame: “I am suffering because of someone else’s negligence.”


Sense of Unfairness: “I don’t deserve this.”


Irreparability of Loss: “My life will never be the same.”  It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perceived injustice perpetuates symptoms.


You’d think that people who didn’t get better would have stronger personal injury cases. After all, their impairment affects more aspects of their lives and lasts longer. But that’s not the case.

Decision-makers (adjusters, judges, jurors, etc.) like and want to help claimants with strong self-efficacy.

The same decision-makers don’t like claimants who labor under a sense of perceived injustice and feel no obligation to help them.

Focus on the positive. Work hard to get better. The results in the case will follow.

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