Bottom line: It is possible to provide a sound bite to reporters about damages without revealing exactly how much you’re seeking.

When plaintiffs attorneys and their clients seek publicity for the filing of a legal complaint, they often get tripped up by one particular question from reporters.

“What are the damages that you’re alleging in the case?”

Now, most of the time when a reporter is going to cover, or at least interested in covering, the filing of a complaint in a lawsuit, that reporter is going to ask about damages. 

They want a number because that is part of the story. Person A is suing Person B, and Person A is claiming that Person B owes them X amount of dollars.

But we as attorneys know that even once we file a complaint, we may not have a great sense of the exact number that we’re going to be asking for with respect to compensatory damages or punitive damages.

As a result, tension builds. 

The reporter wants a number. 

We as attorneys are hesitant (for a few reasons) to give a number. 

So here’s a formula that I use for my clients when they are seeking publicity for the filing of a lawsuit and want to answer a reporter’s question about damages:

“Based on the injuries that we allege [the client] to have suffered at the hands of [the defendant], [the effect of the injuries] on [the client], and the 
alleged widespread [wrongdoing on the part of the defendant], we think a 
jury could easily return a verdict in the amount of [X amount of] figures.” 

You are trying to do two different things here when you’re making this kind of statement.

First and foremost, you’re trying to induce a favorable settlement as quickly as possible. 

So you want the defendant to understand this statement to mean, “Look, this is going to be a big case. We think we can get a great verdict.” 

You don’t have to give an exact number. But by phrasing your statement the way I did above, you give the defendant a chance to digest just how big of a case you think, and the client thinks, you have. As a result, you want the defendant to come to the settlement table prepared to make the kind of offer that your client cannot refuse.

Second, you’re talking to referral sources and prospective clients through your statement.

You want them to know that in this kind of case, you think you can get this large of a recovery for the client.

By giving a reporter at least a round number, you’re communicating to referral sources and prospective clients that you handle these kinds of cases, with these kinds of facts and injuries, and you think these kinds of cases could be valued as high as seven figures, eight figures, what have you. 

This communicates to referral sources and prospective clients that you are THE attorney to handle cases of theirs that are similar.

When it comes to possibly covering the filing of a new lawsuit, reporters want to know the damages plaintiffs attorneys are seeking in the suit. 

Attorneys don’t always want to give a damages number because making that number public early on in a legal dispute can serve as a peek behind the strategy curtain. 

In other instances, at such an early stage of a legal dispute, an attorney may not yet have arrived at what they think the appropriate amount of damages is.

Using my formula above, when you’re asked by a reporter about the damages you’re seeking in a client’s lawsuit, you’ll be able to give the reporter a substantive answer, and make an impression on the defendant and on prospective clients and referral sources, all without holding yourself to an exact number.

Bottom line: It is possible to provide a sound bite to reporters about damages without revealing exactly how much you’re seeking.

Wayne Pollock is the founder and managing attorney of Copo Strategies, a national legal services and communications firm exclusively serving attorneys and their clients. Copo Strategies helps attorneys (i) engage the Court of Public Opinion regarding their clients’ active legal disputes, and (ii) engage their referral sources and prospective clients regarding their firms and practices. Wayne was recently named by a leading legal industry publication to its inaugural list of Pennsylvania Legal Trailblazers. Contact him at or 215–454–2180.