Abstract:Two empirical studies investigated how people’s prior beliefs about injury-causing incidents affect damages awarded in personal injury cases. In Study 1, participants were asked to describe what they thought were the typical features of four types of injury-producing incidents. Participants' descriptions indicated that people have prior beliefs about car accidents, falls, defective products, and medical malpractice. In Study 2, additional participants were asked to award damages for pain and suffering in personal injury cases in which the plaintiff had sustained an injury that was either common to or unusual for the type of incident, as determined from the descriptions obtained in Study 1. Larger and more variable damage awards were made for accidents that resulted in schema-inconsistent injuries.