The Inside Scoop on What Occurs At a Jury Trial in Personal Injury Cases
Most personal injury cases will be settled before the case goes to trial through private negotiations, mediation, or a settlement conference with the judge. Sometimes, despite the victim’s attorney’s best efforts, he may be unable to settle the case if the negligent party or his insurance company is unreasonable in their offers. If you are in this situation, going to trial could be a much better option than accepting a low-ball settlement.
The Stages in a Personal Injury Jury Trial
You may be nervous about having to testify at your trial and feel like the whole jury trial process is mysterious. However, there are logical steps in a trial. You can expect the following to happen:
- Jury selection. If your case will be heard by a jury—which is often the case—the first step in your case is to pick a jury from a pool of potential jurors. During jury selection, the judge and the attorneys will ask questions of possible jurors. Each attorney will be able to exclude a certain number of jurors from the case based on their answers.
- Opening statements. At the beginning of the trial, your attorney will give an opening statement where he tells the jury the facts of your accident, the injuries you suffered, and walk them through what he hopes to prove at trial. The defendant’s attorney will also give an opening statement with his version of what happened and summarizing the defendant’s defenses to your claim.
- Testimony. This is where your attorney and the defendant’s attorney present witnesses—including you—to testify, and evidence, such as photographs, medical bills, and documentation of your lost wages, for the jury to consider. The party who calls the witnesses asks the person a series of questions in a direct examination and then the other party can cross-examine the witness to try to discredit his testimony.
- Closing arguments. The closing argument is similar to the opening statement and is an opportunity for each attorney to sum up the case. This will be your attorney’s last chance to tell your side of the story and explain how much you suffered as a result of the accident.
- Jury instructions. After closing arguments are completed, the judge will read instructions to the jury. The instructions explain the law the jury is to apply when making a decision in your case and will define important legal terms.
- Jury deliberations and verdict. The jury next goes into a room behind closed doors to deliberate and decide whether the defendant was negligent and what, if any, compensation you are entitled to. Once they reach a decision, the jury foreperson or judge will read the decision in court where you and the defendant are present.
If you or a family member is considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, fill out my online form or call me at 888.716.8021 to schedule a free consultation where I will advise you of your legal options and what you can expect to happen in your case.