If you have filed a personal injury lawsuit, you might be wondering what happens at trial. A trial is the most high-profile phase of a personal injury case and in most instances, it never gets to that. Most injury claims are resolved before trial.
When Should You File A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
You should file a personal injury lawsuit when you and the insurance adjuster fail to come to a compromised settlement payment where you are both satisfied. Sometimes you may fail to reach a compromise when the negotiation process breaks down. Break down happens when the adjuster doesn’t think your injuries are severe or thinks the amount you are asking for is ridiculously high.
When Do You Start Your Personal Injury Lawsuit?
You can start any day after your accident but technically, it begins when you can’t reach a compromise with the insurance adjuster. Most people avoid trials because they can drag out and are very expensive. Before you consider going to trial , analyze if the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
If you decide to go to trial, these are some of the expenses that you should be prepared to encounter:
- Cost for copying witness statements, police reports, medical records, etc
- Expert witnesses such as doctors who will provide expert testimony
- Cost of paying the court reporter for transcripts and depositions
- Time off from work
- Cost of having a constable or sheriff serve your lawsuit
- Filing fees for the petition
You should never let emotions cloud your judgment. This means that you shouldn’t file a lawsuit just because you are angry or offended by the amount the insurance company has offered you. You also shouldn’t file a lawsuit if you suffered minor injuries…you may end up wasting your time and money. If you are not sure whether you should file a lawsuit, you should contact a trustworthy personal injury lawyer.
Is There An Alternative To Filing A Lawsuit?
Yes there is and it’s called arbitration. Arbitration is like going to court without actually going to court. Here’s how it works. You and the defendant decide on an arbitrator (a third party) who will listen to both sides and decide the outcome. Once they make the decision, it can’t be appealed.
This is a great alternative to a trial because it takes less time, it’s cheaper and you can set up a hearing in a short amount of time. In addition, there are various types of arbitration where at least one of them guarantees you will receive some compensation for your injuries.
So What Happens At Trial?
During trial, the jury or a judge will decide from the evidence whether the defendant should be held legally responsible for your injuries. This is the perfect opportunity for you to argue your case and obtain a judgment against the defendant.
The defendant will also refute your case and offer their evidence. After you have both presented your arguments, the judge will consider whether the defendant is liable for your claimed injuries and if they are, to what extent.
How Many Phases Are In A Personal Injury Lawsuit Trial?
There are six phases of a personal injury lawsuit trial.
1. Choosing A Jury
Unless your case is being tried before a judge, the first step in your personal injury lawsuit trial is to select a jury. During the selection process, the judge and your attorneys will question a number of potential jurors generally and about issues pertaining to the case.
They will try to find out if any of the jurors have had similar experiences pertaining to the case or their personal ideological predispositions. The judge can decide to exclude a potential juror at this point depending on their responses to the questions.
You will also be allowed to exclude a given number of jurors through what is known as a peremptory challenge and challenges for cause. This is where you an exclude a juror for any reason including ethnicity and gender in civil cases. You can use a challenge for cause to exclude a juror who has demonstrated they cannot objectively decide the case.
2. Opening Statements
The first dialogue in your trial will be in the form of two opening statements…one will be from your attorney and the other from the defendant’s attorney. Any physical evidence you have will not be utilized at this point and no witnesses will be allowed to testify.
Since you have to show that the defendant is legally liable for your injuries, your lawyer will give the first opening statement. It will be much more detailed than the one which will be given by the defendant’s attorney. In some instances, the defendant’s attorney may wait until the conclusion of your case to make their opening statement.
During the opening statements:
- Your attorney will present the facts of your accident and demonstrate the role that the defendant played in causing your injuries. They will basically take the jury through what they intend to demonstrate in order for you to get compensation from the defendant.
- The attorney representing the defendant will give the jury their interpretation of the facts. In short, they will set the stage for refuting any evidence you have.
If you are involved in a case where there are many people suing one person for damages, each attorney representing each of you will give an opening statement.
3. Witness Testimony & Cross Examination
This is the stage where you will both present your key evidence to the jury to convince them the defendant is guilty and should be held liable for your injuries.
You will be allowed to call in witnesses and experts to testify in order to solidify your case. You will also be allowed to introduce physical evidence like medical reports, documents and photographs.
If you are involved in a medical malpractice or defective product lawsuit, calling in an expert witness is very crucial because they will help prove your claim.
4. Closing Arguments
This is the stage where both your attorneys will sum up your cases by recapping the evidence in a way that favors you and the defendant. This is your last chance to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty. The defendant will also try to convince the jury that your evidence is not enough to hold them legally responsible for your damages.
5. Jury Instruction
After you have both presented your evidence and made closing arguments, the jury instruction will follow next. This is where the jury is given a set of legal standards by the judge which they will use to reach a verdict.
Based on your personal injury claims and the evidence that was presented in court, the judge will decide what legal standards should apply to the case. The jury will be instructed by the judge on the relevant principles and findings they will need to make in order to make certain decisions. They will also receive definitions of key concepts like different types of damages and torts.
6. Jury Deliberation And Verdict
After receiving instructions from the judge, the jury will decide whether the defendant is liable for your injuries through a process known as deliberation. They will also decide how much compensation you should receive if they find the defendant liable for your injuries.
The deliberation process can take a few hours or several weeks. Once the jury makes a decision, they will inform the jury foreperson who will then inform the judge. The judge will proceed to announce the verdict in an open court.
In case the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict, the judge may dismiss the case or request for a retrial. In case of a retrial, the trial may start again from jury selection.
Don’t Represent Yourself At Trial: Talk To A Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawsuit trials are complicated and can be extremely time consuming. Even if you made it to trial without the help of a lawyer, it is still advisable that you talk to one as soon as possible and get them to represent you in court. Don’t try to avoid legal fees by tackling the case on your own. You may not know how the legal process works and how to use it to your advantage. A seasoned lawyer can help you by ensuring your rights are protected throughout the trial process. Moreover, a credible personal injury lawyer will only get paid once you receive compensation…this is what is known as getting paid on a contingency fee basis.