Most personal injury cases settle outside of court, but that does not guarantee that your case will do the same. Therefore, it is best that a plaintiff is always prepared for the “what if” situation, and knows what might happen if his or her claim goes to trial.
A personal injury trial has a judge or jury examine the evidence from each side. Then, the judge or jury determines whether there is a preponderance of evidence for one side or the other. If there is ample evidence to suggest that the defendant is liable for the injuries and harm that the plaintiff has suffered, then the plaintiff wins the case. If, however, there is not a preponderance of evidence, the defendant could win the case.
A trial is an opportunity for both sides – the defendant and the plaintiff – to refute each other’s case and show facts proving their own side. After both sides present arguments, a judge or the jury considers which side is favorable and to what extent. Sometimes, the jury will reward the plaintiff, but also determine that he or she was partially liable for his or her own injuries. In that case, the plaintiff’s compensation would be reduced by the at-fault percentage assigned to him or her by the jury or judge.
The Six Phases of Personal Injury Trial
If your case proceeds to trial, you will likely encounter six phases:
- Jury Selection – The jury selection phase is when each side interviews potential jurors and picks their panel. Personal injury claims are sometimes heard in front of a judge without a jury. During jury selection, each side can exclude a potential juror, especially if they feel that the juror is biased for one side.
- Opening Statements – Opening statements are the first dialogue from each side. They introduce each side of the case and tell the jurors what they can expect to hear from each side. If there are multiple parties, then each attorney representing each party has the chance to give an opening statement to the judge or jury.
- Witness Testimony and Cross Examinations – The core of the trial phase is witness testimony. Experts will testify on behalf of each side, then the opposite side has the opportunity to cross-examine. The “case-in-chief” stage is when each side presents key evidence, and most personal injury claims rest on the expert testimony from medical professionals, accident experts, and investigators.
- Closing Arguments – After each side presents their case, each attorney presents a closing argument. Like the opening statement, closing arguments sum up everything the jury or judge has heard during the trial, and directs the jury or judge in how each side feels they should rule.
- Jury Instruction – Jury instructions are provided by the overseeing judge. The judge will tell the jury what legal standards they should apply to each side’s case. Then, they will instruct the jury on those legal theories and how to apply them.
- Jury Deliberations and Verdicts – The jury can meet as a group and deliberate after jury instructions. This can take a few hours or few days, depending on how easy it is for the jurors to agree. Once the jury has reached its verdict, it is announced to the court.
Going to Trial? Don’t Go Alone – Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
If your personal injury claim is not settling with the insurer, you may have to take your case to trial. However, do not attempt to go to trial alone. Instead, contact a personal injury attorney who can assist you. Attorney B. Clarke Nash is here to help. Schedule a free consultation and see how having an advocate by your side can make a world of difference.
Schedule your appointment now by calling 912-200-5292 or contacting him online.