Though the majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, some do make it all the way to trial. The cases that do not require a trial are usually settled via ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution), mediation, or dismissal.
In cases that do go to trial, the jury has a very important role in determining the outcomes. The jury impacts how, when, what, why, and where any reparations between the defendant and plaintiff should be made. The process of most personal injury cases that reach trial is as follows.
Members of the Jury Panel Are Chosen
The defendant, plaintiff, attorneys, and the judge will examine a questionnaire filled out by each member of the jury panel. The questionnaire asks questions related to the case and is used to help determine whether or not any members of the jury have any predispositions or circumstances that could cause their decision regarding the outcome of the case to be biased. Based on the responses that the jury pool provides, the judge will excuse some of them. It is during this stage that the defendant and the plaintiff can request to exclude some jurors if they feel they cannot be objective enough.
At this stage of trial, no physical evidence is presented and no witnesses testify. The plaintiff will make an opening statement detailing their “version” of the case to the jury and judge, in an attempt to convince them that they should be compensated for the injury they have sustained (as well as other consequences, such as medical bills or lost days of work). Next, the defendant will give their opening statement, which may include a rebuttal of the plaintiff’s opening statement. It is the plaintiff’s goal to demonstrate that the defendant is liable and at fault for the alleged incident.
Presentation of Evidence
The plaintiff may introduce any photographs, medical reports, financial documents, or other evidence that corroborate their allegations. The defendant may cross-examine the evidence, and present rebuttals that refute that evidence. Financial documents and medical profiles are critical in assessing the costs associated with personal injury. Witnesses may be called by either the plaintiff or the defendant. The witnesses are sworn in and are questioned directly to consolidate information that strengthens the case. Both parties may question the witnesses. The jury may take notes during this time, if the judge allows. The jury is to consider both parties and the content of their cross-examinations equally before making any decisions.
Much like opening statements, closing arguments give both the plaintiff and defendant an opportunity to summarize the case and to emphasize evidence that may sway the jury in their favor. This is the final step before the jury leaves to deliberate what they have heard throughout the trial.
Deliberation and Verdict
After the closing arguments, the judge tells the jury what to expect and what to consider when in the deliberation room before reaching their final decision (which may include facts, evidence, and arguments asserted by both the plaintiff and the defendant). Once the jury reaches a decision, they are brought back into the courtroom, at which point the judge will announce the verdict. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks before the jury finishes deliberating and comes to a unanimous decision.
Should you decide to file a personal injury claim, it is important that you seek out a trustworthy, reputable lawyer who has significant experience with personal injury cases. If you are in need of a personal injury lawyer, we encourage you to contact Tate Law Group at (912) 234-3030 today. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you earn the compensation you deserve.