What Happens In A Trial?
The majority of people have never been and will never be involved in a civil litigation trial. So most of what individuals know and assume about courtroom litigation comes from television shows and dramatic movies. While the structure of a trial may be similar to what you have seen in prime time, the reality of the proceedings differs vastly.
It is important to note that most personal injury cases will never advance to courtroom litigation. They are generally resolved through negotiation or mediation. But if trial is the only way to obtain the compensation you deserve, you may be curious as to what to expect when you enter the courtroom.
What To Expect If Your Case Goes To Trial
The basic stages of a personal injury trial are:
- Preparation: Trial preparation is timely and requires an extensive amount of work. Your attorney will create trial exhibits, help witnesses prepare for testimony, and craft a highly detailed outline and strategy for courtroom presentation.
- Jury selection: The judge, along with your attorney and the insurer’s lawyer, will question potential jurors on issues relevant to your case. This is to determine any biases, life experiences or ideologies that may unfairly influence their opinions of either side. The judge may dismiss any potential juror, and either side may petition to dismiss a potential juror.
- Opening statements: When the actual trial begins, both sides will present opening statements that summarize their positions. Usually, the plaintiff’s attorney will present first.
- Witness testimony and cross-examination: After the opening statements, each side may call upon witnesses and experts to testify on their client’s behalf. Evidence and exhibits may also be presented at this time. Each side will have the opportunity to cross-examine all of the opposition’s witnesses.
- Closing arguments: The plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys both present closing arguments to the jury. These serve as a summary of case evidence and witness testimony to support each side’s position.
- Jury instruction: The judge will give the jurors a set of legal standards to call upon when determining if the defendant is liable and therefore required to pay compensation for your injuries. He or she will also instruct the jury on legal principles that must be applied to their decision-making process.
- Jury deliberation: The members of the jury have a discussion regarding the facts in your case and come to a conclusion as to whether or not the defendant should be held liable. The jurors will also determine the amount of compensation, if any, to award.
- Final verdict and jury award: Once the jurors have reached an agreement, the judge will be notified and inform both parties in open court. In rare cases when the jurors cannot agree upon a verdict, a judge may call a mistrial. In these instances, a retrial with a new jury is possible.