While the majority of car accident and other personal injury cases are resolved without trial, in some instances a trial is the best option for resolving disputes.
“Our right to have your case tried before a jury of peers traces back to the earliest days of our country and continues today.” says veteran trial attorney Lawrence D. Flick of Flick Law Firm.
Below is a brief overview of the jury trial process for an auto accident.
The goal of jury selection is to obtain a jury that can render an impartial verdict. Juries are typically comprised of six or twelve jurors and at least one alternate juror, often identified through public records.
Opening statements are each side’s chance to explain the case to the jury and discuss the evidence they intend to use. The plaintiff goes first, and the defendant follows.
Evidence may be presented in the form of either live or recorded testimony of witnesses, or through photographs, accident reports, and other tangible items known as exhibits. Witnesses may include the injured party, the investigating police officer, or the treating doctor. How much proof is needed depends on the nature of the case.
Plaintiff and Defendant’s Case in Chief
The plaintiff has the burden of proving their claim – and so they present their case in chief first. Various strategies may be used, but a standard method is to call the plaintiff first, present the medical testimony and other evidence of damages, and then present the evidence that proves the driver’s liability for the sustained damages.
In other trials, they first establish the driver’s liability, then present evidence of injuries and damages.
The defense follows, often with the primary goal of attacking the believability of the case the plaintiff just presented. The defense lawyer may attempt to introduce evidence that shows the accident happened differently than what was previously shown, or prove that another party may be at fault. Defense attorneys will also try to minimize the plaintiff’s evidence on damages.
Each side then has an opportunity to present rebuttal evidence after both present their case in chief.
The plaintiff’s attorney recaps the evidence that supports his or her claims and shows why the defense’s claims should not be believed. The plaintiff’s attorney also reviews the damage evidence and explains the plaintiff deserves to be awarded a particular amount.
The defense then presents their closing argument. They may highlight the evidence negating the plaintiff’s claim, and discuss evidence admitted that shows the car crash occurred in a different manner or that another party is at fault. They will also explain why the jury should award less damages then what the plaintiff requested.
The plaintiff’s attorney may be given a chance to make a rebuttal argument after the defense makes their closing argument.
After closing arguments, the jury will then enter the jury room for the deliberation process, following instructions given to them on deciding the case. A foreperson is usually selected to provide some form of leadership during the process.
Verdict and Judgment
Once the jury has reached a verdict, the judge summons all parties to the courtroom. A written verdict form is presented to the courtroom deputy or bailiff, to then be given to the judge. The judge reads this form and announces the verdict to the courtroom.
If either party is not satisfied with the result, they may be allowed to file a motion requesting the verdict be set aside or to appeal the judgment within a specific time period.