How Is a Trial Conducted?
The main aim of a personal injury trial is for a jury or judge to examine the evidence presented by a claimant against a defendant and decide whether there is “preponderance of the evidence” that the defendant is responsible for the injuries. It gives both the plaintiff and the defendant an opportunity to present their side of the case.
It must be noted that most personal injury cases do not proceed to full trial. They are settled through alternative dispute resolution methods like arbitration and mediation before a lawsuit is filed.
In the case a lawsuit is filed and proceeds to trial, the phases involved in a trial are:
• Choosing a Jury
• Opening Statements
• Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination
• Closing Arguments
• Jury Instruction
• Jury Deliberation and Verdict
Choosing a Jury
In this phase the judge and the attorneys for both sides will interview a pool of people who have been called up for jury duty. These people are asked questions to assess if they have a conflict of interest in the case.
Some people will be excused from being on the jury if any of the attorneys raises “peremptory challenges” and challenges “for cause” This may be for any reason except gender and ethnicity reasons.
In this phase both the plaintiff and the defendant present a summary of their side of the case. There are no witnesses called. The plaintiff goes first as he is the one with the complaint. He takes the jury through the facts of the case and how he intends to show that the defendant is responsible for the injuries. The defendant then presents facts to show why he is not responsible for the injuries and how he intends to refute the claims by the defendant.
Witness Testimony and the Cross-Examination
In a personal injury case, this is also called the case-in-chief. The plaintiff presents evidence with the help of witnesses and experts to show how the defendant is responsible for the injuries. Evidence may include medical reports, videos, photos, and documents.
After the plaintiff concludes and rests his case, it is the defendant’s turn to refute the evidence of the plaintiff with arguments against the evidence. This is called a rebuttal. The defendant will call witnesses of his side including experts. He can also rely on
The steps for a witness testifying in a case are:
• Calling and swearing the witness
• Direct examination through direct questions by the one who called the witness to collaborate the presented evidence.
• Cross-examination by the opposing side to poke holes in the witness testimony
• A re-direct examination by the witness side to rectify any rebutted evidence
Each side summarizes the evidence presented highlighting the important points and making a final argument why the jury or judge should consider his side of the case.
The judge directs the jury on the legal standards to uphold when deciding if the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The judge advises on the principle of “preponderance of the evidence” and any claims that the plaintiff is making like emotional distress. The case then goes “to the jury.”
Jury Deliberation and Verdict
The jury deliberates on the evidence presented and makes a decision on the case called a verdict. The jury does not always agree unanimously in all cases. In such cases, a majority may be considered for example 9 people in a jury of 12. If there is no majority decision, the judge declares a hung jury and a mistrial in which case the case starts all over.
Consult an attorney
A trial is a complex process in which you need an expert to guide you through. Consult a san diego personal injury lawyer if you think your personal injury case will go to trial.