Settling an personal injury case versus going to trial is a very personal decision. Although there is always some risk associated with going to trial, in some cases, it is worth rolling the dice. This is especially true where insurance companies and their adjusters refuse to offer you full and fair monetary compensation to settle your case. A New York personal injury lawyer can make a recommendation about whether you should accept a pending settlement offer or take your case to trial.
If you ultimately decide to take your case to trial, you should know that personal injury trials are not as glamorous or exciting as popular courtroom TV dramas, like the People’s Court or Judge Mathis or Judge Faith or Judge Judy. Rather, the trial process can be lengthy, tiresome, and very expensive. The trial itself can last for days or weeks, and preparing for a personal injury trial can be stressful for everyone involved.
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. If the at-fault party’s insurance company refuses to settle your case favorably, you have the option of litigating your case and taking it to trial. The New York Personal Injury attorneys at the Law Office of Dimitrios Kourouklis, Ph.D. can help you explore all of your legal options—including whether or not you should take your case to trial. Our attorneys provide knowledgeable, result-oriented legal representation and are ready to assist you with your case.
Parts of a Personal Injury Trial
Most personal injury trials consist of several basic components. During a trial, the judge’s job is to rule on evidentiary issues, instruct the jury on the law, and keep the trial moving efficiently. Most jury trials consist of jury selection, opening statements, plaintiff’s case-in-chief (calling witnesses, etc.), defendant’s case-in-chief (calling witnesses, etc.), jury instructions, closing arguments, jury deliberations, and the verdict.
If the jury members cannot agree on a unanimous verdict, this is called a “hung jury” and could result in a mistrial. Although jury verdicts may be appealed, a personal injury plaintiff cannot appeal a jury verdict simply because he or she is dissatisfied with the verdict or the damages awarded.
Selecting a Jury
Individual jury members are selected from a large pool of jurors. During a process known as voir dire, potential jurors are typically read a series of questions designed to expose potential biases and prejudices. The plaintiff and defense attorneys then systematically move to strike potential jurors based upon perceived biases. For example, if a prospective juror admits during voir dire that she used to work for an insurance company as an adjuster, the plaintiff’s attorney will likely move to strike that potential juror from the pool.
Jury selection can be a lengthy process. However, there is no such thing as a “perfect” jury. Even though jurors are required to only consider the evidence presented at trial when reaching their verdict, they still routinely consider past experiences. Thus, the fantasy of a totally unbiased jury is just that.
Prior to beginning the actual trial, each attorney is allowed to make an opening statement. The attorneys’ opening statements are not considered evidence in the case. The main purpose of an opening statement is for the attorneys to provide jury members with an overview of what each party believes the evidence in the case will demonstrate. The attorneys may also tell the jurors how they should decide the case.
Conducting the Trial
During the plaintiff attorney’s direct examination, the attorney will usually call the plaintiff to the stand to tell the jury members a story. The examination usually focuses on how the accident happened, the injuries sustained, and the effect of the injuries on the plaintiff’s life.
During the plaintiff’s case, the attorney may also call expert witnesses to testify. Expert witnesses at trial oftentimes include medical experts. A medical expert may testify that the plaintiff sustained permanent injuries or that he or she requires a future medical procedure, such as a surgery. Other experts include economists and vocational rehabilitation experts. They may be able to testify about the impact of the injuries on the plaintiff’s ability to work.
During the plaintiff’s case, the attorney may also call a non-party witness to testify on behalf of the plaintiff. The non-party witness may have been a witness to the plaintiff’s accident. The non-party witness could provide testimony about the plaintiff’s injuries and how they have impacted the plaintiff’s every day activities.
During cross-examination, the opposing attorney has the opportunity to ask the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s witnesses very focused leading questions, in order to expose potential biases or weaknesses in the plaintiff’s case. Following cross-examination, the plaintiff’s attorney can ask questions on re-direct examination to clarify or explain points made on cross-examination.
Once the plaintiff has called all witnesses to testify, the defense attorney will begin the defendant’s case-in-chief. This proceeds just as the plaintiff’s case did, with the defense attorney calling defense witnesses and/or experts and the plaintiff’s attorney asking cross-examination questions.
Depending upon the nature and complexity of the case, this process of calling witnesses and asking questions can take several days—or even weeks, in the most serious cases.
Each attorney gets to wrap up their presentation of evidence by making a closing argument. The closing argument summarizes each attorney’s view of the case and often brings up key points of evidence and testimony introduced during the trial.
The Judge’s Role at Trial
During a trial, most judges simply rule on evidentiary objections and let the lawyers present the evidence and try the case. Toward the end of the trial, when all of the evidence from both sides has been presented to the jury, a judge will read instructions regarding how the jury should apply the law to the evidence. The judge then tells the jury members to apply the law to the facts and evidence presented at the trial. Jurors are also told not to consider personal experiences or any other outside information when deliberating and reaching their verdict.
Call a New York Personal Injury Attorney Today for a Free Legal Consultation
Going to trial is often a stressful experience. Having the right representation to handle your personal injury claim and to represent you if your matter has to go to trial is very important. The New York personal injury lawyers at Law Office of Dimitrios Kourouklis, Ph.D. can help you decide whether going to trial is the right decision for your case. To schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team, please contact us at (929) 400-7608 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us online.