Most personal injury cases settle out of court and never go to trial. This is usually in both parties’ best interests because it reduces the fees related to court proceedings. However, there are some situations in which plaintiffs should take their cases to court.
The trial process is more than just prosecution vs defense trying to one up each other in front of the jury. Here’s what to expect if your personal injury claim goes to trial.
Most Personal Injury Cases Settle before Trial
The majority of legal claims arising from injuries and accidents do not reach a civil court trial. The complainant and defendant usually resolve the matter through a negotiated settlement. In certain situations, a settlement is reached before filing a lawsuit.
During the settlement process, the plaintiff may agree to give up the right to seek further legal action related to the injury or accident in exchange for a sum of money from the defendant or an insurance company. Settling is usually a smart decision when:
- The defendant or insurance company offers a fair payout;
- The plaintiff’s case is not strong;
- The damages are relatively small;
- Or the settlement offer reaches the max limits of the insurance policy.
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When Should Plaintiffs Go to Trial?
Sometimes taking a case to trial is a smart decision. This may be true if:
- The defendant is not willing to settle;
- The defendant is offering an unfair settlement;
- Or the plaintiff may be entitled to punitive damages, which can be substantially larger than actual damages.
When determining if you should settle or go to trial, your lawyer will consider jury verdicts and settlements related to cases that are similar to yours. As part of this process you will work together to evaluate the strength of your case and compare the potential costs of litigation to the potential verdict.
What is the process of a trial?
There are many stages of a lawsuit. By the time a case goes to trial the suit has already been through discovery, depositions, finding experts, and pre-trial motions.
At this point all that is left is to prepare for trial, which can begin months before the actual trial date. The process varies widely depending on the attorney and the type of case but detailed preparation can include reviewing past depositions, reconstructing an accident, and even mock juries or mock trials to practice.
What happens at a personal injury trial?
Once a trial date arrives, there are many laws and court rules that will govern what happens next. Some trials may have only a judge and no jury, but generally the following steps will occur:
At this stage, both sides will have an opportunity to question jurors and strike those that may appear biased.
The plaintiff’s attorney and then the defendant’s attorney summarize their cases and give the jury an idea what to expect.
Presenting the Plaintiff’s Case
Because the plaintiff has the burden of proof, he or she goes first presenting evidence to the jury.
Presenting the Defense
After the plaintiff rests his case, the defense will present evidence to try to overcome what the plaintiff has submitted.
Here, attorneys for both sides will do their best to summarize the evidence and key points in an effort to get the jury to rule in their favor.
After the jury has deliberated, a verdict will be announced. In a personal injury trial, usually this verdict will address both the liability of the defendant and the amount of the plaintiff’s damages.
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How long does a personal injury trial take?
The personal injury lawsuit process is different for everyone. A judge trial of a simple auto accident rear-end claim could take less than a day. In contrast, a complicated case where liability for the accident is disputed and the plaintiff has substantial injuries, a trial can last days to even weeks. It is one of the judge’s responsibility to try to keep the courtroom process moving efficiently.
Are you facing a personal injury trial?
If you were injured in an accident, contact us for a free case evaluation. Especially when your case is headed for trial, you need knowledgeable attorneys willing to go the distance. We will work with you on a contingency-fee basis to gather this evidence and prove your case. Fill out our free case evaluation form to see if you are eligible for a claim. An experienced trial attorney at Morris Bart will assist you in the evaluation process. Initial consultations are free. We have office locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. Call us at 1-800-537-8185 today.
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