What happens in a trial for a personal injury claim?
In cases, which are not complex, the trial process for a personal injury claim case usually involves a specific format. Do not count on television shows to accurately portray how trials actually occur. With some variations, depending on the jurisdiction, your trial will go something like this:
The judge will open the trial by calling the lawyers, clients and prospective jurors into the courtroom.
A jury selection process called “voir dire” takes place. The lawyers can ask questions of prospective jurors before selecting the jury. This process allows the lawyers to determine potential bias or unfairness on the part of prospective jurors. In some Federal cases the judge will ask questions of the prospective jurors.
Jury selection takes place in which jurors are called by lottery fashion. The lawyers may exclude some of the jurors for various reasons.
After the jury is selected (6 people in Florida civil trials), the lawyers will make opening statements. These opening statements are brief summaries of the case so that the jury will have a road map of the case. Opening statements are usually short (less than 30 minutes).
After opening statements, your lawyer will present your case by calling you and other witnesses to the witness stand for direct examination. Such witnesses may include your doctor, employer, friends, family and other witnesses who can testify about the incident or your injuries.
After each witness has finished direct examination by your lawyer, the lawyer for the defendant will be entitled to cross-examination. That is, you and your witnesses may be asked questions by the other lawyer.
After cross-examination, your lawyer may have a few additional questions and this process is called re-direct examination.
After your lawyer finishes presenting your case, the defense lawyer is allowed to present the other side of the case by calling witnesses for the defense. Your lawyer will be entitled to cross-examine those witnesses.
After both attorneys have finished all questioning and all presentation of evidence the judge will allow closing arguments. In closing arguments the lawyers have the opportunity to summarize the case to the jury and ask for a verdict. Your lawyer will be allowed to go first, followed by the defense attorney. After the defense attorney finishes his or her closing argument, your lawyer may be offered a brief period of time for rebuttal.
After closing arguments, the judge will instruct the jury on the law and how it should be applied to your case. This process usually takes an hour or more depending on the judge. The judge’s instructions are the final words heard in the case before deliberation. The judge is not allowed to influence the jury one way or the other as to the result in the case.
After the judge completes instructions, the jury is allowed to deliberate on your case in a closed room. This process usually takes several hours.
When the jury has finished deliberation and reaches a verdict, the judge will call everyone into the courtroom and the verdict will be announced. You will find out at the time whether or not you won your case and how much money, if any, has been awarded by the jury.