What Happens in a Personal Injury Trial?
If someone else’s careless or reckless actions gave you an injury, you may be able to hold that person or party financially responsible for your medical bills and other losses. Most personal injury claims in California end at the insurance stage with settlement agreements, meaning they do not go to trial. If an insurance carrier refuses to offer a reasonable settlement for your injuries, however, a trial may be necessary.
Although a personal injury trial may seem daunting, a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can guide you through the entire legal process to make it easier for you and your family and strive for a positive outcome.
The discovery phase is the first stage of a personal injury trial. Discovery is where both parties involved in a personal injury case have the opportunity to obtain information from each other. Your lawyer can file motions requesting information, documents and evidence from the defendant (the party allegedly at fault for your accident) so that there are no surprises during the trial.
The discovery phase may involve interrogatories and/or depositions. Interrogatories are questions that require written responses. Depositions are interviews conducted in person. Both are on the record and are given on penalty of perjury, meaning that the party has sworn to tell the truth. Your lawyer can help you with interrogatories and depositions so that you do not accidentally do or say anything that hurts your case.
At any point during the discovery phase, pretrial motions or hearings have the power to end the personal injury case. If the courts accept a motion to dismiss from the defendant, for example, you may no longer have the right to hold the defendant accountable. You and your attorney also have the option of reaching a settlement agreement with the insurance company at any time before your trial date.
Once your court date comes around, the personal injury trial will begin with opening statements from both parties. Your attorney will have the chance to explain what he or she plans to prove during the trial, as well as list the merits of the case, followed by opening statements from the defendant’s attorney.
Evidence and Witness Testimonies
The heart of a personal injury trial is the presentation of evidence and testimonies. As the injured party or plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, you have the burden of proof. This means it is up to your lawyer to prove the defendant caused your injuries based on a preponderance of the evidence. This is enough evidence to show that the defendant is more likely than not responsible for your injury. Your lawyer must present clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is at fault, such as photographs, videos, eyewitness statements and expert testimony.
Once both sides have presented all evidence and called upon all witnesses, the personal injury trial will end with closing arguments. These are summaries from each side of the case outlining what they presented and stating the decision they hope the jury will make.
Jury Deliberation and Verdict
The jury will receive its instructions from the judge presiding over the case. These instructions typically tell the jury to analyze the evidence and determine whether or not the plaintiff has met his or her burden of proof sufficiently, without any biases or prejudices. The jury will then enter into deliberations. All 12 jurors must rule the same way to come to a verdict.
If the jury believes you did fulfill the burden of proof, the verdict will be in your favor and the defendant will be found liable for your losses. If not, the defendant will not be found liable. California’s pure comparative negligence law means that it is also possible for a jury to assign a portion of fault to you and the defendant. In this case, you may still recover financial compensation; however, it may be reduced by your percentage of fault. For more information about a personal injury trial in California, contact an attorney from The Ryan Law Group.