Going to Trial? What to Expect

April 6, 2018 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Going to Trial? What to Expect

Settling an accident 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 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 Judge Judy. Rather, the trial process can be lengthy, tiresome, and 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 Port Richey, Florida personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 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.

Opening Statements

Prior to beginning the actual trial, each attorney is allowed to make an opening statement. 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 they (the attorneys) believe the evidence in the case will demonstrate. The attorneys may also tell the jurors how they should decide the case and/or how much money they should award the plaintiff.

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 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 the cross.

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 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.

Closing Arguments

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 Port Richey, Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today for a Free Legal Consultation

Going to trial is often a stressful experience. The New Port Richey personal injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you decide whether going to trial is right in your case. To schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team, please call us at (727) 477-9660 or contact us online.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 5435 Main Street New Port Richey, FL 34652 (727) 477-9660 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/new-port-richey-personal-injury-attorney/


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More