After a person is injured, alleges negligence of another party, and files a lawsuit, the person is referred to as the plaintiff. The individual or entity that allegedly caused the injury is called the defendant. At trial, the judge or a jury weighs the evidence presented to determine if the defendant is legally responsible for the damages that the plaintiff claims. The entire personal injury lawsuit process can be lengthy depending on various factors of the case.
Plaintiff vs. Defendant
The trial gives an opportunity for the plaintiff to argue details of the case to hopefully obtain a judgment against the negligent defendant. On the other hand, the trial also gives the defendant an opportunity to refute the plaintiff’s claims and give evidence disputing them. When both sides have completed their arguments, then a judge or jury decides whether the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, and to what extent. This is the point where a money amount is set that the defendant must pay.
There are typically six main phases in a complete personal injury trial. Below is a listing, followed by more details:
- Choose a Jury
- Opening Statements
- Witness Testimonies and Cross-Examination
- Closing Arguments
- Instructions to the Jury
- Jury Deliberations and Verdicts
Choose a Jury
Some cases are tried before a judge with no jury. In other cases, such as personal injury trials, a jury will be selected as one of the first steps. During this process, a judge, the plaintiff’s attorney, and the defendant’s attorney will ask questions of individuals who have been brought together as a pool of possible jurors from which to choose. Questions may include (a) the amount of knowledge a person already has about the case, (b) life experiences, or (c) ideological predispositions that could pertain to issues in this case. Judges are allowed to excuse a potential juror at this point, based on the answers given during the questioning.
After jury selection is completed in a personal injury trial, two opening “dialogues” are given to the seated jury. No witnesses are called to testify at this point, and no physical evidence is produced yet. During opening statements, the following takes place:
- The plaintiff’s attorney gives the facts of the injury/accident and describes the defendant’s role and negligence in causing these damages. In essence, the lawyer walks the jury through the details that will be presented, with proof later, to show why a civil judgment should be levied against the defendant.
- The defendant’s lawyer gives the jury the defendant’s view of the facts and prepares the jury for a rebuttal of key evidence the plaintiff will present.
Witness Testimonies and Cross-Examination
The point in a personal injury trial where both sides present their key evidence and arguments is known as the “case-in-chief.” The plaintiff’s attorney will methodically give evidence in such a way as to convince the jurors that the negligent defendant is responsible for the injuries and damages suffered by the plaintiff. Witnesses and experts may be called to testify in an effort to strengthen the case. Physical evidence like documents, pictures, and medical reports may be introduced. In personal injury lawsuits involving defective product claims or medical malpractice, expert witnesses and documentary evidence can be crucial to proving that the defendant is legally responsible for the plaintiff’s damages.
Next, the defendant’s attorney presents evidence in the same way, endeavoring to show the defendant is not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Defense witnesses may be called and further independent evidence presented to annul or downplay the plaintiff’s allegations. After the defense rests, the plaintiff’s attorney can respond to the defense’s arguments by presenting a “rebuttal,” contradicting the defense’s evidence.
During the closing arguments, each side is given the opportunity to sum up their case and recap evidence in a favorable light to each party’s own respective position. This is the last chance to address the jury before it begins deliberations. Therefore, the plaintiff’s attorney emphasizes why the evidence shows that the defendant is legally responsible for the plaintiff’s damages. Likewise, the defendant’s attorney tells the jury that evidence has fallen short of proving the defendant’s liability.
Instructions to the Jury
Once both parties in the case have given their evidence and made closing arguments, the judge will then present to the jury a set of legal standards by which it will need to determine if the defendant is accountable for the plaintiff’s harm. The judge determines the legal standards that apply to this case, based on the claims and the evidence presented at trial.
Jury Deliberations and Verdicts
After the judge gives instructions, the jury deliberates by weighing out all the evidence and testimony given and considers whether the defendant is liable and what compensation is appropriate, if so. This is the jury’s first opportunity to discuss the case, and the process can be as short as a few hours or last for several weeks. After a decision is reached, the jury foreperson then notifies the judge who generally announces the verdict openly in court.
In most states, there is a requirement that all 12 jurors reach a unanimous finding for either the plaintiff or defendant. However, some states will allow a verdict with a majority of only 9 to 3. If jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision and come to a standstill, a judge can declare a mistrial due to a hung jury. In this situation, the suit could be dismissed or restarted from the stage of jury selection.
Are You the Plaintiff in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Victims who are going through a personal injury trial may face long court proceedings and expensive fees. During this time, bills and daily expenses will begin to accumulate and put plaintiffs in difficult financial situations. Even if a settlement verdict is reached, it may take longer than expected to receive the money.
Plaintiffs can contact The Legal Funding Group for lawsuit loans and pre-settlement funding. These legal funding options can help provide financial stability for those with large medical and legal expenses.
Call (912)-777-3997 or fill out an online application today.