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Personal Injury Trials: What You Need to Know

By San Diego Attorney on September 22, 2020

When you begin filing a personal injury claim, most attorneys will try to assure you that only one in ten cases result in a lawsuit and jury trial. Insurance companies do not want to spend money on court fees and jury verdicts and are often more willing to settle out of court. However, while this is true, it is important to understand the entire process, as your case may be in that 10% that do go to trial.

Why Cases Go to Trial

Oftentimes, plaintiffs decide to file a lawsuit because the at-fault insurance company is not providing a high enough settlement offer after an accident or has flat out denied all coverage. This can occur after months of negotiations, with multiple back and forth offers between your attorney and the insurance adjuster that do not reach a satisfying conclusion.

Ultimately, it will be your decision whether or not your case goes to trial. Insurance companies will often diminish the value of your injuries during the initial settlement negotiations or deny a claim outright, but they will usually want you to accept a low-ball offer to avoid paying for court fees and defense attorneys. When you do not accept a settlement offer and the insurance company refuses to budge on the size of your claim, then you have the option of pursuing a lawsuit. However, these decisions should not be made lightly, as jury trials, while based on the same principles as settlement negotiations, have some key differences.

What You Should Prepare For

When your attorney first starts working on their case, they should always prepare as if your case is going to trial. That means collecting as much evidence as possible, clearly laying out why the at-fault party is liable for your injuries, determining how much negligence is applied to each side of the case, and outlining the list of damages you are owed. All of these pieces of your case will come into play when you go to trial, but instead of your case being reviewed by an insurance adjuster, it will be evaluated by a jury.

On your end, you will want to work with your attorney to understand their key arguments, outline the chain of events that led to your injuries, and why you need compensation to recover from the accident. You will be asked to testify, but do not worry. Your attorney will prepare you long before the case to ensure you can calmly answer all questions at the trial.

Filing a Lawsuit

After filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party, you will begin the pre-trial process. At this time, you will be asked to answer written questions submitted by the defense counsel that represents that insurance company. In turn, your attorney will submit their own questions to the defendant (the individual who injured you). You will want to answer these questions as truthfully as possible, as you are under oath and can be held in contempt if you attempt to lie or hide key facts.

Witness Testimonies

In the next phase, your attorney will reach out to all witnesses in your trial, which can include:

  • Individuals who saw the accident occur
  • The doctors who reviewed your injuries
  • The doctors who handled your treatment
  • An accident reconstructionist
  • Any other expert witnesses that can provide key testimonials

The defense counsel may also request that you undergo a final medical examination with their own medical expert. This is standard, though you can still ask that your attorney attend the appointment and advice you as to how to act during the review. These medical experts are often asked to discredit plaintiffs’ injuries, so you will want to be careful about what you say.

Arbitration

Lastly, before a case goes into the trial phase, both sides will meet with an arbitrator. These individuals act as court-appointed, objective evaluators of the case. They are often third-parties who will evaluate the case and attempt to bring both sides to a middle ground. It is not uncommon for cases to be settled during arbitration, however, if neither side agrees to the arbitrator’s opinion, you will then go to trial.

Steps to a Jury Trial

At the start of the trial, both sides will select the jurors who will decide your verdict. In California civil cases, this will include roughly 20 individuals in case some have to drop out due to family obligations or illnesses. Following the selection, the judge will introduce the case and allow each attorney to provide opening statements. Your attorney will outline your side of the case, how the defendant injured you, and the basis for your lawsuit. The defense will attempt to do the opposite, explaining why their defendant is not liable for your injuries or why your injuries are not their fault.

After opening statements, witnesses will be called forward to testify in your case. Either side will attempt to explain the nature of the accident and where fault may lay. Your attorney will work to create a detailed chain of events that led to your injuries and outline how badly they damaged your livelihood. Both sides are allowed to cross-examine the witnesses in order to discredit or clarify certain topics. The individual who injured you will also be required to testify and acts as a witness in the case.

Once all evidence and testimonies have been presented, each attorney will make a closing statement that summarizes the details of the case and outlines how the jury should come to a verdict. Afterward, the judge will explain how the jury should come to a verdict, including providing jury instructions, and explain the laws that they should base their judgment on.

The jury will often have until the end of the day to make a decision and may come back with questions during their deliberation. Generally, the judge will give them a timeline. It is important to note that juries in California must come to a unanimous conclusion and, if they do side with you, they will also submit the amount of compensation you should receive.

Contact an Attorney with Trial Experience

Jury trials are often more stressful for plaintiffs, as very few want to spend their day in court or be asked to testify in their own trial. However, if you work with jD LAW, then you have little to worry about. Our lead San Diego personal injury attorney is a skilled trial attorney with over 30 years of experience advocating for his clients in a courtroom. When our legal team takes on your case, we prepare as if we are going to trial and do not leave a single detail out of your case. If you were injured by a negligent party, then you need the aid of a knowledgeable and experienced trial attorney. To get started on your case, contact jD LAW at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a free consultation.

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James N. Dicks
jD LAW, P.C.

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If you feel uncomfortable with an in-person meeting due to the recent surge in COVID-19, our office is offering remote appointments via phone and Zoom. Please call or email us to set up your appointment.

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