How Does a Personal Injury Trial Work?
Leading Up to a Trial
Generally speaking, the majority of personal injury cases will settle with the insurance company before a case will go to trial. Roughly 90% of personal injury claims are settled outside of court. Settlement negotiations are usually carried out between a lawyer and insurance companies. However, a few claims end up going to trial when the insurance company denies a claim or does not offer sufficient compensation for the injuries sustained. So long as the injured victim is within the statute of limitations (time limit to file a lawsuit set by the state), they can file a lawsuit in civil court.
Why Do Some Personal Injury Cases Go To Trial?
Personal Injury cases typically end up in court as a last resort. Preferably a lawsuit will enter negotiations, and then a financial settlement without ever having to go to court. Settlements are usually preferred over going to trial for many reasons, including:
- Quicker access to compensation
- Less stress
- Guaranteed compensation
- Less risky
Key Steps During a Personal Injury Trial
- Complaint - a legal document called the “complaint ” is typically the first step in any personal injury case. The person filing the lawsuit is referred to as the “plaintiff,” and the party the lawsuit is against is referred to as the “defendant.” The complaint will state the details about your accident and injuries, and alleges that the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries due to negligence. It should also include the types of damages the injured party is seeking.
- Answer - Generally speaking, a lawyer will be retained by the defendant's insurance company, and will file answers to any questions presented in the complaint. There are time limits for this, but the defendant can request extensions.
- Depositions - Depositions are testimonies taken under oath. They are usually carried out at a specific date and time and include questions by the lawyers on both sides to both defendant and plaintiff
- Witness and Expert Depositions - Any witnesses that may be involved as well as doctor’s statements will be taken. In some instances, experts are brought in for depositions.
- Discovery - Discovery is the formal exchange of evidence collected by both parties. This can include depositions, copies of specific documents such as insurance policies, medical records, photographs or videos, or anything else that may be used as evidence in the case. During the discovery period, either party may file a motion to delay the case, which should be expected, or they can agree to a settlement. They may even dismiss the case altogether. Typically discovery requests are filed at the same time as the ‘complaint’.
- Mediation - Usually the last step before trial is mediation. A neutral mediator attempts to negotiate a resolution to the case that is favorable for everyone.
- Going to Trial - If both parties were unable to agree on a fair settlement, then your case will go to trial. This means that a jury would listen to both sides of the story from the plaintiff and defendant. Both attornies will present the evidence they have gathered. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached Florida’s Duty of Care. After the jury has listened to arguments from both parties, they will make a decision as to whether the defendant is liable, or if your case doesn’t have sufficient evidence to back your claims and will be dismissed. If the jury sides with the plaintiff, they will determine the amount of compensation awarded to you.
What to Expect During Your Trial
After all the steps above have been carried out, the courts will place your case on a trial calendar. Attorneys for both sides will go through the process of selecting a jury. This involves asking a large group of potential jurors questions and then determining if anyone should be disqualified. Reasons for disqualification could be due to conflict of interest or reasons for bias. The judge will then give instruction to the jury, and the trial will begin. The jury’s job is to determine if a defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries and how much compensation they should receive.
The start of trial begins with the plaintiff’s attorney making an opening statement. The defendant's attorney will then follow with their opening statements. The case continues with the plaintiff displaying evidence that supports their side of the story. The defendant will be able to cross-examine any witnesses. The defendant will then have their turn. A typical trial will involve the attorneys from both sides submitting and cross-examining evidence about the case, including witness statements from depositions, expert testimonies, photos of the accident, and video footage.
Both sides will give a closing statement, and then the judge will instruct the jury on how to apply the law to the circumstances of the case. The jury will deliberate and once unanimous agreement, they will present their decision to the parties.
Timing of a Florida Personal Injury Trial
Most personal injury cases that are not too complex are in trial for 2-3 days. More complex cases can take much longer than that. The entire process for a Florida personal injury lawsuit from start to finish can range from a few months to a few years.
Personal Injury Settlement Types
If your case settles outside of the courtrooms, it is considered an informal settlement. Cases that are decided by a judge and jury are called formal settlements. Informal settlements usually allow the plaintiff to receive compensation quickly, while formal settlements are a more drawn-out process.
Florida Personal Injury Lawyer
If a case goes to trial, it will be in your best interest to work with an experienced trial lawyer. Robert, for instance, has tried personal injury cases before juries throughout his 33 year career. Call him today for expert legal advice at (877) Gluck-Law. Don’t forget to visit our website www.robertgluck.com.