After watching television shows like Law & Order, The Good Wife, and Perry Mason, you might have an idea of what’s involved in the criminal justice system. However, in reality, intense amounts of questioning don’t always drive the guilty party to confess in court.
The courts are in place to settle disputes. Individuals file a personal injury case when someone has been harmed from an accident or neglect. An injury can result from countless circumstances that include a negligent driver, a faulty product or repair, a medical mistake, or even a dog bite. Lawsuits typically stem from a disagreement over legal liability or a discrepancy in the amount of funds offered. Victims often receive compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages from missed work.
Don’t go blindly into trial. Learn the jury’s process for determining liability so you are better prepared if your personal injury case reaches the courtroom.
Personal Injury Trial
In Massachusetts, approximately 85 percent of all personal injury cases are settled before going to trial. Typically those cases settle below $50,000 in damages.
A trial provides the opportunity for an individual, represented by legal counsel, to argue his case before a jury. The defendant also presents his own evidence relative to the case.
On average, a jury trial only lasts for a few days. The judge and legal counsel select the jury from a group of screened individuals. The counsel excludes potential jurors if they have shown they cannot be objective during the case.
In the case of a personal injury trial, eyewitness testimony and documentation determine accountability. Although insurance companies pay out the settlement, the jury isn’t allowed to know the specifics surrounding coverage.
A jury is sympathetic to cases that include:
- A serious and permanent injury
- An injury to a child
- Cover-up from a defendant on how their negligence caused the injury
- Dishonest witnesses
Jury Instruction and Deliberation
The judge instructs the jurors on how they should deliberate and analyze evidence. He or she will also explain the law relevant to the case. For example, if the personal injury was allegedly caused by a car accident that happened at an intersection with a four-way stop, the judge would explain stop sign laws. This instruction could change the outcome of the case as the jury learns which driver, by law, had the right of way.
Most judges don’t provide specific instruction relative to the pain and suffering of the injured individual.
As a group, it is now the jury’s responsibility to consider the case and decide whether to hold the defendant accountable for the claimed injuries. The process to determine a verdict may seem simple, but these cases take a lot of time as jurors try to defend their theories.
If they decide that the defendant is responsible, the jury must figure out how much the defendant owes the victim. Jurors can determine calculable damages, such as lost earnings and costs from medical treatment, without much trouble. However, they must use their background, experiences, and common sense to decide on reasonable compensation for someone else’s pain and suffering.
Leaving the decision of compensation in the hands of the jury can be risky. Many individuals suffering from personal injury often prefer to settle out of court. If a case does end up in court, hire an experienced counsel to maximize your chances of getting the settlement that you deserve.