If you’re considering filing a personal injury claim, you’ll probably want an idea of what will happen as your case progresses. While many cases settle outside of court, there’s always the chance you’ll need to go to trial. Knowing what to expect when going to trial can ease your concerns and help you understand what’s happening and why. Let’s take a look at what happens when you file a lawsuit from step one:
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
While the majority of personal injury claims settle outside of court through negotiations, you’ll need to file a lawsuit and prepare for trial in the event a settlement cannot be reached. Prior to trial, however, the discovery phase and mediation must be completed. Your lawyer will thoroughly explain the phases of the litigation process, so you understand what’s going on every step of the way. While every case is different, it normally takes one to two years to get a case to the trial phase of a lawsuit.
During the discovery phase, each party investigates what the opposing legal claims and defenses are. Both sides will send the other a list of questions, called interrogatories, and document requests. They’ll also take depositions from relevant witnesses, beginning with the plaintiff and defendant. Witnesses will vary depending on the type of accident you were in. With a car accident, for example, it could be a bystander that saw what happened. If you’re pursuing a lawsuit for medical malpractice, however, the witness could be an expert in the medical field. Depending on the complexity of the case, the discovery process could last six months to one year.
In an effort to avoid trial, a judge can oversee mediation between the two parties. Sometimes, however, the legal representatives can settle the case by talking among themselves. This is an informal proceeding in which both sides attempt to reach an agreement in the form of a settlement. In the event an agreement is not reached, the case will be scheduled for trial.
Trials are a structured process where it’s determined if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the accused charges. According to the Department of Justice, the elements of a trial include:
- Jury Selection. One of the first things both sides must do is select jurors. These are the people who listen to the facts of the case and determine if the defendant was negligent. A jury should represent all types of people, races, and cultures. While an attorney cannot discriminate against any group, they can excuse certain potential jurors without providing a reason by using a limited number of peremptory challenges.
- Opening Statements. Opening statements allow the attorneys to tell their accounts of the events on behalf of their clients. The statements are short and typically do not involve witnesses or evidence.
- Presentment of Cases. This stage of the trial involves witness examination, objections, and closing arguments. Both sides have the option of questioning the involved parties and witnesses. During the examinations, either attorney can make an objection to a question or piece of evidence. The judge will decide the outcome and how to proceed. Once those steps have been completed, the attorneys have one final opportunity to talk to the jury.
- Jury Instructions. This is when the judge instructs the jury of what they must do to reach a final verdict.
- Jury Deliberations and Announcement of the Verdict. Once the jury reaches a verdict, they notify the judge and lawyers in open court. The judge will use that determination to announce an official verdict.
While this does not happen every time, the losing party has the right to file an appeal for the case. The appellate process is different from the trial process, so it’s best to continue working with your lawyer in the event this happens.
How Your Lawyer Prepares You for Court
In order to improve your chances of a successful outcome during the trial, your lawyer will start by talking you through the entire process we discussed above. You’ll know what your role is every step of the way. They’ll also explain the importance of acting appropriately in the courtroom. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with emotion given what you’ve been through, but it’s important to remember jurors are listening and watching the entire time. Your lawyer will also help you prepare your testimony, so you’re familiar with what will be pursued during direct examination, as well as potential issues during cross-examination.
Trial can seem like an intimidating word. At Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC, however, we have extensive experience representing clients inside the courtroom. We’ll fight for you and work to ensure you are awarded the compensation you need to move forward from your injuries. To learn more about filing a lawsuit and going to trial, contact our office today.
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