A huge majority of car accident cases are settled through negotiated agreements. Typically, the injured plaintiff will receive an offer for an insurance settlement from the defendant’s insurer and the plaintiff can sometimes counter with their own demands for a settlement amount. If the two sides can come to reasonable terms, a lawsuit is never even filed.
Even when a lawsuit is filed, either side can propose or agree to a settlement before trial, ending the affair fairly amicably. However, sometimes sides have difficulty agreeing. Maybe they disagree on the circumstances surrounding the injury, or maybe they feel that the other side is not proposing a fair settlement.
In these instances, the case will go to trial. Here is what usually happens next:
Jury Selection for a Car Accident Personal Injury Trial
In most cases, the court will appoint a 12 person jury to make the final decision regarding the outcome of the trial. These jurors are selected from a pool of summoned people by agreement between the judge and both attorneys. The judge and attorneys may ask questions of the jurors intended to reveal bias. For instance, if a potential juror knew the plaintiff personally and had a fond opinion of them, they would not be considered neutral and would therefore not be selected.
This process is called voir dire and can take a few hours or a few days, depending on the available juror pool.
Trial Commencement and Opening Statements
Once the trial date is secured and the jury is selected, both sides meet at the courthouse to begin the trial. Each legal team will present a case on behalf of their client. Since the plaintiff has the burden of proof in a civil trial to provide a preponderance of evidence supporting their case, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer will go first. The defendant’s representative goes next.
Each side states an outline of their argument and how the evidence they will later present will lead jurors to the conclusion of that argument.
Presentation of Evidence
After opening statements, each side will then present evidence. The plaintiff’s attorney again goes first. They will submit documented evidence to the court and call witnesses to provide testimony. For instance, they may gather a statement from a witness to the car accident, or call up a medical professional to describe the extent of the injuries to the plaintiff.
When the plaintiff’s lawyer is done, the defendant’s goes next. They will present their own set of facts intended to either disprove the plaintiff’s argument or indicate how the facts of the case do not show that the defendant acted in such a way as to incur legal liability. When the defendant is done, the closing arguments begin.
Closing Arguments and Jury Deliberation
Closing arguments restate the general strategy outlined in the opening statements along with the evidence presented. Attorneys will describe how the set of facts couple with the law and common logic to form a conclusion favoring their client.
Once closing arguments are presented, the jury will convene in private and deliberate amongst themselves. When every member can come to an agreement based on a preponderance of evidence, they then present their verdict to the court. The jury may also present a damages amount based on estimates suggested by the plaintiff attorney or other presented sources.
The Importance of a Personal Injury Lawyer during Trial
Cases that go to trial lead to a complex process that requires both familiarity with the law and familiarity with the act of presenting evidence and arguments to juries in a compelling way. Personal injury victims will have a much better chance of success if they seek the expertise of an experienced Oklahoma personal injury lawyer.
Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your case.