Whether your personal injury claim goes to trial or settles out of court is highly dependent on the details of your case. Up to 95% of cases will settle before ever going to trial, and most personal injury cases in New York are settled during the pre-trial stage where all involved parties will meet before a judge to negotiate payment for losses and injuries.
So, what happens if yours is one of the 5% of personal injury cases that goes to trial? It’s crucial that you know what to expect should this happen with your claim.
The Components of A Personal Injury Trial
When a case goes to trial, there are various steps it must go through from start to finish. In many cases, a jury selection will take place. The jury is composed of six individuals that are questioned and selected by the attorneys and with some participation by the judge.
After the jury is selected, the case will move to trial. Trials for personal injury claims begin with opening statements from the plaintiff (the person bringing the case) and defense (usually attorneys hired by the insurance company for the at fault party). Typically, the plaintiff — or injured party’s — team will open first since they have the burden of proof.
Understanding The Burden of Proof
In order to successfully file a claim against the at-fault party, the injured party’s legal team must clearly demonstrate the burden of proof. In other words, their legal team must prove by a preponderance of evidence that the defendant’s negligence caused their plaintiff’s injuries. Preponderance simply means that when the evidence is considered, it just has to tilt (even in the smallest degree) to the plaintiff’s side.
The injured party’s attorney must prove that any medical treatments, suffering, lost wages, or other losses are directly related to the injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence. To prove this, the plaintiff’s attorney may choose to call upon the injured party, witnesses, or medical experts to testify on their behalf.
Types of Witnesses In Personal Injury Trials
There are two different types of witnesses that a plaintiff attorney can call upon in personal injury trials: fact witnesses and expert witnesses.
Fact witnesses are typically brought to the stand to testify what they personally observed during or as a direct result of the accident that occurred. Fact witnesses can include eyewitnesses, friends, family members and co-workers. Other types of fact witnesses can include primary care physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, employers, or even the injured person themselves.
The jury will also hear the testimony of expert witnesses, who are hired to explain complicated pieces of evidence in the case. Expert witnesses can include medical professionals, accident reconstructionists, vocational rehabilitation consultants or economists who can explain how the injuries have impacted a plaintiff’s life.
What Happens If The Defendant Hires Expert Witnesses To Testify?
Sometimes, the insurance defense attorneys will hire experts to challenge the validity of the injured party’s case. These experts are paid to give opinions that can seemingly contradict the evidence you have presented and challenge how the injuries or damages were caused.
Fortunately, the injured party’s attorneys will have the opportunity to cross-examine any expert witnesses brought on by the defense team. Their goal during cross-examination is to refute any personal injury claims made during the defense team’s case and make the jurors question his or her credibility.
How The Jury Determines An Award
Once all the evidence is submitted during the trial, each attorney will make a closing argument to the jury. From there, the jury must evaluate all evidence and testimony presented during the trial to determine the amount that should be awarded to the plaintiff.
Under instructions given by the judge, the jury must calculate awards for both economic and non-economic losses, like pain and suffering. The jury then deliberates or discusses the case in a private room. Once the jury come to an agreement on a verdict, the jury lets the judge know they have reached a verdict and then it is read in open court.
Why Having An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Is Crucial
If you were seriously injured in an accident, it is imperative to have an experienced and aggressive personal injury trial attorney in your corner. Don’t settle for an attorney who will accept a lowball offer from the insurance company just to avoid going to court and don’t hire an attorney that has never tried a case.
At Cellino Law, we offer decades of hard-fought experience both inside and outside of the courtroom. Our team works hard to provide every client with the best possible representation, regardless of whether or not the case settles or your personal injury claim goes to trial. If you or someone you love was injured by someone’s negligence, call Cellino Law at 800-555-5555.