What Happens at Personal Injury Court - Closing Arguments and Jury VerdictYou've made it all the way through several blog posts on what happens at personal injury court. If you haven't read the earlier posts on what occurs, feel to to read those posts first. But here's a refresher.
Most personal injury cases are settled before court, sometimes even before a lawsuit occurs. If the defendant sees they are in the wrong, whether it's a major company or an insurer, they often want to save on lawyer fees and settle out of court. This occurs in the majority of cases. In some instances, you may make more money by going to court; in others, the lawyer fees take a good chunk of what the settlement is, if, that is, you win in court. You need to at a minimum consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in either case. These blog posts are good, but unless you spent years at law school, consult with a lawyer.
We went over jury selection, opening arguments, and witness testimony. Those are big steps, but they lead up to the closing argument and the jury verdict, where lawyer skills are put to the test.
What is said in closing arguments?
Closing arguments are quite similar to the opening statement. You as plaintiff, your lawyer, and the defendant, will each be able to make their case one more time. While it may have less impact than witness testimony or key evidence, it can still swing a jury in your favor. Both the plaintiff and defendant will sum up the case presented to the jury. The plaintiff will be trying to prove there is fault, that damages are deserved. The defendant the opposite: that the lawsuit is wrong.
After closing arguments from the plaintiff and defendant, the judge instructs the jury on how to interpret key laws. The judge will not voice an opinion, only the legal standards allowed in making the decision. Both plaintiff and defense can and often do have a say in this, as the judge will be deciding what forms of damages the jury may consider, how evidence should be weighed, and offer details on how to fairly deliberate.
The Jury Verdict
Well, first you have to wait for your decision, the deliberation, but let's go right to the big part, the verdict. Does the plaintiff have enough evidence, and therefore have enough cause to be compensated, and if so, how much? Or is the defense's case stronger, proving that this personal injury was not their fault? Most states require the 12 person jury to come to a unanimous decision, which sometimes takes time. Other states allow as low as a 9 to 3 decision. There are cases where the jury comes to no conclusion.
At this point, the decision is out of your hands. If the jury cannot come to a decision, the judge will declare a mistrial or sometimes throw the case out.
You've come from the jury selection process to the final verdict. If all this seems difficult, remember the moment you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, the ball is in your court. If you have a clear case for a lawsuit, you can expect an early offer. If you don't like it, you risk a trial, but that's where lawyers and others will be doing all the work.