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What Happens at Personal Injury Trial - Choosing a Jury and Opening Statements

We went over the basics of a personal injury trial a few weeks back, yet we only touched the surface details of what occurs in a personal injury case. We had no time to go over choosing a jury and opening statements. Now we do.

What You Need to Know
There is the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff is the one who wants the personal injury claim, and the defendant is trying to prove he or she is not liable for any injury. This will involve evidence on both sides, expert witnesses, and arguments on exactly what the claim should be.

However, before you hire a personal injury lawyer or try to defend yourself, you should know that few personal injury disputes ever go to court. Some are settled even before lawsuits are filed. For example, if a driver of a semi truck hit you or someone you love, and it's an obvious case of personal injury, there will often be an offer made. The insurer does not want to go to court, because after lawyer fees it could cost them much more money. The plaintiff has the final decision on whether to take the offer or not, but most do for the same reason: lawyer fees can be hard on your budget.

Now let's go over the jury process.

The Jury Process
Unless a judge is deciding your case, the first step will be to choose a jury for your trial. If you've seen TV court room dramas before, you may be familiar with the basics. The judge and lawyers question the jury, trying to find their opinions on certain subjects. If the juror already has a clear opinion on a certain subject, this may disqualify them. It can be very obvious: they were in a similar accident and received damages, or someone they love did. The defendants do not want such an opinion to be involved n the decision. Both the plaintiff and the defendant have a certain number of challenges to these jurors, where you can eliminate several jurors from the proceeding. The judge can also excuse potential jurors with preconceptions. The point is to get an objective jury who are willing and able to hear both sides. This is where your lawyer can earn his or her money.

The Opening Statements
The next step we'll go over is where the lawyers take an even bigger stage in the case. Both the plaintiff and the defendant's lawyer will be making clear points before judge and jury prior to the witnesses coming forward. The plaintiff will present facts about how the injury occurred, why the defendant was at fault, and why the plaintiff deserves compensation. The defendant will be making the opposite case, that the plaintiff has no reason to get damages for the injury. Again, this is the lawyers job, to appear in front of the judge and jury and to begin the process of winning.

The Next Steps
After the jury selection and opening statements, the final steps include the witnesses taking the stand, closing arguments, and a jury verdict. That may make it sound simple: it's far from that. However, with an experienced personal injury lawyer on the case, you have a clear advantage.