A personal injury trial is an official legal process with many specific steps and procedures that must be fulfilled. Although every case is unique, all personal injury trials in the State of Arizona follow the same basic outline. Learning what happens in a personal injury trial can help prepare you and your family for what to expect if your case goes to court.
Most personal injury cases in Arizona do not go to trial. A trial can be costly for an insurer. Thus, most insurance companies are willing to work with clients to achieve settlement agreements. If, however, the insurer does not offer the amount your Queen Creek personal injury lawyer believes you deserve, your case may need to go to trial.
The discovery phase of a personal injury trial allows both sides to confirm certain facts are true. Discovery is the opportunity for the plaintiff and defendant to subpoena records, ask questions and depose witnesses to learn more about a case. Pretrial motions and hearings can take place during the discovery phase as well, during which the parties may decide to settle and end the case at any time.
If the injury case goes all the way to court, the first trial process is jury selection. A jury is made up of 12 people who will listen to the evidence presented and determine whether or not the plaintiff has fulfilled his or her burden of proof based on jury instructions.
The burden of proof in most claims is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant more likely than not caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Jury selection allows both sides of a case to ask potential jurors questions and narrow down the jurors until creating a satisfactory panel.
On the first day of the trial, the attorneys will give their opening statements. The opening statement is a dialogue where an attorney will summarize the basic facts of the case and explain what he or she aims to prove during the trial. The plaintiff’s attorney typically gives an opening statement first, followed by the defendant.
Next, both sides of the case will present evidence that supports their arguments. Evidence in a personal injury claim may take the form of real, documentary, testimonial or demonstrative evidence. Both sides will also have the opportunity to bring witnesses to the stand to provide testimony. Witnesses can be eyewitnesses who saw the accident and/or expert witnesses who have special knowledge regarding the facts in question. The plaintiff’s attorney can cross-examine the defendant’s witnesses and vice versa.
Once all evidence and witnesses have been presented, both attorneys will give closing arguments. Closing arguments are similar to opening statements, but they will also touch on specific things that were brought up during the trial. They sum up each attorney’s arguments and give a final push asking the jury to decide a certain way.
At the conclusion of a personal injury trial, the jury will receive instructions on how to decide on the case from the presiding judge. These instructions are based on the law the case is founded upon. The jury will go into a separate room to deliberate.
The jury must decide whether or not the plaintiff met his or her burden of proof. All 12 jurors must agree on the verdict. A positive verdict in the plaintiff’s favor will grant you a judgment award deemed appropriate by the jury to make up for your losses. The defendant will be legally obligated to pay you this amount.
A negative verdict will find the defendant not legally responsible for your accident, resulting in no award submitted. Your lawyer may then choose to file an appeal. Speak to an attorney in Arizona for more details about the personal injury lawsuit process.