The majority of personal injury claims are settled out of court. However, for those claims where you and the person you have sued cannot reach a fair resolution, it will be necessary to go to Trial and ask a Judge or Jury to decide the case.
Most personal injury Trials are conducted in front of a Jury of six people. The Jurors are considered the triers of fact. The Trial Judge will decide what evidence is admissible at Trial and the Jury will be asked to decide whether the person you have sued was at fault for the accident, and then assign a dollar value to the injuries you have sustained.
The person who was injured and is seeking compensation is known as the “Plaintiff”. The Defendant is the person being sued by the Plaintiff.
The Plaintiff has the burden of proving their case. For those of you who have watched one of the legal dramas on television, you might have some idea of what this means. However, unlike a criminal case where the prosecutors have to prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt”, in personal injury cases the Plaintiff typically has to prove their case on a lower standard known as the “balance of probabilities”.
You may have seen a picture of the scales of justice. The balance of probabilities is often described as tipping the scales of justice ever so slightly in your favour, whereas proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt requires a Jury to be 99% convinced of the facts presented to them.
At the beginning of the trial, the parties typically make opening statements. Each party will provide an outline of the evidence they expect the Jury to hear from the witnesses that will testify.
To prove the case at Trial you would give evidence and explain how your life has been changed as a result of the accident. While on the stand you would describe how the accident happened and then tell the Jury what your life was like before the accident; what injuries you sustained in the incident, and then describe how these injuries have impacted your life.
To assist the Jury in understanding the profound changes to your life, other supporting witnesses will also give evidence. Friends, family, co-workers, usually known as “lay witnesses”, would testify about the changes they have noticed in you since the accident.
In addition, treating health care providers, as well as various experts will help the Jury understand your medical diagnosis and prognosis. The number and type of experts that will give evidence at Trial will depend on your specific injuries.
Keep in mind that once you, or any other of the witnesses who appear on your behalf, give evidence, the Defendant’s lawyer will have the opportunity to conduct a cross examination.
During a Cross Examination the lawyer will ask a series of leading questions which are typically designed to have you make a series of admissions. These admissions are then used to paint a picture which undermines your case.
Careful preparation is required to anticipate the avenues by which a defendant’s lawyer will attempt to frame your case in an unfavourable light. We at Preszler Law Firm LLP have been down this path many times, and will help you avoid the pitfalls facing a witness.
Once the plaintiff has called all of their evidence, the defendant will then present its case in the same manner. The plaintiff will also have the opportunity to cross examine each of the defendant’s witnesses.
Once all the evidence has been put to the Jury, the parties will then make their closing arguments. In the closing argument each party has the chance to weave together all the evidence that has been presented in the hope of persuading the trier of fact to rule in their favour.
It is at this stage that we communicate the themes of your case, using battle tested narrative techniques to not just present the facts, but to put forward a compelling “story” which explains who you are, and what has happened to you since the accident.
Once each party has made their closing statement, the Judge will give his “charge” to the Jury. In the charge, the Trial Judge instructs the Jury on what legal principles to consider when arriving at their verdict.
In a Civil Trial, the Trial Judge will then put a series of questions to the Jury to decide. Five of six Jurors must agree to the answer of a question for there to be a verdict. If one or more questions are posed to the Jury, it is not required that the same five people agree on each question.
The Jury will then start their deliberations until they either arrive at a verdict. If the Jury is deadlocked this means that they could not get five of six people to agree on the answer to each question put to them. If the Jurors are deadlocked, the Judge will declare a mistrial. If there is a mistrial, the parties will come back and try the case again with a different Jury.
After reading this brief overview of what to expect at trial, you have likely come to appreciate why you need Preszler Law Firm LLP to represent you at Trial. What this overview does not explain is the diligent work involved to prepare your case so that it is ready to be presented to a Jury.
For more information on what you can expect when your personal injury claim goes to trial, please go to https://www.preszlerlaw.com/.