What to Expect in a Trial | Scott Goodwin Law

What to Expect in a Trial

Personal injury trials are incredibly complex endeavours, and they are no walk in the park. They can be lengthy, with many twists and turns before a final settlement. Here is a concise breakdown of what to expect in a standard trial.

In personal injury trials, a judge or jury examines the evidence to decide whether the defendant should be held legally responsible for the injuries and harm alleged by the plaintiff. A trial is the plaintiff’s opportunity to argue a case in hopes of obtaining a judgment against the defendant. On the other hand, this is the defendants chance to refute the claims made by the plaintiff.

Here are the six main phases of the average personal injury case:

  • Choosing the jury. Aside from cases with a judge, one of the first steps of a personal injury trial is the selection of a jury. Potential jurors are questioned to see if they have any predispositions, ideologies or life experiences that will color their view of the case. Plaintiffs and defendants can excuse potential jurors if they believe they cannot be purely objective in the case. A legal expert can help with this, excusing jurors who may impartially rule against you.
  • Opening statements. Opening statements are made from both the plaintiff’s lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer. This “sets the stage” for the case, with both sides presenting a short summary of their argument. No witnesses testify at this point and no evidence is presented.
  • Witness testimony and cross-examination. At this stage, the plaintiff strategically displays his or her evidence to convince the judge or jury that the defendant is legally responsible for the harm or injury done. Witnesses and experts may testify, and physical evidence such as photographs, documents and medical reports may be brought forth. This stage is crucial, and having an expert lawyer to guide you through it can be crucial. In a similar manner, the defendant presents their own evidence and call their own witnesses to the stand. After the defense has presented their case, the plaintiff may make a rebuttal of any of the defense’s arguments, and in turn the defense may make a rebuttal of the plaintiff’s rebuttal. As you can see, this process can be rather complex and confusing.
  • Closing arguments. This stage is similar to the opening statements in that lawyers from both sides make points summarizing their arguments. They recap the evidence to convince the judge to rule in their favor. This is the last chance to make an argument, and ending on a good note is crucial. Having a legal expert to argue your case can make a world of difference.
  • Jury instruction. At this stage, the judge gives the jury legal instructions for ruling on the case. The jury is educated on how to properly judge the case, being informed on all legal issues related to the case.
  • Jury Deliberation and Verdict. At this stage, the jurors as a group discuss the case and reach a ruling. This is called deliberation (Think 12 Angry Men), and it is the stage where the jury tries to agree on whether or not the defendant is guilty, and if so, how much the victim is owed. Once the jury reaches a decision, the jury informs the judge, and he announces it in open court.