While it usually benefits all parties to settle personal injury claims outside of the civil courts, accident victims in El Paso who have experienced legal representation are prepared to take their cases to trial when settlement agreements are not viable options. There are four main types of participants at most personal injury trials; they include the plaintiff or accident victim, defendant, judge and jury. For some civil court cases, plaintiffs receive bench trials where judges alone assess presented evidence and provide rulings. All other trials are heard by juries and are ruled upon by judges. Here is a general description of the trial process for personal injury cases as well as actions that can be taken by plaintiffs if they receive unfavorable rulings.
Making Your Case in Court for Your Personal Injury Claim
Unlike a criminal court case where defendants must be found guilty by a standard of proof that is beyond a reasonable doubt, a plaintiff through their legal representative must present evidence that allows a judge to rule that the defendant is guilty of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. Although the standard of proof is lower in civil cases, gaining a favorable outcome requires the proper planning as well as detailed knowledge of the personal injury law and civil court proceedings. The stages of a personal injury trial for which plaintiffs and their legal representatives need to prepare consist of the jury selection, opening statements, witness statements, cross examinations of witnesses and closing arguments. Potential jury members undergo questioning about their belief systems, personal experiences and societal views, and judges and trial lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants can exclude jurors from participation after the question and answer session. Trial lawyers then call in witnesses to their clients’ accidents and ask them questions that help to clarify the pertinent points of the case to the jury and the judge. During this time, professional experts like medical doctors, dentists and occupational therapists are also called upon to testify about plaintiffs’ injuries and their progress towards recovery. When the legal counsel for defendants bring witnesses to support their side of the case, lawyers for plaintiffs are prepared to cross examine them based on thorough knowledge of the evidence and the law. Finally, personal injury attorneys present closing arguments that summarize the key points of evidence for both the plaintiff and the defendant.
Judges and Juries
Since jurors usually do not have expertise in the legal field, the judge gives them specific instructions about how to evaluate the evidence that they heard. The instructions are based on legal standards that apply to specific cases. Judges also seek to enlighten the jurors about common legal considerations pertaining to the case such as the standard of proof for the case and the types of prospective damages incurred by plaintiffs. After receiving instructions, the jury meets to carefully analyze the case and the evidence to determine if defendants are guilty, owe damages to plaintiffs and to what extent defendants should pay for these damages; this process is called deliberations. The final jury panel of Texas civil court cases usually consists of six members unless the civil case is tried in district courts which require 12 person juries. The plaintiff wins their civil law suit when five sixths of the jurors rule in their favor after deliberations are concluded.
Going Through the Appeals Process
While winning personal injury cases for clients is the primary goal of personal injury attorneys, there are available remedies if cases receive unfavorable outcomes like mistrials or dismissals. Mistrials that result from hung juries get retried completely. However, civil cases get reviewed by appellate courts. The court of appeals uses multiple judges to review the case for errors made by the initial judge during the trial. These judges consider case evidence as well as appellate briefs that are submitted by legal counsel for plaintiffs and defendants. Personal injury attorneys have the opportunity to explain errors in the application of the law made by the initial judge within their appellate briefs. These briefs are supported by the citing of regulations, statutes and previous case law rulings.
Personal injury trial cases are often complex affairs that are best handled by seasoned personal injury attorneys. Preparing cases, representing clients’ interests in and outside of the courts, filing appeals and helping to collect on judgment awards are all the activities that make attorneys like those at Doan Law Firm key partners in one’s fight for personal injury justice.